Tag Archives: The Walking Dead

What to Read If You Liked The Walking Dead

Since the first post in this series was about a book published almost forty years ago, I thought the second post should feature something more contemporary from the speculative fiction genre.

I try not to make assumptions about what my followers already know about any book or graphic novel I blog about, so I’ll summarize The Walking Dead in one spoiler-free sentence for anyone who isn’t familiar with it:

After waking up from a coma, a police officer must find his missing family and adjust to a world that has somehow become overrun with zombies while he was unconscious. 

Obviously, there’s a lot more going on this world, but that sentence will give you the gist of it.

As a fair warning, the graphic novels as well as the TV show based on them are both incredibly violent. I actually had to stop reading and watching both of them a while ago due to this, although I’m still intrigued by the characters Robert Kirkman first created in 2003 and the assumptions he made about what life would be like in this sort of world.

If zombies and post-apocalyptic worlds are things you enjoy reading about, here are some other books that might be equally appealing.

Some of these titles have popped up in many similar lists online, but I’ve come up with a few classic novels I thought would work as well because of how many themes they share with this series.

Humans have dealt with plagues for millennia. For most of that time, we didn’t know why someone would seem to be perfectly healthy one day only to become dangerously ill the next.  You might be surprised to see how many similarities there are between an outbreak of cholera or rabies and a zombie infestation.

What happens when a society breaks down is another string connecting all of these recommendations. While I tend to have a much more optimistic view of how the average person would behave in that situation, not every writer agrees with that. It’s always interesting to see more pessimistic takes on the topic.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Imagine trying to stay alive in a world where nothing grew anymore. Now picture doing it while raising a child by yourself.

The relationship between the main character and his son reminded me a lot of how Rick Grimes interacted with his son in The Walking Dead. Both of these parents had been pushed to their limits by worlds they couldn’t possibly have predicted or prevented. Their love for their children was what kept them going in impossible situations.

Fair warning: this is a pretty violent story. Be sure to read some full reviews of it before checking it out if you’re sensitive to or triggered by acts of violence.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

In this tale, a group of schoolboys were stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash. They needed to figure out how to survive there without any adult supervision for a long period of time.

This was one of the first classics I thought about after I discovered the zombie genre. True, there weren’t any monsters on the island, but the unstable, dangerous community these kids developed reminded me a lot of how many living characters behave in typical zombie movies.

If only William Golding were still alive. I’d sure like to see what he thought of the similarities between this book and today’s horror movies.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Zombies attacked. Humans fought back. Eventually, society stabilized enough for researchers to begin collecting stories from the survivors of this apocalypse.

I liked this more hopeful approach to how people might respond to a zombie invasion. People banded together in many of the anecdotes the narrator collected, and not all of them were the folks you might necessarily expect to make alliances with one another. Some characters also survived circumstances that seemed like they should never have worked out okay in the end. It wasn’t all doom and gloom.

Oh, and do not watch the film based on this book. The only things it shared in common with the original version were the title and the fact that zombies exist in both universes.

Yes, I might still be a little vexed about that.

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik, Monica Murphy

If you think about it, rabies shares many similarities with whatever virus, bacteria, plot hole, or magical disease that creates zombies depending on which universe we’re talking about.

This disease is spread through bites and scratches.

Once symptoms appear, death is certain.

People and animals unlucky enough to be infected with it become agitated and unpredictable.

Sometimes I wonder if rabies was one of those real-life diseases that encourages creative minds to come up with fictional versions of it. They certainly have enough in common for me to think this is a likely explanation for at least some of the zombie folklore out there.

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaugh

This is one of those graphic novels that I keep waiting for Hollywood to discover and turn into a TV series. It was a post-apocalyptic story what happened to the world after a virus killed off all but one man on Earth while leaving everyone who had two X chromosomes unaffected.

It was much less violent than The Walking Dead has been so far, but humanity still had to figure out how it was going to survive in the longterm. Since even frozen sperm and male embryos died out in this plague, humanity would only continue to exist for at most another century if the characters couldn’t figure out a way to create the next generation without the help of the Y chromosome.

Most of the storyline dealt with the main character’s quest to travel to the other side of the globe and find his estranged girlfriend. That journey was far from an easy one, but it did introduce the audience to all sorts of interesting characters along the way.

The Plague by Albert Camus

This tale was written at a time when epidemics happened more often than they do in most countries today. I’ve read that Camus was influenced by the Cholera outbreaks that happened both in the setting of this novella as well as closer to home. While the storyline doesn’t mention this disease by name, it does give clues that this might be what was killing off the characters so quickly.

