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Plight of the Living Dead: What Real-Life Zombies Reveal about Our World--And Ourselves

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  156 ratings  ·  39 reviews
A brain-bending exploration of real-life zombies and mind controllers, and what they reveal to us about nature--and ourselves

Zombieism isn't just the stuff of movies and TV shows like The Walking Dead. It's real, and it's happening in the world around us, from wasps and worms to dogs and moose--and even humans.

In Plight of the Living Dead, science journalist Matt Simon d
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by Penguin Books
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Average rating 3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  156 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror, reviewed, science
This was a very good pop-science book about parasites that manipulate their hosts and environment to thrive and reproduce. The tactics these parasites (Simon refers to them as "zombifiers") use to survive shows how nature Nature truly is majestic and terrifying at the same time.

Simon starts with cases most similar to what we think of when we think of zombies: some external force invading a host and taking over its mind. Simon gives the example of wasps (nature's assholes) and fungi t
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and gross. 4.5⭐ ...more
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2018
The jewel wasp did WHAT to the cockroach?! Holy guacamole!!! Sort of saw the “yartsa gunbu” bit coming, and loved Simon’s spin on the lack of Hollywood capitalization over Chinese burglars getting their hands on unicorn caterpillars!

- A must read due to unavailability of free will. You will succumb.
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a really cool, interesting read!
I'd recommend it.
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a creepy cool read. It could have been a little longer, but I enjoyed what it was.
Emma Shipman
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book. I really did, I swear.

I'm the kind of person who is open to most everything. I consider myself to be pretty well-educated, and receptive to new ideas and beliefs. I came upon this book and was instantly hooked on the weirder scientific aspects of nature, and I had hoped for a witty, in-depth look at the world of biological zombification.

Did I get this??? Yes, but at the expense of my own patience.

Let's start with the positives. Matt Simon writes in an ironic, humou
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: creepy, science
If the Matt Simon wasn't such a great science communicator and Holter Graham wasn't such a great narrator this book would have scared me sleepless but they are great and this book is hilarious. Nature is both creepy as f*ck and weird as f*ck. This book tells that stories of animals that use mind control, pheromones, and viruses to take over other animals and control their doings.
Chris Demer
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology
I started this book a few weeks ago but got side tracked by some other books I was reading.
This is a fairly lighthearted approach to some truly gruesome aspects of biology, namely parasites that infect animals (from insects to humans) and alter their brains in service to themselves and their progeny.
Some examples include a wasp that injects a specific region of a cockroach brain, directing the roach to its doom. The wasp lays its egg in the abdomen of the roach. Then there are ants i
Scott Martin
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
(Audiobook) Proof that nature is stranger than fiction, this book explores the concept of “zombies” in the natural world. While it alludes to the human zombies of horror films and pop culture, the idea of zombie animals is not that far fetched. From small fungi and near microscopic animals to insects and rabies, this work offers very interesting (and some cases things that are almost too true to believe) studies about organisms can be manipulated to act against their natural states. From being w ...more
Apr 05, 2019 rated it liked it
This one was fascinating, snarky, and more than a little unpleasant.

Unpleasant because, well, look at the source material. It's one bit of organic-mess narstiness after another. It's a picked booger of a book, as that remember that guy from the middle school lunch table...insists on showing you the latest bit of glop he's extracted from his sinuses. "Ooh, look, a bit of green. I must have an INFECTION." Oddly enough, you're still friends with that guy, although after his ba
Nia Nymue
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
The writer's voice is quite casual, and while it's amusing sometimes, other times you'd wish he'd just get straight to the point.

