Do you remember those silly Choose Your Own Adventure books of your youth? For me, they played an integral role in my childhood. I distinctly remember sitting on my front porch, trading Choose Your Own Adventure paperbacks as if they were baseball cards. Man, I wish there was an adult version for genre fans so I could still enjoy these books. Well, thanks to Max Brallier my prayers have been answered because he has unleashed an amazing Choose Your Own Adventure book aimed at the adults who grew up on them.
Inside these pages lies unspeakable horror. Bloodsplattering, brain-impaling, flesh-devouring horror. You’ve probably read your fair share of zombie stories. But this time it’s different. No longer can you sit idle as a bunch of fools make all the wrong moves. All hell is about to break loose—and YOU have a say in humanity’s survival.
You have choices to make.
Will you be a hero?
Or will you cover your own ass at all costs?
Can you withstand the coming hours, days, weeks, and months? Or will you die amidst the chaos and violence of a zombie uprising?
Or, worst of all, will you become one of them?
I have read a few books trying to capitalize on the nostalgia of the Choose Your Own Adventure and, frankly, they have all been awful. They try to straddle the fine line between youth and adult and the result is a story that is haphazardly thrown together with the hope that the novelty alone will sell them some copies. Luckily for us genre fans, Brallier breaks this mold and offers a refreshingly mature and thoughtful take on this well-worn format.
Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? is a gut-munching success because Brallier identifies his target audience and he writes to them, and them only. This is not a book for children or the young adult crowd. This is a book written for adult genre fans who are looking for a breath of fresh (or fetid) air within a zombie genre that has been run into the ground. The subject matter plays upon the preconceived notions of what a zombie story should include, but then adds a hefty amount of action and humor to make it feel fresh and engaging. Sure, it contains all of the staples that fans of the undead have come to expect, but there is a sense of first-person realism that will resonate with even the most hardened zombie fan. The decisions that the reader is faced with are realistic ones. I never caught myself becoming frustrated with the possible courses of action because they were the same decisions that I would make if put in this situation. This really helps elevate Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? beyond a gimmicky cash-in and puts it squarely in the potential classic category.
The best thing that Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? has going for it is Brallier’s attention to the story. Sure, this is a Choose Your Own Adventure but the story never gets lost in the gimmick. In fact, the entire gimmick could be dropped and you would have a collection of short stories that would rival some of the best undead collection available. The story is just flat-out fantastic. The reader assumes the role of protagonist as Brallier leads us around Manhattan after a massive zombie outbreak. There are roving motorcycle gangs, infested sports complexes (Yankee Stadium overrun with the undead is pretty impressive) and, of course, military involvement- all while the reader is given choices along the way which will determine their fate. It is nothing short of amazing! I felt like I was playing the starring role in some of my all-time favorite zombie films as I attempted to hack, slash and reason my way to safety.
Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? Is a very accessible genre entry. The books of Max Brooks immediately come to mind when trying to describe this to others- it is a book firmly rooted in genre fiction that will be widely consumed and appreciated within the mainstream. It’s like Brallier wrote the content for us genre die-hards and then included the gimmick to get everyone else to check out what is lurking in the underground of modern fiction. I strongly recommend that people who love the zombie genre check this out. Heck, I recommend that people who are sick of the zombie genre check this out. This should be required reading for those looking to see how versatile and inventive genre fiction truly is these days.