Book Review | Plight of the Living Dead

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I’d be willing to bet a lot of you think this is some sort of horror novel about zombies. Well, you’d be half right. Because this book is about zombies. But it’s not fiction. Zombies are real. They’re just not the kind of zombies we see in science fiction movies. Well, mostly. In his book, Plight of the Living Dead: What Real-Life Zombies Reveal About Our World – and Ourselves, Matt Smith takes about one of the many different kinds of zombifying parasites, and how they influence the world around us.

(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)


(From Goodreads) 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 documents his journey through the bizarre evolutionary history of mind control. Along the way, he visits a lab where scientists infect ants with zombifying fungi, joins the search for kamikaze crickets in the hills of New Mexico, and travels to Israel to meet the wasp that stings cockroaches in the brain before leading them to their doom.

Nothing Hollywood dreams up can match the brilliant, horrific zombies that natural selection has produced time and time again. Plight of the Living Dead is a surreal dive into a world that would be totally unbelievable if very smart scientists didn’t happen to be proving it’s real, and most troublingly–or maybe intriguingly–of all: how even we humans are affected.


If you’d told me a year ago that I’d read a nonfiction book about zombifying parasites and love it, I might have thought you were crazy. Honestly, I’m still not quite sure why I picked this up in the first place. Probably because it was a short audiobook and I wanted to fit another nonfiction book in this month. I was not expecting to develop a slight obsession with cockroach wasps, but that happened. This book is absolutely fascinating and it kind of took over my brain. Wait, is this book a parasite, too?

But seriously, Plight of the Living Dead was oh so good. Not only is it incredibly interesting, but it’s also fun to read. The author injects enough humor to balance the horrifying reality of nature. And it is really horrifying. Being a human can kind of suck sometimes, but after reading this book, you’ll feel better much better since a lot of these things can’t actually turn you into a zombie. I mean, sure, the tarantula hawk has one of the most painful stings in the world, but it can’t control your mind. Silver lining, right?

I still can’t believe I know this much about insects and bacteria now, but I can’t stop thinking about it. This book really changed how I see the world around me. Mostly because I now feel sorry for cockroaches and will always wonder if an ant is just an ant, or if there’s a secret fungus controlling it in order to take down the colony and spread its spores. Plus, I am really glad I was vegetarian before reading this. Because the likelihood of me inadvertently ingesting a parasite is probably a bit smaller than it is for you omnivores.


★★★★★ – I highly recommend Plight of the Living Dead. It was fun and educational, and also weirdly fascinating. Bonus, it gives some insight into how the myth of zombies began. (Hint: it’s based heavily on real effects of zombifying parasites. So that’s fun.)

Plight of the Living Dead is available in bookstores now! You can pick up a copy on Amazon

To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Plight of the Living Dead as one of your two free books. I absolutely loved the audiobook, and highly recommend it.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may get a small commission for purchases made through this post.*

4 thoughts on “Book Review | Plight of the Living Dead

  1. This book, honestly, sounded frightening! Still, I do find it hard to resist seeing zombie-related things although they’ve been portrayed again and again in different media. This does seem like a different take on the matter, and one worth checking out! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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