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World War Z is the follow-up to Max Brook's hugely successful novel, The Zombie Survival Guide, which was a straight-laced survival guide for a hypothetical zombie apocalypse, steeped in such realism that it could genuinely be used for that purpose, rather than as entertainment. World War Z follows this idea of an ultra-realistic approach to the fantastical element of a world-wide zombie uprising by combining war stories from a wide range of individuals from across the globe, and their personal experiences during the war against the undead.
It took me a while to get around to actually reading this book, as I was a little sceptical about whether a collection of individual personal accounts of a zombie apocalypse would work better than a traditional single-view narrative, but the format was actually really effective. It allowed for brief glimpses into different levels of experiences, that sometimes left you wanting more, and for those less interesting excerpts, it wasn't long until the book moved onto something else.
My favourite moments were the ground-level zombie accounts, as opposed to the more political and over-reaching descriptions. One specific part that stuck out for me was the Japanese Otaku, who spent his time sheltered from the attacks online, until his power cuts out and he realises his parents are missing and he has to escape his apartment block, using bed sheets out of the window. It was visually effective, and I could imagine it as part of a zombie-film.
Whilst some readers would find terror in the meticulously researched governmental reactions to such an outbreak, and possibly links to the ill-planning of recent natural disasters - I personally found it hopeful that, if we ever did come under a zombie attack, we would eventually be able to overcome the insurmountable odds and begin to rebuild civilisation, whereas most other zombie media leads towards the gradual extinction of the human race.
There is a film adaptation in the works, which I am unsure about. It could work well as a series of vignettes, each with different tones, actors and locations - more of a documentary feel than an action movie, in the same way that the book itself doesn't feel like fiction. But, with Brad Pitt announced as the lead character, I can't see them not utilising him heavily and making him the focus, which is not the case with the interviewer in the books. I have concerns that this will end up like 2012 - with Brad Pitt trying to save his family during the end of the world, rather than a realistic and gritty look at the near-end of the world.
This Review originally appeared on my blog
It's been ten years now since the world knew peace. The Zombie threat is slowly being exterminated from the face of the planet and a new generation is being born that will never know the danger of extiction that the undead once presented to humanity. Which is why there has never been a better time to release this book; an oral history of everything that occurred during the war from the viewpoints of those who were actually there!
Starting with the first outbreaks in China, the origins of which have never yet been satisfyingly or exclusively discovered, the book then goes on to look at the further reaching consequences as the disease, spread by contagion through bites, took hold amongst the rest of the world. The origins of The Great Panic are revealed as are the attempts by cunning businessmen to spin a quick buck from the emergency. And then finally we get to the real-life anecdotes of veterans from the Zombie war as we see the desperate measures countries all across the globe toook to try and stem the impossible tide.
The main problems seem to have been that nobody quite believed what was happening; the dead geting up, walking and coming back to life to feed on the living ~ surely not??!!? But that is no excuse for the heinous mistakes and errors made by some of the goverments of our strongest nations. Hopefully by now, with this offical record of all that happened, we can learn from past mistakes and prepare for the future. But I guess only time will tell...
The problem, I have with this book is that it feels a little overly long and, towards the end, almost gets a little impersonal as we deal continuousally with more and more individual accounts. We never get to follow one set of characters through the course of the war which, inevitably for me, lead to a sense of emotional detachment from the events I was reading about. If it had been ever so slightly shorter, maybe I might have had a different opinion. Certainly this is amongst the better examples of Zombie literature I have read but it is by no means the best and there is much better fictional stories out there than this based on what really happened!
It owes an awful lot to George.A.Romero but Romero in his later years rather than at the height of his success. If you only ever read one Zombie book, it probably shouldn't be this one.....but if you read two, then this SHOULD be the other one!
Max Brooks has done a very competent job based on his own official reports that he did for the goverment but as anything other than a history book, this is slightly lacking both in style and substance and is more than a little bit cold. Still, it is certainly worth a read if only to prepare for a resurgence of previous conflicts...