If you’re not familiar with Cholera, know that it’s a bacteria that causes such severe, persistent diarrhea that people die of dehydration. In short, it is an awful way to die, and the plot did go into detail about what happens to the human body after being exposed to this illness. (So maybe don’t read this while eating lunch….)

Like fictional zombie diseases, Cholera didn’t have a cure and was poorly understood. I’m not surprised Camus was inspired to write about it. It struck communities without warning and spread like wildfire through fecally contaminated water and food. Seeing how the main character reacted to an illness that no one could stop reminded me so much of Rick Grimes’ reaction to the many deaths he saw while trying to survive in a zombiepocalypse.

What other books should be added to this list? Have you read any of these titles?

Previous posts in this series:

What to Read If You Liked Clan of the Cave Bear

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d Like to Switch Places With

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

My list this week is going to include several characters from TV shows. All of these shows have had books or graphic novels written about them, though, so they still fit the criteria for Top Ten Tuesday.

1. Biff from Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.

I love the offbeat humour of Monty Python and Douglas Adams. Christopher Moore was an author I discovered when I went hunting for other examples of tongue-in-cheek storytelling, and his irreverent character Biff was the perfect fit for what I was looking for. It would be pretty amusing to see the world through Biff’s eyes for a day.

2. Buffy from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home and other graphic novels

Buffy wasn’t the first female superhero I ever watched or read about, but she has remained one of my favourite ones over the years. Unlike a lot of other superheroes, she had tight-knit relationships with her family, biological and chosen. I also loved the fact that she regularly dealt with problems that couldn’t be solved by super strength or fast healing. I’d sure be interested in finding out what it would be like to have those kinds of powers.

3. The Thirteenth Doctor Who

It wasn’t until I saw Jodie Whittaker’s take on the Doctor that I finally became a fan of this show. I love the creativity and practicality of the Thirteenth Doctor. Without giving away spoilers for those of you who haven’t seen her beginning yet, I was impressed with how good she was at getting herself out of a tough situation when she lost her sonic screwdriver. Her choice of companions has been top-notch so far, too, and I’d love to go on an adventure with them.

There is a graphic novel scheduled to be released about Doctor Who in May. I’m quite curious to read it.

4. Watson from the original Sherlock Holmes series

While Sherlock was a brilliant detective, I always found Watson more relatable because of his high emotional intelligence. He had impeccable manners and a desire to genuinely get to know others that I think would make him a very interesting person to switch places with.

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5. Michael Burnham from Star Trek: Discovery novel.

Drastic Measures is the name of the first Star Trek novel about this show. Let’s see what I can tell you about Michael without giving away spoilers to anyone who hasn’t started Discovery yet. She’s an intelligent, hard-working woman who is excellent at reading and responding to other people’s emotions. I also love the fact that she is so quick to stick up for the underdog.

Also, who wouldn’t want to visit the Star Trek universe? That would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

6. Jayne Cobb from the Firefly graphic novels

Firefly was another TV show that I was pretty sad to see end, but luckily it was given new life in the graphic novel format. This story followed a group of rag-tag space travellers as they visited various planets and tried to find enough paying customers to make their space flights at least somewhat profitable. Jayne was the mercenary of the group, but as we got to know him we discovered parts of his personality that you’d never expect to find in someone as tough and aggressive as he generally was.

I loved discovering the hidden parts of his life and think it would be quite interesting to see what else might be quietly going on with him.

7. The mysterious old woman from the traditional fairy tale, The Child Who Came from an Egg.

I’m guessing that a lot of you haven’t heard of this legend, so I included a link to a site where you can read it for free in the line above. The most interesting to me about the mysterious old woman is that we know nothing about her, including her name. She has powers that she uses for good, but where she came from and how she acquired those powers is a mystery. I’d love to be her long enough to figure out the answers to those questions.

(Someday I hope we’ll have a Top Ten Tuesday prompt that I can use to talk about nothing but fairy tales. I love this topic and will talk all of your ears off about it if Jana ever gives me the opportunity to do so. Ha!)

8. Yorick Brown from Y: The Last Man

The premise of Y: The Last Man is simple. After a worldwide plague kills off all of the men in the world except for a guy named Yorick, he must travel halfway across the world to make amends with his ex-girlfriend.

I’m fascinated by the thought of living in a world full of women, and I thought this series did a good job of showing how society might adapt to that sort of massive change.

9. Lyra Belacqua from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

Lyra was such an inquisitive girl. There’s no doubt in my mind that temporarily being her would bring a lot of adventure my way.

10. Michonne from Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead graphic novels

Survivor is the first word I think of when I think of Michonne. She lived in an incredibly dangerous world, and yet she figured out ways to survive even the most dangerous situations without losing her humanity or will to survive. Without giving away spoilers, this is something that became pretty rare in this universe by the time I stopped reading the graphic novels.