I can see the link between the first part of the book, on parasites, to the final chapter that talks about how human beings don't have free will - although it IS quite a stretch and made me wonder if he ran out of material. What further added to this wonder was that he talked about illusionists and hypnotists in the nature, which is (I think) different from
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. I found it to be fascinating and comprehensive, but best of all it was funny --the author has a great sense of humor and his dry wit is woven throughout the book. I bought the book because I've read about the fungus that hijacks ants and grows out of their heads and I mean, who doesn't want to learn more about that?! The fact that there are even more examples of zombification in the animal kingdom really piqued my curiosity. I've been a total know-it-all since readi ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very fun, interesting book on specific parasites of the world who, as the title suggest, specialize in some variation of mind control. For those without a naturalist background, you might be shocked at how incredibly cruel nature truly is, but in that cruelty is intriguing survival strategies that would not otherwise exist (and are far more creative than Hollywood has come up with). And yes, if you didn't already guess it, as humans who are part of the tree of life, we're no exception to these ...more
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
"A brain-bending exploration of real-life zombies and mind controllers, and what they reveal to us about nature--and ourselves"

What an amazing, and concise way of articulating the last week I spent with this book. Many times I had to put it down due to needing to wrap my head around the idea of actual zombies, and remind myself that the majority of the zombifiers explored in the book cannot manipulate me, so I am mostly safe.

Matt Simon has done a fantastic job of bringing the scienc
Bill Harrison
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I read an advance uncorrected proof.

From the wasp conducting brain surgery on cock roaches to the rabies causing hyper violence and insane aversion to water in humans and other mammals, this book will make you think the world is full of zombies and zombifiers. And you'd be right. And you might be shocked to know that is has been proven our brain makes decisions for us seconds before we realize a decision has been made, which might explain a lot of things!

This is a very we
Dec 29, 2018 rated it liked it
An entertaining and fascinating pop-science book that takes a look at a variety of parasites that take over or otherwise "zombify" their hosts. This book has more meat than the author's previous book (The Wasp that Brainwashed the Caterpillar), but it did miss the opportunity to add colour photographs of some of the more visual parasitic phenomena.
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Matt Simon book is as hilarious as it is gross. I picked up this book to broaden my horizons and I'm glad I did. It's fascinating stories of many different kinds of zombies. Simon relates zombies to broaden philosophical debates in a witty way. It sometimes felt like some bits were rattling on but I did enjoy it a lot
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a perfect book for the Halloween spooks. No novel could capture how horrifying real life is. We live in an under-reported boom in research on how parasites can control their hosts' brains, and Matt Simon pulls together all the goriest science into one easy-to-read, terrifying book.
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed Matt Simon's exploration of the ways that parasites can alter the behaviors of their hosts, including humans. Written for a general audience, Simon's book captivates and repels in equal measures on a fascinating topic.
Giovanna Walker
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Engaging, well written scienc-y book. Oh my, who wants to be an ant!!! Interesting and gross as many here before me have suggested. Nature is amazing, and horrifying. Rabies for humans - the 'inspiration' for human zombies. Euh.
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting, especially to realize that parasitism exists at so many levels and species in the animal kingdom. Also both sciencey AND layperson enough to appeal to and be understood across a pretty broad swath of the reading public...
It wasn't badly written, and the facts were interesting, but it was much too derivative of Parasite Rex for me. If you are interested in the subject, I would recommend reading Parasite Rex, though it is a little older, than this book.
Lia Keller
Jun 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Completely fascinating! Mind blowing how creatures have evolved.
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Ewww, but interesting
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Well written. Terrifying. Fascinating. Gross.
Jul 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good overview, but could have done without the "comedy".
Brandi Snell
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology, science
This is a very interesting book about parasites.
Feb 19, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a cool intro to how F'ed up evolution can get, with occasional witticisms sprinkled in. I enjoyed the discussion of the Umwelt along with the horror show.
Ronnie Yee
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Fascinating details on parasitic wildlife adaptation
Dan Carpenter
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
First half was incredible. Second half was still good just not as much. Crazy what nature can do.
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Matt Simon is a journalist who writes Wired Science's 'Absurd Creature of the Week' column. He has also edited Wired's 'This Day in Tech blog', which was compiled into the book Mad Science, and writes a second column called 'Fantastically Wrong' that explores the strangest mistakes in folklore and science. He lives in San Francisco.