Based on Max Brooks's hugely successful "The Zombie Survival Guide", this journalistic novel charts the start of the zombie plague, its spread throughout the world, and humanity's fight back, all through the eyes of people who experienced these things first hand and lived to tell the tale. 10 years after the zombie war began, Brooks has written a report for the United Nations. Most of the individual's stories have been cut out of the final report, and Brooks wants to give these people a chance to voice their experiences of their trials and tribulations.
In this book, Brooks the author (as opposed to Brooks the journalist) examines ideas such as American isolationism, and the human ability to just keep going.
As a horror novel, it is excellent - although gory in parts, most of the horror is not sourced from that. Brooks manages to give such a level of realism to the text that you could easily believe that these were all different people's words, not just one man's.
If society is ever going to learn from its mistakes it must make sure that it studies its own history. With the 70th anniversary of the start of WW2 the number of people who were there and can still tell their tales is diminishing. Therefore, we must interview and preserve as much of this living history as we can to help prevent another world war. Historians have used primary sources as a means of study for centuries and as someone interested in modern history I am a firm believer of asking the source. What would happen though if another war did occur? The history would be written by the victor and would probably skirt over the biggest atrocities. If a new world war did occur the chances are it could be the last and humanities time in Earth could come to an end. Best to get the real life stories of those that fought on all sides before the people die young - especially if they fought a Zombie army!
'World War Z' is the chronological retelling of the Great Zombie War that almost wiped out the human population over a ten year period. Told in a series of interviews our narrator discusses with many people from across the world the causes, events and end of the war. Interviews range from the first sighting of the living dead in China to the massive outbreaks in 3rd World Countries. How did the various world powers deal with the outbreak? Some chose isolation, others the use of their own citizens as a means of escape. Finally how did the human population finally overcome the threat? A threat that increases every time that you lose a solider?
As a historian and a genre fan, 'World War Z' could be a book that was specifically written for me. Told in a series of talking head interviews it reads like a serious academic text on the matter of the Zombie Apocalypse. The fact that it has never happened (yet) is immaterial as Max Brooks is able to paint a worldwide view of what may happen if the dead did walk the Earth. There are so many subtle elements to 'WWZ' that make it stand out. The Zombie novel has become a fad genre in recent times and a lot on offer has been dross. Brooks takes an intelligent and entertaining take on the genre and has produced perhaps the best book on Zombies yet.
The structure itself is sublime. Split over several sections the interviews methodically go through the different steps of the war. Starting from the early sighting the interviewer talks to those that were first to suspect something was wrong. What makes the book stand out is the true international feel that it has. Brooks spans the globe as he highlights how different cultures dealt with the undead. What is also brilliant is the way that the interviews feel so real and natural; each talking head has a personality that comes through and added realism is provided by the intentional use of errors that the interviewer corrects for you. The natural fluidity of the interviews means that one speaker will mention an event in passing, only for another of the interviews to be about someone who was there. By referencing events from later in the book (or earlier) it feels that Brooks has created a full timeline that the interviews hang off.
One issue that could arise with a book about Zombies is that the reader has seen it all before as the chances are that if you are reading this book you are into the genre. It's true that a lot on offer in 'WWZ' is generic Zombie fare, but very well written. However, the book is not about the Zombies, but the people who they affect. IMO, all the best genre novels are about the human aspect of people in amazing circumstances and Brooks provides this. The fact that the book deals with the Zombie outbreak in a very human and natural way makes it excel. How do you prevent the undead unthawing in the spring? What is to stop Zombies rising from the seas? Some of the best parts of the book are about how different nations methodically went about ridding themselves of the plague of undead.
With its Zombie lore in plain view 'World War Z' will not appeal to those who dislike science fiction or horror. This is a shame as its intelligence and brilliant writing means that it transcends the idea of genre and just becomes a great book. The interview structure may annoy some people, but for me it made it a far more believable tale and accessible to those who usually avoid this type of book. With some interesting new ideas on the genre and a vivid creation of a world gone to Hell, Max Brooks has written one of the best science fiction novels I have read in a while.
Author: Max Brooks
Price: amazon uk - £6.99
play.com - £6.99
'It began with rumours from China about another pandemic. Then the cases started to multiply and what had looked like the stirrings of a criminal underclass, even the beginnings of a revolution, soon revealed itself to be much, much worse. Faced with a future of mindless, man-eating horror, humanity was forced to accept the logic of world government and face events that tested our sanity and our sense of reality. Based on extensive interviews with survivors and key players in the 10-year fight-back against the horde, World War Z brings the very finest traditions of American journalism to bear on what is surely the most incredible story in the history of civilization.'
