It's like The Real World meets The Walking Dead.
If this combination intrigues you, you should definitely check out this novel. If it sends you screaming in the other direction, then you should obviously not. Keep Your Crowbar Handy attempts to do something different with the zombie genre and for more than half the book is a subversion of your typical post-apocalyptic tale.
Our protagonists manage to be impossibly lucky and have the right combination of people to not only survive the initial outbreak but know a Doomsday prepper who was rich as well as paranoid enough to build a house-sized fallout shelter. In terms of the zombie apocalypse, it is the equivalent of winning the lottery five times in a row. Except, of course, our protagonists are all twenty-somethings with a couple of middle-aged adults shoved together with nowhere to go and a slow dawning realization no one is going to rescue them. As George Romero's movies show, the biggest danger in this sort of situation isn't zombies but your fellow survivors.
I was back and forth on the book for much of the first half until I realized just what S.P. Durnin was doing. It's a story which works on a slow burn and has a nice element of satire to it. Our protagonists are beautiful, young, hedonistic folk who would be right at home on MTV or Friends with the small exception most are unusually badass. I'll get more into this but this is what lends the book its unique feel.
The book makes no real sense in a "realistic" Earth but takes place in a sort of exaggerated zombie-slaying video-game or humorous action movie universe. Our protagonist, Jake, is a laid back hipster who just happens to be an ex-SAS soldier, anime geek, editor, fabulous lover, and all-round nice guy. He's accompanied by Kat and Laura who are two badass women without his special training but equally laid-back take on the apocalypse.
One has a sword.
And no, it's not a polygamy situation--a pity, too, since I actually think it'd make sense in this situation. Last man on Earth and all that.
Keep Your Crowbar Handy is the sort of book where it's less important that the end of the world is happening outside than events have forced a bunch of people together in a place they can't leave. Boredom and abrasive personalities are the biggest dangers for the majority of the book rather than cannibal corpses.
Again, I can't say this is remotely realistic as you'd think one of this group would start to wonder if their family was horrifically killed (and one is). However, it fits with the book's metaphor, which is the zombie-apocalypse is pretty much your twenties. You're forced to with impossible situations and a large scary world but as long as you're in your apartment, you're relatively safe. That is, of course, until the food runs out and you need to go into the Big Bad WorldTM to keep the lights on.
I liked the metaphor in Shaun of the Dead and this is a more glamorized American take on it. Our protagonists are even taken care of by their metaphorical parents, carrying their asses when they're too busy focused on enjoying themselves. I will say the author went overboard making Jake a sort of living god of idealized Generation Y manhood and spent too much time focusing on who was sleeping with who over the flesh-eating monsters outside. The latter is a large part of the book's theme so it's hard to fault the author too much.
Keep Your Crowbar Handy is a quirky-quirky book and I liked it but I also think it's something of a niche work. You have to accept it's about twenty-somethings and their emotional vulnerabilities versus the undead horrors eradicating reality. I loved the characters, though, and recognize all of their are true-to-life in their personalities.
They're sexy as hell too. Hell, I married a girl like Kat (also named Kat weirdly enough). I suppose my only real complaint is it sometimes feels as if they're snowed in at the ski lodge rather than surrounded by flesh-eating monsters in an underground bunker. It worked in Dead Rising 2, though, so I'll let that slide.