I know that Rick Grimes is technically the main character of this story, but I’ve always felt like that honour should have been given to Michonne instead. She’s more than earned it.

What characters would you all like to switch places with?

5 Reasons Why You Should Read Science Fiction and Fantasy

This past weekend I tried to remember the first science fiction or fantasy book I ever read. After a lot of deliberation, I believe that traditional fairy tales were what originally drew me into this genre.

Some of my earliest memories about books in general involve borrowing fairy tale collections from my local library. After I’d read all of the sanitized versions of them, I moved on the dark and often gory originals.

My second clear memory of the sci-fi genre was watching reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. There were two episodes of that show that I wanted to watch over and over again because of how much they blew my mind: Genesis and Sub Rosa. Before seeing them, I never would have imagined that people could evolve backwards or that an entity could need a candle to survive.

I don’t know how many of my readers are already fans of science fiction or fantasy, but there are several reasons why you should give them a chance if you’re not currently reading them.

They Ask Questions Without Always Answering Them

One of the things I found soothing about fairy tales when I first began reading them is how predictable they were. It was common to have three tasks to perform, a talking animal to guide you on your journey, an old woman who would help or hinder you depending on how kindly you treated her, and a happy ending for everyone who had a pure heart.

It came as a surprise to me, then, to move into older, darker fairy tales where these things weren’t necessarily true. Sometimes the protagonist ended up with the prince, but in other stories she before they could be reunited. As I gradually switched to reading and watching more science fiction and contemporary fantasy*, this unpredictable nature of the plot only grew stronger.

I love the fact that these genres don’t always tie everything up into a neat, little bow. Sometimes the good guys win. At other times, they might lose or the line between good and evil could be drawn in more than one place depending on how one looks at the facts. The open-ended nature of what it means to be a good guy and why bad things happen to good people appeals to me quite a bit.

*See also: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and many other of Joss Whedon’s TV shows.

They Teach You Important Life Lessons

Not everyone is who they appear to be.

Always overestimate how much time you need to do something. It’s better to impress others by finishing it early than it is to disappoint them.

If you’re able to help someone in need, do it. You never know when your fortunes might reverse and you might be the one who needs help next.

Equality is for everyone.

Don’t wear the colour red if you’re out on a mission.

Dragons and old, tired arguments with the people you love must never be roused from their slumber for no good reason.

These are only a few of the life lessons I’ve learned from fantasy and science fiction. I could have easily filled this entire blog post with nothing but a list of the things I’ve learned from sci-fi. It’s not just entertainment. It can also teach you things that will last an entire lifetime.

They Introduce You to New Ideas

The sci-fi genre is the perfect place to explore things you’ve never thought about before and imagine how our world could be different than it currently is.

Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer not only introduced me to the idea that a woman could save the day, they didn’t make the genders of their heroines a big deal.

Xena and Buffy were both too busy fighting monsters to worry about whether or not other people approved of them being heroic. That was something I rarely got to see as a little girl, so I relished those glimpses of worlds where your gender didn’t affect what role you’d play in an adventure.

They Imagine the Best and the Worst Case Scenarios

At various points in my life I’ve drifted back and forth between preferring utopian and dystopian sci-fi stories. There have been times when I’ve craved the hope that can be found in imagining a world where prejudice and many other forms of inequality no longer existed.

Watching Captain Picard and his crew explore the galaxy was magical. Here was a world where your gender, race, and species didn’t have any affect at all on what jobs you were allowed to do from what I could see. Was it perfect? No, but it was whole lot better than our current world.

On the flip side, sometimes it’s interesting to explore a future version of our world where everything has fallen apart. One of the things I enjoyed the most about the first six seasons of The Walking Dead was seeing how Rick reacted when every attempt he made to keep his children and community safe eventually fell apart in the most dramatic ways possible. At what point should someone try something completely new? Is it okay to stop admitting newcomers to your safe area once they’ve betrayed you a few times?

They Prepare You For Uncertainty

Will the future be paradise or a post-apocalyptic hellhole?

Nobody knows, so we must prepare for both possibilities. I love the fact that sci-fi is so focused on showing where we’re headed as a species and how small changes in our society today could have a massive affect on whether future generations will bless or curse our names.

A few years ago I underwent some testing for a possible medical problem. (Spoiler alert – it ended up being nothing to worry about at all).

While I was waiting to hear whether or not the abnormality my regular doctor had discovered was actually something to be concerned about, science fiction and fantasy showed me how to exist in that narrow space between health and sickness.

I hope I won’t have to walk down that dark passageway again for decades to come, but I know that my stories will be there to comfort and distract me if I do.