'World War Z' was first published in 2006 and written by Max Brooks - the author of 'The Zombie Survival Guide'. The book is yet another riff on George A Romero's classic 'dead' series of films and presents a scenario where the zombie epidemic was a worldwide phenomenon, leading to a protracted battle for control of the planet between the living and walking dead. In World War Z the war has been won and the crisis is now almost under control. We learn about the history of the epidemic and the war through a selection of prominent eyewitnesses in different countries who survived it - the book coming in a series of 'interviews' rather than chapters with the interviewer's questions in bold. From a crew member of a stolen Chinese nuclear submarine to someone who was holed up in Windsor Castle with the Queen, the story of how the world coped with an inexplicable zombie epidemic is told...
As a big fan of George A Romero's classic zombie films (the original trilogy primarily I hasten to add) I was eager to read World War Z and, after taking a while to get into the book, I found it an imaginative addition to this 'universe' with a suitably apocalyptic atmosphere, literally millions of zombies, and some fun 'alternate history' stuff. Another interesting thing about the book is how it draws inspiration from epic accounts - and actual events - of World War 2 with huge streams of refugees, mass evacuations, battles, and countries pulling together in the face of disaster. The author seems to have a particular interest in Churchill too and several contributors mention or quote him.
Oddly enough, I found the American experiences of the 'crisis', which naturally the author dwells on the most, to be the least interesting on the whole, possibly because it tends to dominate these types of films or books anyway. It was much more interesting at times to read about zombies overrunning Japan or North Korea rather than GI Joe Average Grunt in Brooklyn or whatever. I liked the idea here that North Korea retreated into huge underground bunkers, delighted at the chance to shut off the world further and make the population even more controlled. 'Do they even know the war is over?,' asks a 'contributor' in the book. 'The Great Leader always wanted to be a living God, and now, as master not only of the food his people eat, the air they breathe, but the very light of their artificial suns, maybe his twisted fantasy has finally become a reality.' In the book Japan is completely evacuated and there is an entertaining account of a Japanese computer nerd finally forced from his bedroom by a power-cut and having to navigate the tightly packed apartments and zombie dominated streets of the city - 'I made quite a sight, shimmying down that sheet-rope in a businessman's raincoat and Reiko's bright, pink, vintage "Hello Kitty" schoolbag.' There is also a fun account of a blind Ninja type character who lives in the woods slaying zombies left right and centre.
I liked too the story of an Indian mountain pass being held for as long as possible as millions of zombies approach - 'If we found ourselves unable, or unwilling, to accomplish our mission, then the Jaguar's pilot was ordered to execute "Shiva's Wrath". Everyone in uniform had heard rumours about the secret code name for the use of thermonuclear weapons.' I must say, I was pleased to see that Britain coped relatively well with the crisis because of our abundance of historic Castles. Perfect for setting up defensive positions!
The most interesting US based stories for me were, first, an account of an ordinary family heading 'North' on the presumption that zombies will freeze in the low temperatures. The gradual slide of this community into half-starved lawlessness is quite convincing and chilling - 'But after the first month, when the food started running out, and the days got colder and darker, people started getting mean. There were no more communal fires, no more cookouts or singing. The camp became a mess, nobody picking up their trash anymore. I wasn't left alone with the neighbours anymore, my parents didn't trust anyone. Things got dangerous, you'd see a lot of fights. I saw two women wrestling over a fur coat, tore it right down the middle...the only time anyone came together was when the dead showed up.'
And, secondly, a gripping account of a downed US pilot being guided through a zombie infested wilderness by a voice on the radio - 'The sky was light by the time I opened my eyes. I'd been dreaming about, what else, Zack (zombies). His moans were still echoing in my ears when I woke up. And then I looked down and realized they weren't dreams. There must have been at least a hundred of them surrounding the tree. They were all reaching excitedly, all trying to climb over each other to get up to me.'
