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

World War Z by Max Brooks
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Jul 12, 13

bookshelves: audio, 2013, braaains
Recommended to seak by: Everyone and their dog.
Read from January 25 to February 01, 2013

Update: See end of review for movie review.

I've broken my cardinal rule for reading books just before the movie comes out. This rule I've alluded to is the following - I don't read the book directly before the movie (at least 1 year before or it must be read after or just wait on the movies). The reason for this is that I want to enjoy the story through both mediums and if you read the book just before the movie, you've set yourself up to be a critic - analyzing everything and complaining about every detail that's inevitably left out, but which is more often than not necessary for the medium.

If you read the book at least a year before, at least with my shoddy memory, the movie becomes a happy time of fond remembrances. Oh yeah, I remember that part, so cool! Yay! Happy! In this instance, I hear the movie doesn't quite follow the book exactly and what else can that mean than that it's a typical zombie movie. I don't think I've ruined much here.

You know, it could have been partly because of all the hype, but I didn't love this book. I didn't hate it either, which makes these the hardest reviews to write, but I think I have a few ideas why World War Z just didn't work all that well for me.

I'm studying for the bar at the moment, so you get an extremely well-organized review (at least with headings aplenty) since that's how my brain is thinking at the moment. :)

The Plot

Doesn't really exist. Yeah, there's a loose series of events that defines the book, or the Zombie War, but it's told through interviews with different survivors from different countries. And they're short too, I even checked this with the book (paper-form). Each interview amounts to a page or two, maybe 5 max. Each tends to discuss a certain important event, which ends up getting referred to by characters later in the book and often mentioned by the one directly following.

It's extremely clever and lets you see how well developed this whole idea is.

It's extremely clever

Max Brooks has literally thought of everything when it comes to a war against zombies. I thought the same in my reading of The Zombie Survival Guide, and it goes just as well here. EVERYTHING!

He goes into why tanks are all but useless against hordes of zombies - because you have to take out their heads! Anything else, and they'll still shamble and probably even become more dangerous when you trip over them on the ground. The airforce is just as useless because it's so much money and effort for such a little amount of good. Better spent on a bunch of soldiers with tons of amo. He even goes into better strategies for fighting this war, why the zombies are such a good enemy - because they don't need to be bred, fed, or led as I'll let the book explain.

Very clever and not even pretentious about it. Just captivating. And this isn't the only thing I liked although we're getting into the middle ground because I didn't love the audio either.

The Audio

One of the things that got me excited to listen to this on audio was that it's read by a full cast. That means they're trying REALLY hard and that tends to be a good thing, especially if you don't like one or two of the voices, it's okay, it's only temporary. With just one narrator, that can really kill a book. I mentioned that this is told through many different people in different countries and they have actors like Rob Reiner and John Turturro. Even Max Brooks himself plays the part of the interviewer.


(John Turturro from The Big Lebowski)

Very cool...until the point of distraction. There are so many different countries represented that the accents started to distract heavily from the story. I found myself pondering why the German guy had such a heavy accent on his "R's" and yet could perfectly pronounce "TH" every time. And this was just the one guy. One of the benefits of a single narrator is that even when they do an accent, it's easier to understand because English is their primary language.

The audio's great for the most part, outside of that little niggle about the accents, but one thing I absolutely HATE about it is...it's abridged!

Abridged

I would probably never forgive myself if I listened to this abridged audio version and never actually read the entire book if I actually thought that mattered. Maybe others are better sleuths than myself, but I can't find a reading of World War Z that's not abridged. At the same, after having read the book, the abridged version seems to do enough justice to the entirety of the novel, what with how it is organized, that it just cuts out a few of the interviews.

Normally this is heresy, but I can live with it for this one time only.

What I didn't like

I think the thing that just makes this an okay to good book for me is that while it's style and organization is unique and highly clever, it also takes away from my ability to care. Without just following one person or a group of people, there's no attachment to any specific person.

The Movie

(Brad Pitt will make everything better.)

After writing the above, I actually do think the movie will make it all better. It seems like it will be following one single person and that's what this reader needs. Movie's set for a June 2013 release. Here's the trailer too.

In the end (in the sense of my final feelings not any post-apocalyptic sense)

Let's just say, if we ever do get into a Zombie War, you better have a copy of World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide on you. Someone's already gone through the effort of thinking up EVERY situation that can occur, what's effective, what's not and put it down in words. No sense reinventing the wheel.

While an entertaining idea and clever execution, these were the exact things that made World War Z a book I could never love. It's worth a read if only to see how in-depth you have not thought about zombies.

3 out of 5 Stars (Recommended with Reservations)

The movie, an update
I just wanted to make a quick note about the movie. I'm happy to say I called it correctly. I enjoyed the movie much more than the book even though you can really only say the movie is a loose adaptation (if you can even say that). I thought it was much better to visit all those countries through the single character of the UN agent as opposed to interviews of random characters. I felt for him trying to protect his family, I rooted for him when he was in danger, and it had the same effect of exploring the reaction of different cultures (to a much smaller degree of course). And it actually scared me, which for a zombie book, was completely lacking in WWZ.
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Reading Progress

01/28/2013
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Comments (showing 1-34 of 34) (34 new)

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Christopher H. I read this a couple of months ago, and loved it! Quite clever, all in all.


seak Yeah so far so good. I really liked the guy that refers to celebrities but he's not allowed to say names and yet he describes them so that you can almost name the person he's talking about. But very clever overall. I just wish I could find an unabridged version, but the full cast is pretty cool.


message 3: by Heidi (new)

Heidi At 50% would you be inclined to recommend it?


seak I don't think I can get this out without sounding like too much of a snob dweeb.... It's a very unique telling of a zombie story, but it's the uniqueness, it's style, that is also it's biggest weakness for me.

