I have a zombie problem, a serious one. No, the dead are not walking up to my porch, pounding on the back door to get inside for a screaming snack. Those are just socialist wanna-be’s trying to get at any extra cash I may have stashed away. The zombie problem I have is more cerebral (no they are not moaning “brains…).
Here’s the thing: I have come to really enjoy good zombie fiction. Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, World War Z, The Walking Dead and its spin off Fear the Walking Dead– I even liked Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. And those are only the movies. I am not one of those people who find it impossible to suspend disbelief and if the writers and producers make even a token nod to science they get my kudos and a hearty Huzzah!
I’m wandering, sorry. See, this all John Ringo’s fault, him and his “Black Tide Rising” novels. Ringo created, I believe, the most well-thought-out scenario for the sudden onset of a Zombie Apocalypse. No spoilers involved here by stating that the notion of a two stage infection that allows the contagion to spread virtually unnoticed for several weeks before people start turning into neighbor-chomping death machines satisfies all of those things I needed to “disbelieve” in order to accept the notion of a Zombie Apocalypse. Furthermore, the Zombies are both more frightening and more pathetic as a result.
Fast Zombies vs. Slow Zombies is a topic fans of the genre have beaten to death so I’m not going to talk about the various merits and demerits of each type. For purposes of full disclosure I think Fast Zombies are a requirement for a world-ending apocalypse, but that’s just me. Ringo’s zombies are fast, no doubt about it and as a result the world goes to hell in a handbasket with a satisfying rush for those who want to get into the survivors’ stories.
And here is where John Ringo blows a hole though just about every other zombie story, including The Walking Dead (and I am a huge fan, make no mistake). John Ringo sat down and really thought about who would survive and how.
If you’re reading this, have never read the books and are thinking of checking them out, stop here, because spoilers abound. You’ve been warned.
Let’s skip the public and look at the American military, in particular, the United States Navy. Most particularly, we want to look at nuclear submarines. Both missile and attack boats go to sea for prolonged periods without any contact with land. Unlike ships at sea, particularly Aircraft Carrier Battle Groups, they don’t get new personnel mid-deployment. Ever. If the boat is on patrol when the virus/bacteria/cometary dust particles/whatever are dispersed, they are not getting a dose of it. Period-frakking-dot. Ringo did lots of research and I did very little so I’m going to generalize: missile boats go out for six month stretches where they find a deep hole in the ocean and stay there, while attack boats are generally out for three months at a whack. Since the Navy is aware that Shit Happens (it’s why they exist, after all) the boats are over-stocked with supplies. I have no way of knowing how over stocked, but an intelligent guess would be 100%. Why 100%? Because if I were in charge that’s the minimum I would want and I suspect the folks in charge of such things are both smarter and even more pessimistic than me.
So, we have a number of nuclear submarines at sea, uninfected and they can be out there, barring serious mechanical failure, for six months to a year before supplies run out. Besides John Ringo and Nicholas Sansbury Smith, NOBODY ever mentions this in all the zombie fiction I’ve read, and Smith mentions it almost in passing (in his Extinction series). These are Navy ships chock-full of very smart, very dedicated people and you can bet that if the Zombie Apocalypse strikes the folks in charge will order the subs to stay clear while at the same time making sure they have all the information the Navy, the CDC and USAMRIID can collect about the disease at the center of the outbreak. Note that this actually did NOT happen in Ringo’s books, the information transfer, that is. The government doctors knew how to make an effective vaccine so long as they were willing to commit what some would consider murder to do it, and never sent detailed instructions to the subs.
So, writers of the Zombie apocalypse ignore Nuclear Submarines. Except Ringo. And now it’s always in the back of my mind when I’m watching my favorite Zombie Apocalypse movies or TV shows.
Next: why is the military so damned ineffective at containment once things start getting to the swarming hordes of neighbor-chomping death machines stage? This particularly bugs me if we are talking about Slow Zombies, the moaning, shuffling, got to surprise you or overwhelm you with numbers type of zombies. In AMC’s The Walking Dead the scene of some fortified outpost with a few Abrams tanks and other vehicles spread about, all with half-eaten soldiers everywhere you look is almost an every season staple: you’ll see it at least once. And now, whenever I see it I think: Didn’t they ever hear of Kill-Boxes, Claymores, Zones of Fire, frakking 120mm CANISTER? In one episode of TWD the survivors use some loud vehicles to lead an enormous herd of zombies away from their home camp. Awesome Idea, but better if you lead them away (and upwind) with an Abrams and then cut loose with a few rounds of canister so those zombies will never annoy anyone again.
Is an Abrams Main Battle Tank something you can hop into and start up after it’s been sitting a while? No. How do we solve that problem? See Nuclear Submarines above. The folks who keep those multi-billion dollar war machines moving could figure out how to get a few tanks rolling, of this I am sure.
So, writers of the Zombie apocalypse ignore all that military hardware lying about and were also unaware of how to use it to turn zombies into gooey red slime the consistency of tapioca. Except John Ringo. So now when I watch The Walking Dead I have tanks and canister shot running through the back of my mind.
Thanks again, John.
In the same vein, there should be surviving military outposts. There would HAVE to be. Sure, things would get out of hand in the cities- you don’t need a Zombie Apocalypse for that, just turn off the power for a few days. But let’s look at some staples of zombie behavior:
They are drawn to sound/light/movement.
They can smell the living.
They will travel long distances to get at what they see, hear or smell.
Somewhere in the midst of this, somebody in the military or police or the Walt Disney World Security Team is going to figure this out and use it against the zombies. TWD tipped a hat at this idea where one community used deep pits and wind chimes to lure in the dead and trap them. If somebody with any kind of authority puts this together relatively early (say the cities are burning, but the living still probably outnumber the dead) the zombies are toast. If the zombies are NOT toast, everybody deserves to die.
Damn you, John Ringo, you thorough, inventive bastard, you. Oh, and Dark Tide Rising really does need a fifth book…