There is some political subtext and satire in the book with fake drug cures being marketed by crooked companies and politicians. A group of the rich and famous decide to ride out the crisis in a giant guarded mansion - and be filmed of course for vanity - but things go predictably pear-shaped. 'Our client liked to know people who were known by all. His plan was to provide safety for those who could raise his image during and after the war playing Moses to the sacred and famous. And you know what, they fell for it. The actors, and singers, and rappers and pro athletes.' I liked the alternate history angle that runs through the book. Here, Cuba becomes an economic superpower and, in a twist from what had gone before, is flooded with US refugees - 'Suddenly we became the "Arsenal of Victory". We were the breadbasket, the manufacturing centre, the training ground, and the springboard.'
One of the most gripping stories in the book is about a group of Chinese officers and sailors who steal a nuclear submarine and make a run for it with their families and civilians onboard. There is a great bit where they surface and find the seas crowded with shipping and nautical shantytowns - 'We saw a lot of infested ships, some where the crews were still fighting for their lives, some where the dead were the only crew left. One time off Dakar, Senegal, we came across a forty-five-thousand ton luxury liner called the Nordic Empress. Our search scope's optics were powerful enough to see every bloody handprint smeared on the ballroom's windows, every fly that settled on the deck's bones and flesh. Zombies were falling into the ocean, one every couple of minutes.' There are plenty of underwater zombies in this book which is something relatively new at least.
Minor quibbles? There is a lot of techno waffle in this book, which is understandable enough, but I did find the factual obsession with hardware a bit of a slog at times. The author also struggles slightly to make the different eyewitnesses - especially the US ones - distinctive at times. Perhaps too the book is not quite as epic as I thought it would be. My paperback copy is 342 pages long but, with the interview format/layout, I read it in about three days. There are also bits here and there that I found a tad jarring like an Australian character (who has a great story set on a Space Station) calling the British 'Limeys'. He'd say 'Poms' surely, wouldn't he? The book does though have a dry sense of humour at times that I enjoyed. One witness comments how a creepy British documentary about zombies fighting the army includes an instrumental version of The Smiths' 'How Soon Is Now?' on the soundtrack!
Overall, World War Z is a gripping and absorbing book and an inventive twist on the 'zombie universe' that Romero started way back in 1968.
Well worth a read.
If you have read any other reviews of this book already then you know it is an excellent read from cover to cover. If you have not read any other reviews then let me be the first to tell you this book is amazing!
The book is a full of eye witness accounts of the fictional World War Z. The zombie basically kills alot of the worlds population and the book is about mans struggle again this deadly foe. The interviews start with the lead up to the war, the first sightings of zombie or first infections, then the great panic! After Then the war happens. As you would imagine this is the real meat to the bones. Excellent stories of how the humans over came the Zombie threat. Then Finally how the humans had to rebulid there civilisation after such a tragic time.
This truly is a Fantastic read. No two stories are the same and never are they from the same person. The Author Max Brooks does a fantastic job of telling the stories through these stories. Max is a really credit to the zombie genre in the same way George Romero is. A true genius.
Supposedly, the war is over. I mean, technically it is and has been for ten years, but there are still millions of zombies active across the globe and, each year, cleanup crews venture far and wide, mopping up the infestation where they can. Billions are (un)dead and each survivor has their own story...
Author Max Brooks writes from the perspective of an inspector in a United Nations Post-War Commission who has been given permission by his superiors to write a book documenting the war (which is set in the near future) because the official report was heavily censored.
As such, the novel is told from a series of viewpoints by people who were active during the conflict, generally in chronological order (so we start with the suspected outbreak in China and the story behind patient zero) and describes how the zombies spread across the globe and how each country adapts to deal with the new menace (or not in some cases). Some of these oral accounts come from people instrumental in the struggle for their respective countries; others are simply tales of survival.
The book wins on many levels for me. I like that it's a global view, rather than the United States-centric view that's often portrayed in other books and films. The multi-person oral history aspect really does give it an air of believability despite the subject matter and there are just so many ideas out there to consider including the ramifications of a person somehow getting transplanted with infected organs. Well, they become zombies apparently. Or what happens when zombies enter the sea? They continue to be active and wander the ocean floors, eating the sea life and occasionally appearing on the beaches. Scarier still, what happens to society when it comes under attack from such an unstoppable force? Well, according to Brooks, it shows a side that not everyone would be pleased to see.
