Hayley's Reviews > World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

World War Z by Max Brooks
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's review
Feb 13, 2011

really liked it
Read from February 13 to 25, 2011

"World War Z" is a good title, because the book does well portraying a zombie outbreak on a global scale.

The narrator is interviewing people who survived a worldwide infestation, which spreads each time someone is bitten by a zombie.

This "oral history" format makes the story believable, along with the immense amount of research it must have taken to portray people from all different societies and walks of life.

However, in each of their short stories, I still can hear a bit of the author's combative, f***-it tone, even when it doesn't necessarily belong. In a book about zombies, that's kind of OK.

The book is still intelligent, pointing out societal weaknesses and strengths using zombies as a prompt. Overpopulated countries breed zombies quickly, certain island nations become refuges (Cuba and America have some reversal of fortune). The U.S. military throws technology at the zombies to find it's a waste of money and effort--a more simple, straightforward strategy is required for an enemy that advances slowly but never stops unless you blow its brains out. White collar Americans are forced to recognize how incapable they are of surviving in the wild, once the trappings of civilization fail.

I believe this author could have made many of his societal statements with other global disasters besides zombies. But he also finds unique aspects to battling zombies and gives them due acknowledgement.

His story is very multifaceted...everything from vast battle stories (and massacres) to a personal look at guys who trained dogs to help sniff out and kill zombies. The stories range in tone from wryly funny to disgusting, unsettling and inspirational.

The accounts are very graphic, from the rotting zombie flesh to the dismantling of their victims.

I think the story lacks a couple of big elements: There's too little explanation of how the zombies came to be. You hear where they come from but don't get much understanding of how they are the way they are. It's mysterious to the different interviewees. And maybe this is a young war and society is just trying to recover, but I'd bet anything there'd be a few hard-driving research projects on what makes the zombies tick. Their characteristics are described in great detail...down to the milky, dry corneas of their unblinking eyes...but what's behind their nature is too little explored.

One more issue: There's too little discussion (or even speculation) of the effect of zombies / societal reshaping on natural environments. There's this one chapter about how much it sucks to be a whale during this period, but not a lot more. I bet a lot of species were lost or damaged...but human progress was also halted for awhile and people had to become more self-sufficient and localized...what will that mean?

Despite these and some other holes, the book is still pretty vast. It certainly feels epic. So, nice work, zombie-obsessed author.


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