Literary Survival Tips for the Zombie Apocalypse

Posted by Lauren Thoman

This weekend, The Walking Dead returns after an agonizingly (thanks to the season 6 finale's doozy of a cliffhanger) long hiatus, and we already know that, as always, Rick and his ragtag gang of survivors have managed to get themselves into quite a pickle. Not all of our favorites made it out of season 6 in one piece, and for those who are left, things are looking (again, as always) rather grim.

But did it have to be that way? Maybe not, if Rick & Co. had just read a few more books. Below are a few literary survival tips that might come in handy in the event that the dead really do start to rise and attempt to eat us. Sure, these are all pulled from fiction, but that doesn't mean they won't work. Remember, it's all fun and games until it turns out to be the actual zombie apocalypse.


Stockpile early

In Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It, an asteroid collides with the moon, pushing it closer to earth and causing all sorts of catastrophic environmental changes. Early on in the book, right after the effects of the asteroid begin to become apparent, protagonist Miranda's mother takes her and her family to the grocery store, gives them each a shopping cart, and instructs them to all fill the carts with as many non-perishable staples as possible, before the stores are completely cleared out. While even a huge a grocery store run in the early days of a zombie virus outbreak won't last you more than a few months, making sure you have enough food and other necessities to tide you over until you figure out a more sustainable plan is vital if you're going to be one of the last people standing.


Always have an escape plan

If the vast majority of the world's population seems to be falling victim to a deadly (or zombifying) virus and you appear to be immune, maybe don't get yourself hopelessly trapped. This happens to a couple characters in Stephen King's The Stand, with one having to break out of a government quarantine facility, and another pondering eating his prison cell mate since all the guards with keys are dead. Of course, one rarely chooses to be locked up, so avoiding this scenario may be impossible, but at the very least, pay attention to exit routes and guard patterns so that you'll know your way out when the opportunity presents itself. And, if possible, befriend the person with the keys before they die.


Seek out the high ground

If fictional zombies are at all predictive of what real zombies would be like, then odds are they won't be able to climb trees. While this method won't work indefinitely (see next tip), if you need a couple hours of rest, try climbing a tall tree and tying yourself in so you don't fall out, like Katniss does in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. Just keep in mind that there may be zombies crowded around the bottom of the tree by the time you wake up, so – once again – make sure you have an escape plan.


Never assume you're safe

While climbing trees, barricading yourself behind walls, or sailing out into the middle of the ocean might provide a temporary respite from the waves of undead salivating over your deliciously tender cerebellum, no one survives the zombie apocalypse by staying in one place. As the narrator in Max Brooks's World War Z details, zombies can shuffle along indefinitely, don't die of natural causes, and will eventually find a way to get to you. The solution? Constant vigilance. Even when the waters appear calm, remain ever watchful, because there just might be 30 million zombies trudging along the ocean floor.


Befriend a scientist or two

Guns, crossbows, and katana are all well and good, but while it may be tempting to fill your entire zombie apocalypse team with fighters, be sure to save a couple slots on the roster for scientists like Robert Neville from Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. After all, the zombie outbreak will – if fictional trends are any indication – likely be caused by a virus, which means the only real means of combating it is through science. And even if a cure isn't to be found, a scientist is your best bet for understanding what makes the zombies tick (besides braaaaains) and uncovering their weaknesses, which in turn makes them easier to dispatch – and you, by extension, that much harder to kill.


Remember that people can be even worse than zombies

The survivors of Rick's group are already well aware of this, but sometimes the undead and their cerebral cravings aren't the biggest threats out there. If you've managed to survive the initial wave of societal collapse following a zombie outbreak, the only other people still alive will be either smart, strong, lucky – or ruthless. Folks who seemed pretty normal pre-zombies may go full Negan in a post-zombie world, and as the kids in William Golding's Lord of the Flies should have realized, it's best to cut ties with such individuals early on, before things get too out of hand. Here's a tip: if anyone in your group shows a penchant for torturing animals or sticking heads on pikes… maybe back away slowly. 

Lauren Thoman

Lauren Thoman

Lauren is a writer of YA speculative fiction and a dedicated eater of queso. She lives in Middle Tennessee with her husband, two daughters, and a half-blind dog. When she’s not busy with her family, binge-watching TV shows, or writing books about dragons or superheroes, she can probably be found on Twitter, or in close proximity to coffee, tacos, or a bookstore.