I was surprised at how readable the book was. While I liked the ideas behind WWZ, I had assumed that the story would be fragmented and hard to get involved with because of the number of characters/stories within the book and the jumping around that would occur in order to be able to tell the tales.
Thankfully, this was not the case. There are a large number of characters, but I found that there was little confusion as each character has their own 'voice'. There are a huge number of ideas put forward within the book, not solely to do with the zombie myth, but the impact of such an uprising across the world. Each story is complete within itself. While there is a film adaptation in the works, WWZ would work equally as well as a television series, with each episode being one of these self-contained oral accounts.
I wouldn't consider myself to be a huge fan of the zombie horror genre, but I really enjoyed this interpretation of the zombie genre and was hugely impressed with the scope of the story-telling and the amount of ideas contained within it. Usually, I can pick and choose the bits I liked best, but I thought there were very few weak portions throughout the whole story, with the one exception of the blind Japanese man, and even then it's not bad per se, just the weakest story.
For those interested in something a little bit different, this is a definite recommendation.
This book is breathtaking.
World War Z is written as the gathered collections of survivors of the 'Zombie War'. Set ten years after the war, the book recounts tales from all over the world, from the first outbreaks, to the 'Great Panic', to humanity's attempts to fight back.
The Zombie War takes place at some indeterminate point in the near future. Written from several different angles, the book manages to thoroughly investigate this fictional war. It may seem that such an idea as a zombie war is absolutely ridiculous, however Max Brooks manages to keep the reader on the edge of their seat with plausible explanations and reactions. This style of book is usually only found in war recollections - with different people telling their own tales to accumulate a greater perspective - and this style only serves to make the book more believeable.
I don't want to reveal too much about some of the stories, but the characters are as diverse as a bodyguard to an unnamed celebrity, an astronaut on the International Space Station, and a group of Chinese submariners. There are some sly references to people such as Paris Hilton, Jon Stewart and a surprise appearance by a zombie fighting Michael Stipe!
Sadly, the variety of different characters and voices does mean that some tales don't continue as far as you wish they would. It also means that in the final chapter, where some of the previous characters say their final words, the reader can become confused as to who the characters are.
Despite this small flaw, it's so realistic you'll be battening down the hatches and looking for your weapons. When the dead rise, this is a book to have already read.
Ok, only one word to describe this book; amazing. Really didn't know what I was expecting from this but I know that what I got wasn't it. This is an oral account of the war that almost obliterated humanity; people started to die and then get back up and kill those around them. Zombies were taking over the world and it didn't take long, they have no need of food or water, they cannot be bargained with or surrendered to, they have no mercy and they want nothing but to kill everything in their path. We weren't ready for this massive and unstoppably onslaught and inevitabley panic ensued.
There are several sections, each consisting of interviews carried out by the author with people who were in the thick of it, from the Chinese doctor who examined 'patient zero' to people in the armed forces who were trying to defeat the zombie hoards. Even interviews with a young Japanese otaku who didn't even notice that his town was over-run by zombies and his parents missing until the internet servers went down.
I have spent hours since reading this contemplating what I would do if this happened, how I could fortify my house, get food, save my cats and preferably not get eaten. Really horrifically, disturbingly wonderful book. Does Max Brooks know something that we don't? I might be buying lots of canned food in the future..... and a baseball bat...
Ok, so the worst has happened and the dead are returning to life, mindlessly tracking down the living to add to their ever growing numbers. A formidable and terrifying enemy without fear, emotion, empathy or biological needs who join in huge herds to overcome human resistance. Rotting hordes have infested urban areas and have driven the human race to isolated pockets of 'safety'. What would happen to the world and how would you cope as an individual if faced with the undead? Max Brooks is already responsible for the Zombie Survival Guide (a must read for the individual in a zombie infestation scenario), but in World War Z he takes a global overview of the world during and after a supposed zombie 'epidemic'/conflict.
