Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep is, believe it or not, non-fiction. It is written by Timothy Verstynen, Bradley Voytek, two neuroscientists who also love zombie movies. With great care and deliberation, they take the reader on a tour of the human brain, describing how it works and what can go wrong, all with the aim of figuring out just what is going awry in the zombie brain and if it might be possible to fix it. If this sounds both mind-boggling and fun, that is because it is both.
I just listened to the audio version, and Verstynen and Voytek do not in any way talk down to their listeners. Matters of the brain’s different areas and their functions plus different hormones are described in detail by two experts. Readers learn about the way we move and why movement is life, why we start and stop feeling hungry, the possible reasons for cross-wiring, and many other details. There’s a fair bit of the history of neuroscience as well—a lot of what we know comes from injuries and illnesses. Anyone who titles their book by referencing zombies and Philip K. Dick can be expected to have a geeky background and a strange sense of humor, both of which Verstynen and Voytek demonstrate throughout the book, making it perhaps the only book on the brain that tickles the funny bone.
There is a lot to take in, and this is where listening to the book has its drawbacks: While it is possible to hit rewind to listen to something two or three times, it is not possible to page back to the beginning to check on the meaning of a word or page back to an illustration–the absence of illustrations being another flaw in the audio version. The other is simply a matter of the pace at which science moves: by today’s standards, 2014 is pretty old.
On the other hand, there are good reasons to listen to the book, one of them being Scott Aiello’s reading. Listening to him feels like having one of the authors in the room eagerly explaining the subject. He gives the impression of enjoying the material and wanting others to as well. His voice is clear without being monotonous, almost conversational in tone, making him one of the few non-fiction narrators I want to keep track of.
Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep will require an attentive listener or reader. It will reward the attention with an increased knowledge of the human condition, a greater appreciation for zombies, and possibly a better chance of surviving the zombie apocalypse.
Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?: A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain was recorded on November 11, 2014. It is also available in multiple formats.