World War Z

October 5, 2013 Book Reviews 4 ★★★★★

World War Z five-stars
on 09/12/2006
Pages: 342
Format: Hardcover

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The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time.World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

Review by Travis Starnes

This book is nothing short of brilliant. That being said it may not be for everyone.  It is important to note that this is not a straightforward narrative following a survivor through zombie wasteland.  Instead World War Z is told in the form of an oral history set in a world where a worldwide zombie catastrophe has happened.  Brooks has managed to do such a good job of creating a fictitious oral history that it in fact reads like many real oral histories I have read in the past.

World War Z recounts the alternate history of a world where there zombies rise from the dead, how they took over the world, and the ways in which the survivors pushed the zombies back and reclaimed their countries.  Even though it is clearly a work of fiction it none the less comes off as very believable, thanks mostly to Brooks writing and the format he chose to tell the story in.

In many books dealing with Alternative histories or historical fiction the biggest downfall is the overall premise of their story.  How the authors make events occur and what their supposition of what would follow from those events is often in-congruent and does not have a feeling of plausibility.  World War Z doesn’t suffer from this problem and while Brooks does take the world in unique twists that I would not have through of after reading his accounts I can’t help but think his way feels natural and right. For example, the way the chaplains turned zombie occupied Russia into a religious based country reminiscent of Tsarist Russia I found fascinating and completely believable.

Again it is important to note that the book doesn’t stay with any one character or place and instead jumps from person to person covering all levels of the conflict from Geo-political to tactical to personal.  The characters in each area Brooks follows are as varied as they could possibly be. Some are unlikable while others you can’t help but root for and overall the selection has a realistic feel of the random selection of people you would get in this kind of non-narrative history. The book also ends with a follow-up on a majority of the characters introduced giving you a “where are they now” look back, which leaves the reader with a good sense of closure.

The thing that amazed me most is that this book is written by Max Brooks, the son of Mel Brooks. He also wrote The Survivalists Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypses, which is more tongue and cheek then World War Z and would seem more the Brooks family style. I say that not to take anything away from Max. He is a talented writer, very creative, and has written the best zombie fiction I have read yet. Being the connoisseur of zombie fiction in all its forms, that is saying something.

Rating Report
Overall: 4.9

4 Responses to “World War Z”

  1. Daisy

    I consider myself a connoisseur of horror, so I don’t want to read the same formulaic themes and stories over and over again. Max Brook’s approach to zombie apocalypse lore is serious art. I love the way he strings the narrative together from different viewpoints, creating realistic sociopolitical issues within the post-apocalyptic setting. He actually thinks through all of the areas where other authors leave glaring plot holes. He creates something truly believable and not at all condescending or pandering (which is what I’m always afraid of going in). I was pleasantly surprised.

  2. Chris Romans

    Good review of this book without spoiling anything! Thanks for that! Your description of the character changes throughout the book really made me want to pick this up, and I am not usually too compelled to go grab something seen as “mainstream” (the hipster in me is speaking). It sounds like it examines a zombie apocalypse from many different perspectives, and that is valuable given that so many books, movies, and TV shows just view an apocalyptic world like this so narrowly through a few characters (if that). On that note, how do you feel the book compares to the film? I haven’t seen the movie yet, but am definitely interested in checking it out.

  3. efpierce

    This one caught me way off guard, didn’t know about this book at all and I had just seen the movie last night. The movie was incredible, I wasn’t expecting it, but it was. Now that I know about the book, I picking that up tonight. Now, if I can only think of an excuse to take a couple of sick days to get some reading done.

  4. Mandy

    It’s great to read a review of this book. The promos for the movie never gave me a real sense of the book (imagine that!). As someone who doesn’t read in the horror genre as a role, I find that your review actually makes me want to check out this book because of the cleverness of its structure. I also looked up Max Brooks on IMDB and read a series of interesting quotes from him that make me even more interested in the book. I love how a good review can get me to look at something outside of my usual reading habits. 🙂

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