Beginning with the very first case in China (although never explaining exactly how the virus made its way into the human population) Brooks makes his way around the world, 'collecting testimony' from survivors and compiling them into this book. They aren't all ordinary survivor stories but cover a range of eyewitnesses to key events, governmental initiatives and insights into how each country or region of the world dealt with the threat. Brooks does an excellent job of writing these stories so that each appears to be the words of a genuine individual who has lived through something totally horrific and I was completely convinced. Whilst reading the book I had to keep putting it down and reminding myself that I was actually reading a story and these events had not actually happened.
Brooks' explanations for the transmission and rapid spread of the 'disease' are equally convincing as people smugglers carry lorries of immigrants across boarders, unaware that infected individuals who are not yet zombies are inside (with a lovely surprise when they arrive); or rich people receive the organs of 'infected', awaking on the operating table to kill their surgeons. Governments are reluctant to admit they have a problem until it is too late, assign blame but no resources until it is too late. In other zombie literature and films the sheer mechanics of infection spread have never been dealt with and this increases the palpable horror of this book, it oozes realism.
Amongst the stories of political hesitancy, military bungling and mass indecision are the truly terrifying stories that really sent a chill up my spine. In the few pages allotted to each story Brooks has often distilled the essence of the zombie movie or horror novel into frightening, unsettling, gory and nailbiting 'testimony'. From the suburban mom in her SUV to the Japanese man trapped in a tower block full of zombies, a mass exodus by sea that turns into horror and a pilot crashing into a jungle full of zombies there is something for every horror fan. Even though I tend to eschew horror in favour of lighter literary fare, even I had to admit that these were superb examples of their genre and have featured in some truly unpleasant nightmares recently! It turns out that you really aren't safe at sea in the event of a zombie infestation (shudder).
There are tales of heroism, cowardice and insanity, the latter often manifesting itself in the strangest and most disturbing ways I have ever come across, not something I had ever thought about with regards to people's reactions to a zombie invasion. Surprisingly there is also humour as celebrities hole themselves up in bunkers but their desire to still be the centre of attention proves to be their downfall; and dodgy businessmen prey on the gullible in the early stages of the epidemic. The most interesting section for me was the aftermath; at the time of writing the book the zombies are still a problem and we follow the various worldwide cleanup squads as they discharge their duty (shudder).
To write a global history of such an event is obviously an enormous undertaking and on the whole Brooks has managed to pull it off with no loose ends. I am the original cynic but I finished the book in one evening and was wholly sucked in by the realistic approach of this book. However there were a few small things that niggled i.e. the focus on India, China and the USA and the ignoring of much of South America and Africa. Brooks also indulges in stereotypes and the caricature of the Brit living in Windsor castle and fighting off zombies with a sword did have me giggling a little bit; light relief perhaps amongst the adrenaline pumped and politically complex stories that surround it. The 'testimony' approach is quite frustrating in parts as you want to find out what happened next at a particular time, or some more about the 'witnesses' themselves. It is also quite sketchy and less dense than other more involved horror novels, but I found that once I got involved in the narrative I tended to forget this, just wanting to read the next part of the story.
I really enjoyed this book, much more that I ever expected to; it isn't great literature but it is a cracking horror/zombie novel for those who want some depth to their zombie infestation. I found it quite easy to read but hard to digest (ha ha) and it has certainly led me to consider 'what if' and create my own imaginary 'zombie plan' just in case. Brooks has managed to write in hundreds of different, well conceived and researched voices to narrate a terrifying and thrilling event and I think he did a fantastic job! If reading this book in Switzerland as I did, make sure your reading of this book doesn't coincide with the day they test all the nuclear sirens for your area, you may act irrationally.
RRP- £8.99 (it is currently £6.99 on Amazon.co.uk)
It began with rumours from China about another pandemic. Then the cases started to multiply and what had looked like the stirrings of a criminal underclass, even the beginnings of a revolution, soon revealed itself to be much, much worse. Faced with a future of mindless, man-eating horror, humanity was forced to accept the logic of world government and face events that tested our sanity and our sense of reality. Based on extensive interviews with survivors and key players in the 10-year fight-back against the horde, "World War Z" brings the very finest traditions of American journalism to bear on what is surely the most incredible story in the history of civilisation.