Sunday, 4 January 2015

Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?

What’s going on inside the zombie brain? From the characteristic shuffle and moaning to their lack of awareness, can it all be explained by science? Join two neuroscientists on their journey to diagnose the zombie condition.

Something that sounds like it could be jump on the bandwagon filler turns out to be an informative and accessible introduction to neuroscience. Authors Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek are both neuroscientists and zombie fanboys and they decided to combine their personal and professional interests in order to educate. Plus it’s a fun look at zombies to try and explain them with science.

Before they start to explain zombie brains, they go over the basics of what happens in the human brain. I hesitate to say healthy human brain there as a huge amount of what we know come from studying damaged brains, from injury and illness. They go into motor control, language, our senses, attention spans, how we sleep and more. Then they compare zombie characteristics (or symptoms) to human conditions.

It’s probably got a bit of a niche audience though. You need to be interested in the inner workings of the brain; there’s a lot about human brains that is not directly about zombies. Some of the biology is still hard to grasp if you have no understanding to start with. The brain is a complex thing and even neuroscientists struggle to understand some of its workings. If you’re confused by the average episode of House, you might find a lot of the science going over your head.

However if you’re just interested in the neuroscience, the references to zombies might be off-putting. It’s pretty impressive how they manage to explain most zombie traits, however unlikely. Ash’s zombie hand? Well that could be alien hand syndrome combined with zombie syndrome (yes, an actual thing although it does have a more medical name as well). Our brains are odd.

A tiny gripe is that they didn't achknowledge the excellent Warm Bodies as a book, just as a film. It's not like it was just looking at zombie films, Mira Grant's Feed is mentioned and World War Z references are mostly pointing to the book. I did appreciate the spoiler warning with a list of films/books at the beginning of the book though. More of that please!

Some of the jokey talk-to-the-reader “banter” didn’t quite work for me. Maybe it was taken from their talks at cons, where there is a little audience feedback in the way of laughter and groans. However it’s few and far enough between that it didn’t take too much away from what turned out to be a fascinating read.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive



Book Source: Gift from Josh

4 comments:

  1. Oooo, how interesting. I love books that combine science with fun. Great review Ellie :D

    (Also, Happy New Year!)

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  2. Sounds interesting but also a bit unbalanced in the sense that they don't got their target readership clear? If I come across the book, I'll definitely have a look.

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    1. I'm the target audience ;) I just meant it's niche, you have to like neuroscience AND zombies.

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  3. This doesn't look like my kind of book, but I know someone who I think would love it, so I'll pass on your review to her and get her to check it out. Thanks Ellie.

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