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

World War Z by Max Brooks
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Nov 25, 11

bookshelves: horror, novel, zombies
Read from November 12 to 25, 2011

This was a mixed read for me.

It's not really a story in the traditional sense. It's more like a bunch of mini-stories glued together and told in an interview style format about how the zombie war happened. I loved the energy and creativity in using a format like this but it was spoiled somewhat by every interviewee having essentially the same voice. These voices could have been mixed up a lot more.

Some of the interviews about the zombie war are harrowing particularly dealing with how it started. The descriptions are excellent. I was glued to some of these pages. I also loved how divers dealt with zombies. It feels almost like you're reading a non-fiction book at times which I think is part of the huge following this book has accumulated. There is a lot of exposition in this book. A lot of long paragraphs with explanations about topics with suspect plot interest or development.

Alas, the greatest strength is also its weakness for me. I was unable to get close enough to any one character being interviewed. To sustain any level of reader caring that much what happened to these people. It was more like a zombie outbreak on an alien world where I barely got to know anybody (for long). I'm curious how screenwriters will tie this into a movie? I'm guessing they will use a linear timeline like the book but follow things through the eyes of a few main characters, like a traditional story, perhaps with a few subplots based on these interviews.

I can see the draw of this book. It's the kind of book that's ripe for discussion, and lots of it. It's almost like a history book on zombies, it's a thinking reader's chocolate cake. It's told in a style like the movie JFK by Oliver Stone, only without the Jim Garrison narrative. I suppose the interviewer is the cohesive viewpoint readers are meant to follow, but the interesting parts are told by the interviewees.

In summary, I'm in the middle on this read. I didn't love it and didn't hate it, I just couldn't connect long enough with the raging passion I'd hoped for. I love reading stories about characters that I can root for and root against. I love mystery and suspense. Rooting for the world, in a global sense, is interesting, but I would rather have had a few main characters along the way to see through their eyes. To live their personal zombie war along with the rest of the world.

A The Martian Chronicles or I, Robot (the books, definitely not the movies) approach versus the one used would have worked more for this reader. However, I doubt if it had been a book of short stories with a connected theme that stylistically it would have attracted as many readers or critics hailing it as a revitalization of the zombie story. The one thing it did do—that all good books do—is it made me stop and think: what if?
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