I can see why this book remains one of the most instantly recognized zombie novels of all time (and continues to be a fan favorite and a darling among...more I can see why this book remains one of the most instantly recognized zombie novels of all time (and continues to be a fan favorite and a darling among "the critics"). It's cool, it's action packed, it's epic and amongst a sub-genre that is in desperate need of something "fresh", World War Z delivers a gut punch to the solar plexus fueled by a tantalizingly original approach.
Most zombie tales (either literary or cinematic) are told using a very small canvas from the narrowest point of view of a handful of survivors. It's shockingly intimate, immediate, but limited in scope. When there is a zombie outbreak in the heartland of America or in the City of Angels, we never know how the rest of the world is faring. Is it only happening here? Is it happening everywhere?
Max Brooks takes a truly global approach to the zombie apocalypse. He assumes that if there is a zombie outbreak, it's going to spread fast and become a global pandemic. His cast of characters are not a terrified group holed up in the Mall of America -- they are citizens of the world -- Greenland, China, Israel, India, Canada, Germany...never has the zombie apocalypse had such an international complexion.
The other aspect that gives this novel its unique voice are the voices, of which there are many. The great zombie war is over and now the veterans of this war -- the ultimate survivors -- are left to describe how the war was won on all fronts over all parts of the globe. How were the zombies driven into submission? How were their numbers decimated so that humankind could avoid extinction? Brooks doesn't shy away from the minutiae of military tactics and strategy, foreign dossiers, mass exoduses, government corruption, cannibalism ... this is probably as realistic a portrait of the rise of zombies and their eventual defeat as you could ask for.
And it's awesome, so why not 5 stars? While I am humbled by the scope and sprawling vastness Brooks uses here, the nuts and bolts technical aspects of the novel continued to hold me at arm's length from the action. This is an oral history after all -- everything has already happened, so we get the action in the past tense as remembrances. We know how this ends so I felt there was a tension and urgency lacking in the overall experience. I missed the "in the moment happening right now" voice. While the details held me in awe, I didn't feel especially frightened or held in the grip of a terror unfolding -- this was terror that had already unfolded. It was more a clinical experience than an emotional one.
Having said that, the audiobook is WONDERFUL and added a dramatic effect that I think would be sorely lacking by just reading the text alone. It was fun to hear the familiar voices of Alan Alda, Henry Rollins, John Turturro and Rob and Carl Reiner. Mark Hamill definitely has the most memorable part, but he does not sound like Luke Skywalker (thank goodness!). He was great actually. I never would have guessed it was him.
Anyways, despite my inability to give this book five stars, it does come with a huge recommendation. What Brooks does with this is an awesome achievement, and in the zombie genre, it's a game changer. There really is nothing else out there quite like it!
Haddix really knows what she's doing with this series; her narrative is only gaining in momentum and I can't wait to see what happens next! Why hasn't...moreHaddix really knows what she's doing with this series; her narrative is only gaining in momentum and I can't wait to see what happens next! Why hasn't this series been optioned for a film? (less)
Camille Preaker is haunted by childhood memories of a cold, hysterical mother and the devastating loss of her sister, Marian, who died when Camille wa...moreCamille Preaker is haunted by childhood memories of a cold, hysterical mother and the devastating loss of her sister, Marian, who died when Camille was only 13. Literally carrying her war wounds upon her flesh, Camille is a recovering "cutter" who has carved a myriad of words into her skin as a visible record of the pain and trauma she's experienced. Having escaped from the clutches of a cloying family environment, Camille is being sent back into the cauldron, this time as a reporter for a second-rate newspaper to cover the gruesome murders of two local pre-teens. The more involved she becomes in the mystery, the more she uncovers about her town, her family, and herself. The discoveries are anything but pleasant.
Part thriller, part mystery, part Southern Gothic, Gillian Flynn's debut novel is simply outstanding. Camille Preaker is a heroine worth cheering for, as Flynn expertly delves into the female psyche and the delicate, often damaging ties between mothers and daughters. In the tradition of Flannery O'Connor, the writing here is so effective and evocative, this one will stay with you long after the reading is done.(less)
Haven't read early John Saul since I was a teenager. Can't remember hardly a thing other than they scared me at the time and contributed to my love of...moreHaven't read early John Saul since I was a teenager. Can't remember hardly a thing other than they scared me at the time and contributed to my love of horror. I can't imagine any of his books would have the same effect on me now. John Saul just isn't that good of a writer, even all these years later, I don't think he's gotten any better. (less)
This was a tough read because of its subject -- child sexual abuse -- but Kittle handles her narrative with skill and imbues her characters with digni...moreThis was a tough read because of its subject -- child sexual abuse -- but Kittle handles her narrative with skill and imbues her characters with dignity. Once begun, I could not put it down ... I was totally riveted by the events as they unfolded, and started to care about the characters involved almost immediately. It helps that Kittle alternates the chapters so that the story is told from four major points of view -- Danny, Jordan, Sarah and Nate. Readers get to know each of these characters intimately, their thoughts and motivations. Kittle does not rush each revelation creating enormous tension throughout.
Descriptions of the abuse are graphic and upsetting, but the overall message in the novel is one of hope and perseverance and triumphing in the face of tragedy. Humans are remarkably resilient creatures and this story beautifully illustrates that. While this is a work of fiction, I remained chilled to my core all while I was reading it thinking of the children who will face such trauma for real.
Recommended for fans of Gillian Flynn (Sharp Objects; Dark Places)(less)
Just on originality alone this book gets full four stars all fat and juicy -- I also had a rollicking good time reading it being that it's so goddamn...moreJust on originality alone this book gets full four stars all fat and juicy -- I also had a rollicking good time reading it being that it's so goddamn funny in parts and running on high-octane adrenaline in others. It's such a mish-mash of genres it left my head spinning in places, but at its core, after you strip away all the fun bells and whistles, this is a "noire-ish" hard-boiled detective story. There's an anti-hero on the run, trying to solve a mystery before time runs out, there's a best friend, a couple of beautiful women, some double-crossing and betrayal (and oh yeah, a few talking kitchen appliances thrown in for good measure!)
The wonderful thing about Smith's take on this "traditional" plot, is that he takes it to a whole new level and delivers it up with some crazy twists. The devil is in the detailed world-building. The "mystery" itself is pretty standard fare, it's the unraveling of it that's so very entertaining. And I really liked the characters, an unexpected bonus for a book that's so pulpy and plot-driven. The chemistry between Hap and best friend Deck is so very awesomely awesome -- Butch and Sundance worthy.
Smith's writing style is snappy and irreverent very much to the point. Here is one of my favorite examples:
Up until then the situation I found myself in had merely been disastrous. Now it had sailed blithely into a realm where adjectives didn't really cut it anymore. It would have taken a diagram to explain, one showing the intersection of a creek and some shit, and making clear the lack of any implement for promoting forward propulsion. Deck stared back at me. "You're fucked," he said.
Now what's not to like about that? :) If you're not completely sold, I would highly recommend you check out Stephen's fantastic review here: he will convince you where I have failed and make you fall over laughing to boot!(less)