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

World War Z by Max Brooks
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Sep 16, 14

bookshelves: 3-star, reviewed, r-2012, r-goodreads
Read from December 04 to 11, 2012

This book is such a product of its times, it's laughable.

I have a soft spot for zombie wars that are laid out in realistic fashions. A prime example is the show 'The Walking Dead', one of my favorite television series of all time. I haven't quite figured out why I enjoy it so much. Perhaps it's because it's one of the few examples of warfare that doesn't suffer from misrepresentations of the fighting and the enemy, where violence is considered honorable and the enemy is demonized with little regard for their point of view. The previously mentioned television series is especially adept at portraying the slow decay of morals suffered by humans on all sides, a chilling reminder of one of the oft mentioned phrases in ads of the current season: Fight the dead, fear the living. Bloodshed is a horrible and messed up business, and glorification is rarely emphasized in a war where the dead rise up to feed upon the living. It is a catastrophe, and the definition of survival is a vague and fragile thing, especially when said survivors begin to "feed" on each other.

The book did an excellent job of thinking through this hypothetical incident, touching upon key factors of warfare the world over. It also made a decent effort at showcasing how devastating this war was, and how horrible humans can be in response. No individual person came out of this thing "happy", not with their morals intact. However, its author sought to accomplish too much, and ventured far beyond the boundaries of their writing ability. A series of interviews from around the world detailing many aspects of a global disaster is an interesting way of going about it, but only if there is variation on the common theme. Throwing some historical trivia around and characterizing via stereotypes does not a multicultural collection of voices make. Had the author stuck to a nonfictional recounting that acknowledged that it was being composed by a single person, the book would have easily earned four stars. I will admit to being extremely fascinated by the strategies they came up with, the different cultural aspects they integrated into their thoughts on how humanity would go about dealing with this contagion. However, by making the US once again into the "hero", in addition to crafting each voice from a recognizably singular mold, they displayed their inherent biases as a journalist born and raised in said country.

So, five stars for the technical aspects, drawn from research of cold hard facts of countries the world over. Two stars for the "human" aspect, somewhat an irony considering the opening section that emphasized that the narrator was seeking the latter over the former. I appreciate what I learned, but the method of execution was severely lacking.

Edit: Saw the author at a talk about Haitian Voodoo in Public Consumption (aka, Zombies). Apparently he writes these books because he's legitimately terrified about a coming zombie attack. Going by his face when a flash mob started dancing to Thriller at the end, I don't doubt it.
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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Richard I dropped stars 'cause he ignored basic physics. Dunno where underwater, frozen and dismembered zombies are getting all those calories from!


Aubrey Considering the defiance of physics inherent in basic reanimation, I figured that I'd let him slide regarding that particular point.


Richard That's why I like the virus-based zombies best. They at least have a veneer of plausibility.


Brian Aubrey - have you read The Walking Dead serial graphic novels (a.k.a. comics)?


Aubrey I'm afraid I tried to once, but I couldn't get past the artwork. Also, I hear that the spoilers are pretty devastating, so I'd rather watch the series without constantly dwelling on what could possibly happen, going by the comics. I may pick it up once the series has finished.


Brian True, true - too much to be spoiled. I am glad AMC made the change away from Darabant (sp?); the show is much better now.

Having read the series up to its most current issue, I can't imagine how they will be able to incorporate what happens in the books into the show. Exciting!


mark monday Throwing some historical trivia around and characterizing via stereotypes does not a multicultural collection of voices make.

^this. yes.

it is certainly what made the sequences set in Japan problematic for me.


Aubrey Blind samurai, and blind samurai's assistant. Really? Sigh.


Jason However, by making the US once again into the "hero", in addition to crafting each voice from a recognizably singular mold, they displayed their inherent biases as a journalist born and raised in said country.

This is probably true. But I think Cuba comes off as the real hero (in a way) by serving as the jumping-off point for the final phase of the war.

Nice review.

(I don't love The Walking Dead, though> I'm not sure why.)


Aubrey Thank you, Jason, and did it? It's been a while, so I don't quite remember.


Jason Cuba was like the initial safe-haven because it was well-managed due its dictatorial status, etc. But yeah, ultimately it was the Americans who planned the final "let's get 'em" phase. But I guess you could say they wouldn't have been able to do that had it not been for the Cubans.

Something like that.


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