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BOOK REVIEW: World War Z by Max Brooks

Posted on the 19 June 2013 by Berniegourley @berniegourley

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie WarWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

World War Z, as the subtitle suggests, is written as a series of interviews of key (or in some cases typical) people involved in the Zombie War. The viewpoints addressed include various political leaders, military service members of various branches and nations, strategic planners, doctors, and even civilians caught up in the diaspora that resulted from the plague.

The approach of the novel is unusual. To the degree there is a lead character, it’s the UN employee who conducts all the interviews. However, we don’t experience the interviewer’s story arc and are left with very little insight into this individual. Rather, the story is a global arc of mankind’s experience of zombies from “patient zero” through the clean up in the years following the war. And, it is a global tale. The stories of these individuals take one to places like Chongquing, Meteora, the Amazon, Barbados, Johannesburg, the Alang ship breaking yard (an excellent choice for a post-apocalyptic setting, I must say), Denver, and even onto a ballistic-missile-toting submarine sitting on the ocean floor.

Where Brooks’s book excels is in making one think, and in that regard it does an excellent job. This isn’t about edge-of-the-seat adrenaline injections to which most Zombie book authors aspire. I don’t deny that there are emotional parts to the book, but the tension is reduced by virtue of being a collection of survivors’ tales. That is, we know the story-tellers survived more-or-less intact. Also, because of the intrusions of the interviewer and the authenticity of responses (some are more skilled and open story tellers than others), we never lose sight of the fact that this is a couple of people talking war stories.

That being said, we take a cook’s tour of gut-wrenching food for thought over the course of the novel. Consider a government that abandons its citizenry, and even uses some as bait to help save others. Brooks tugs at the readers’ heartstrings through an interview with a K-9 soldier who describes the role of man’s best friend. Brooks portrays the best and worst that mankind has to offer–as one would surely expect to experience them in such a world gone wrong.

I must admit, some of the topics may be more interesting to me as a social scientist than they will be to others. One interviewee discusses the mismatch between job skills needed and job skills available in a rapidly evolving post-apocalyptic landscape. This speaks to present-day society as much as it does to a dystopian future. The author devotes an interview to questioning the man responsible for reestablishing trust in the dollar in an economy that has by necessity reverted to barter. There is also discussion of revolutions in governance that find their catalyst in the Zombie War. There are intriguing turns of events such as the makeshift flotillas of U.S. citizens converging on Cuba because Fidel’s authoritarian regime was uniquely prepared to close itself off during the earliest days of the outbreak.

With the movie coming out this Friday (June 21), I will say that I can’t see much in common between the book and the trailers for the movie that I’ve seen to date. However, I can imagine the movie being an extension or outgrowth of one of the many vignettes expressed in the book. This is not to say that the movie will be bad (or that it won’t be), but if one sees the movie one will still be left with impetus to read the book.

I enjoyed World War Z because it makes one think–a feat that isn’t the strong suit of Zombie literature.

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Tags: Book, Book Review, fiction, Max Brooks, movies, novel, science fiction, World War Z, Zombie

By in Book Reviews, Books, fiction, movies, Review, Reviews, Science Fiction on June 18, 2013.

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