A while back, I was published in Hungry for Your Love (zombie romance, naturally). While I’ve mostly shambled back to the zombie well in drabbles, Stacey Graham and Paul Kepple decided to go a slightly…different… direction. They created The Zombie Tarot: An Oracle of the Undead
(AMZ | B&N). And when she offered me a review copy… well, I leapt at the chance.
Mind you, I was somewhat skeptical at first. I have my old Rider-Waite deck around here somewhere, and a newer one that my girlfriend gave me. And I didn’t know how one could pull this off without being purely gimmick-y.
The answer arrived in the mail about two weeks ago, and honestly, I’ve not reviewed it yet because I’ve been too busy showing this thing off to my friends. This is an absolutely gorgeous deck, that seems like it might just be a bit of a fun gag for your friends, but is also a FULLY FUNCTIONAL DEATH STAR… er, wait. No, tarot deck.
Packaging first: The box itself is a hoot. Zombie mystics on the outside, a caption of “insight and ammunition for surviving the undead uprising”, and some great mid-60’s styles. Pull the lid up…
… and you get ammo! (Well, illustrated ammo, anyway, presumably for illustrated zombies.) The top thing you see is the instruction manual (which Ms. Graham penned). It’s a hoot in itself, and illustrated with tri-tone images of the cards. There’s a witty introduction, some notes about the different suits (and the difference between major and minor arcana), and a couple of basic layouts and tips (some amusing, some practical) for conducting a reading. But the emphasis is clearly on the descriptions for the cards, and Ms. Graham delivers.
For example, this one for “The Sun” reads:
Sweet success! The morning sun has risen and the rescue teams have arrived. After foiling a hostile takeover by the undead, you’ve earned a one-way ticket to a safer place. Now it’s time to make plans for the future: consider traveling to warmer climes or getting a new job. There’s good money in corpse disposal these days…
And that’s part of the genius (and one small drawback – which you might have noticed) with this deck. That interpretation is pretty congruent with some of the various interpretations you can find for The Sun card (such as here, here, here, and of course, Wikipedia). But it’s not only a good interpretation – and since interpretations vary, simply getting the right idea across is sufficient – but it stays completely in character in a tongue-in-cheek way. Definitely puts a new spin on an everyday reading! (The interpretation of the card “Death” is, naturally, hilarious.) So you can actually use the guidebook for doing a reading, making this a FULLY FUNCTIONAL DEATH ST… sorry. Nervous tic about the words “fully functional”1 there.
But speaking of spin, I’m a bit used to having an explicit, separate interpretation for the cards coming up reversed. That’s not always provided (see half the links above again), so that might just be a bit of a personal preference. However, having the cards come up reversed isn’t mentioned in the book at all – not a problem for someone familiar with doing a reading, but perhaps necessary to note for someone who hasn’t handled a Tarot deck before.
One other change with this deck: the minor arcana suit “pentacles” is replaced with “hazards”. I’m not sure what decision led to this change – the interpretations remain the same – but it’s actually quite cool once you stop looking for the pentacles. Hazards are, of course, symbolized with a biohazard symbol.
The cards themselves are wonderful. They’re lush in a faux-sixties style that I simply can’t communicate to you in text. They’re well-made and sturdy (which is actually important if you intend to use the deck), and simply gorgeous. I took pictures of four of them (three major arcana, one of the eight of Hazards) to just give you an idea of how awesome the art is.
All in all, the Zombie Tarot is a great buy for the zombie lover in your life, and an awesome buy for the zombie lover who is into tarot cards at all. You can find it for $17 list (AMZ | B&N) (though right now I’m seeing “marketplace” offers for less).
1 death star