Bookworm Sez: ‘Plight of the Living Dead’ — Zombies meet science in an unsettling read

Bookworm Sez: ‘Plight of the Living Dead’ — Zombies meet science in an unsettling read

What’s bugging you today?

Poli-ticks making you want to flea? Ant Doris on your case about the holidays already? It’s tough, really, especially when you’re swarmed both at work and back at the nest. As you’ll see in “Plight of the Living Dead” by Matt Simon, it can be enough to make you lose your mind.

Raggedy clothes, sunken eyes, grey skin, and a foot-dragging limp. You know it well: it’s a zombie, probably from Hollywood “because yeah sure why not,” says science writer Matt Simon. Still, you know zombies are fictional creatures — or are they?

Reanimating a body, Simon says, is “unreasonable” but zombies are seriously a thing. Worse, they are “far more incredible and diabolical and horrifying… than a screenwriter could ever dream up.”

Take, for instance, the jewel wasp which paralyzes cockroaches, injects venom into the roach’s brain and lays its eggs near the roach so that the roach happily becomes a sort of living nursery-slash-buffet for the wasp’s young’uns. Or a worm that takes control of ants in order to make them more willing to be eaten by sheep that carries the worm’s eggs to a snail that the worm ultimately needs for propagation of the species.

Confusing? Yes, and it gets worse: though it’s hard to sympathize with a cockroach or a worm, the blame doesn’t lie with the zombifier, but with a thing called “umwelt,” which is loosely defined as the construct of an environment that an individual perceives. Simply put: if an individual ant seems to think that being eaten by a sheep is fine, then it is.

So what does this all have to do with you?

Well, aside from the fact that you now know some really cool cocktail chatter, consider this: you can be zombified by your own brain and “free will is a lie.” You can, for example, get Mad Cow Disease or rabies. You can get toxoplasmosis (a surprising number of people have). And if you’re instructed to think of something, anything — who told you what to think about?

If this book were written by anybody other than author Matt Simon, it probably wouldn’t be recommended.

But it is, and that’s good: Simon is a funny guy and he makes this very scientific subject interesting to read about. Yes, it’s true that information sometimes races off on a side road before it’s reeled in and explained better, but Simon brings it back with humor that practically demands readers forgive him for, well, for scrambling brains.

Indeed, be prepared: this is the kind of book filled with sentences you may have to read two or even three times to completely understand. Simon is obviously fascinated with this subject and he brings readers along for the ride but just beware that the book’s science-philosophy-horror-novel basis goes deep as an ocean cavern.

And yet — zombies! How can you resist a book like that, a book about the real-life undead? You can’t, which is why “Plight of the Living Dead” should bee your next bedside read.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at

More in Life

Homer students pose after their performance from the musical Shrek on Saturday after the three-day Broadway Bootcamp theater workshop with director Jim Anderson in October 2023, in Homer, Alaska. (Emilie Springer/ Homer News)
Intensive Broadway Bootcamp offered in Homer in August

During the five-day bootcamp, youth participants will work with top performing artist educators to develop leadership skills through theater arts.

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Young actors rehearse their production during a drama camp put on by the Kenai Performers in their theater near Soldotna on Thursday.
Kenai Performers’ drama camp trains young actors, puts on ‘super’ show

When they arrived, most of the actors had never performed before, but in just a week they’ll put on a real show

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
A copy of Howard Weaver’s “Write Hard, Die Free” rests on an ink-splotched guard rail in front of the Peninsula Clarion’s defunct Goss Suburban printing press on Thursday.
Off the Shelf: ‘Write Hard, Die Free’ an exciting and incisive window into history of Alaska, journalism

Immediately after the death of legendary Anchorage reporter and editor Howard Weaver, I picked up a copy of his memoir

This 1961 drawing of the Circus Bar, east of Soldotna, was created by Connie Silver for a travel guide called Alaska Highway Sketches. The bar was located across the Sterling Highway from land that was later developed into the Birch Ridge Golf Course.
A violent season — Part 1

Like many such drinking establishments, Good Time Charlies usually opened late and stayed open late

Dillon Diering and Sarah Overholt dance while the Tyson James Band performs during the 45th Annual Moose Pass Summer Solstice Festival in Moose Pass, Alaska, on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘We’re about community’

Moose Pass throws 45th annual Summer Solstice Festival

This summer salad is sweet and refreshing, the perfect accompaniment to salty meat and chips. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Fueling happy memories

Fresh salad accompanies an outdoors Father’s Day meal

Minister’s Message: The way life will be

“Is this the way it was all meant to be? Is this what God had in mind when He created us?”

Photo provided by Art We There Yet
José Luis Vílchez and Cora Rose with their retired school bus-turned-art and recording studio.
‘It’s all about people’

Traveling artists depict Kenai Peninsula across mediums

Promotional Photo courtesy Pixar Animation/Walt Disney Studios
In Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Fear (voice of Tony Hale) and Disgust (voice of Liza Lapira) aren’t sure how to feel when Anxiety (voice of Maya Hawke) shows up unexpectedly. Directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen, “Inside Out 2” releases only in theaters Summer 2024.
On the Screen: ‘Inside Out 2’ a bold evolution of Pixar’s emotional storytelling

Set only a year after the events of the first film, “Inside Out 2” returns viewers to the inner workings of pre-teen Riley

Most Read