I'm reading "Day By Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile", by J.L. Bourne. It's the sequel to "Day By Day Armageddon", which is the tale of a virus that reanimates the blah blah blah civilization collapses blah blah blah lone survivor has to blah blah blah fortified against the living dead. Sorry if I can't seem to work up much enthusiasm for it, but zombie fiction has an unfortunate tendency to the formulaic, much like romance novels. People don't read zombie books for surprises, any more than they really expect the latest Danielle Steele novel to end with the couple deciding they really aren't right for each other, and giving up on the relationship because of all the obstacles in their way.
But I pressed on with the sequel nonetheless, and I noticed something while I was reading about the hero's daring rescue of his sixth and seventh fellow survivor. Namely, he doesn't actually seem to have much trouble dealing with the zombies. And it occurred to me that this is actually a pretty fundamental feature of the genre--the zombies are slow, unintelligent, and suffer from a weakness that makes them easy to defeat. The hero outfights what he can't outrun, outruns what he can't outfight, and outthinks everything else.
Which leads to the question, "How the hell did the zombie problem get so bad in the first place?" The zombies are slower than the walking pace of even a child, they don't use any kind of tactics or strategy, they are exceedingly gullible (in the "Day By Day Armageddon" series, they're attracted to any loud noises...set up a loudspeaker playing "In Your Eyes", and you've pretty much neutralized the zombie threat for half a mile around) and their only weapons are tooth and nail. And as Jonathan Maberry pointed out in his book, "Zombie CSU", tooth and nail are actually fairly sucky weapons in even unarmed combat. It's much harder to break the skin with a bite than it looks. So why is it that in zombie fiction, the zombies always overrun everyone and everything...except the protagonists, who never seem to have serious trouble with them?
I think the answer is that zombie fiction is exceptionalist fiction. The audience is encouraged to identify with the protagonist, the lone man (or, on rare occasions, woman) who rises in the brave new world of the zombie apocalypse. These people who were relentlessly average, stuck in a menial job and an uninteresting life before, they were just waiting for their chance to shine. The crisis might not be a serious one--it just requires a cool head, a steady aim, and a willingness to gun down one's former neighbors--but that's way too much for the sheep-like masses to handle. It takes a real man (or, on rare occasions, woman) to deal with this. A real man like (insert audience stand-in here)!
Of course, not every zombie story follows this formula (originally, Romero made his zombies non-threatening to emphasize the idea that the true threat is our inability to co-operate) but a surprising amount do. As a result, you can see why stories with the zombie as a fast-moving, genuinely lethal and terrifying threat tend to be viewed as a blasphemy against the formula. The harder it is to overcome the zombies, the more sympathetic and understandable the "failures" are and the harder it is for the audience to see themselves as so much better than everyone else. Fast zombies suck because they're a real danger, and that's not actually what zombie fans want.