It's told from the point of view of multiple people who are interviewed by one guy. None of them are related in anyway except that they do reference the same events and it's done in a way that one event is explained and the next person may casually drop in the name or something. But the problem is there's no real connection. It's more just a history (albeit more entertaining), and no connection to individuals.

It's very clever and worth a read, but it's not my favorite zombie novel...or zombel...or zombook. I feel like we should be able to come up with a better name for this genre. :)

I really liked, for instance, This Dark Earth, which had different POV's, none of which repeated, but they still involved the same people throughout the book. One storyline instead of a bunch of different perspectives.


message 5: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Koivu That was my approach to the Harry Potter books and movies: don't read it until after watching it. I didn't start reading the books until about the third or four movie had already come out. All during that time my read-first friends would come out of the theaters complaining about this, that and whatever else had been omitted or changed. Didn't seem like they were enjoying the whole experience. So I started reading the books right up to the last one to be made as a movie, I think it was the fifth one, which meant I had to wait to find out what happened at the end of the series for about two or three more years. But it was totally worth it, as I was able to enjoy each and every one of the books and the movies as well.


seak Jason wrote: "That was my approach to the Harry Potter books and movies: don't read it until after watching it. I didn't start reading the books until about the third or four movie had already come out. All duri..."

That's hilarious because it was Harry Potter that made me come up with my rule....and it was the fifth book that I had read a year before the movie. I was loving the movie and all my friends (who had just read the book immediately prior to watching) hated it. That comparison helped me cement the rule.


message 7: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Koivu Seak (Bryce L.) wrote: "Jason wrote: "That was my approach to the Harry Potter books and movies: don't read it until after watching it. I didn't start reading the books until about the third or four movie had already come..."

My experience with the Lord of the Rings movies definitely laid the ground work for the movie-first rule. Even though it had been a while since I'd read LotR, it was fresh in my mind because I hold it dear, so the movies would've had to have been perfect to my specifications of "the ideal"....which is asking the ridiculous...and so I came out of the movies a little complainy even though I basically enjoyed them.


message 8: by David Sven (new)

David Sven Nice Review Seak. I don't know when I'm ever going to get a chance to read this. I'll just have to hope there won't be a Zombie outbreak before then.


Richard Great review, Seakster!


message 10: by Dan (new) - added it

Dan They are making a movie out of that??


Richard Dan wrote: "They are making a movie out of that??"

That bit of news surprised me too, Dan!


message 12: by Dan (new) - added it

Dan Richard wrote: "Dan wrote: "They are making a movie out of that??"

That bit of news surprised me too, Dan!"


Yeah, I almost bought this book the other day but I have so many on my tbr and cr shelf that I need to slow down a bit. I look foward to the movie.


Jelmer God the movie looks horrible, from what I have seen in the trailer it has next too nothing in common with the book.


message 14: by seak (new) - rated it 3 stars

seak See, I think that's a good thing. I couldn't really relate to the book, not that it wasn't good, I just couldn't ever connect to something that is a book full of interviews. Never say never, but this comes close.


message 15: by seak (new) - rated it 3 stars

seak David Sven wrote: "Nice Review Seak. I don't know when I'm ever going to get a chance to read this. I'll just have to hope there won't be a Zombie outbreak before then."

Haha, yeah be careful, there are probably a few zombies around you. They have these devices that look like computers but they're much smaller, like the size of a note card and connected to that are earbuds that go into their ears. Also, a blank look will be there and most likely rapidly moving thumbs.


message 16: by Dan (new) - added it

Dan I just bought the book today. Um....Brad Pitts going to do a zombie movie? Really?? Well he did do vampires...lol.


message 17: by David Sven (new)

David Sven Maybe he's a Zombie vampire! It would be like some of those old Chinese vampire movies.


message 18: by Dan (new) - added it

Dan David Sven wrote: "Maybe he's a Zombie vampire! It would be like some of those old Chinese vampire movies."

LMAO...what you mean that one old Hammer film??


message 19: by David Sven (new)

David Sven Dan wrote: "David Sven wrote: "Maybe he's a Zombie vampire! It would be like some of those old Chinese vampire movies."

LMAO...what you mean that one old Hammer film??"


Well chinese vampires can't walk. They have to jump or hop. But how's anybody going to top this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaasH5...


message 20: by Dan (new) - added it

Dan David Sven wrote: "Dan wrote: "David Sven wrote: "Maybe he's a Zombie vampire! It would be like some of those old Chinese vampire movies."

LMAO...what you mean that one old Hammer film??"

Well chinese vampires can'..."


LMAO.....dude that was awesome. I kind of like how the Chinese vampire looked.


George You did yourself a favor, by the previews the book and movie have nothing in common but the title.


Jenny (Reading Envy) Funny because a Harry Potter experience made me adopt the same rule, which I broke for Cloud Atlas (and regretted it, or maybe the movie was just that bad, haha). As far as World War Z, I had a hard time finishing the book. Maybe the audio would have been a better choice.


Brandon Great review!


message 24: by seak (new) - rated it 3 stars

seak Jenny wrote: "Funny because a Harry Potter experience made me adopt the same rule, which I broke for Cloud Atlas (and regretted it, or maybe the movie was just that bad, haha). As far as World War Z, I had a har..."

That's awesome. It was a good time for books/movies wasn't it? :) Audio is always my go to when I can't get through a book otherwise. Sometimes that's all it takes. Did you like Cloud Atlas (the book)? I have it, but don't know when I'll ever actually read it.

Thanks Brandon! I see you rated it similarly so you may have felt the same. I thought it was better than Zombie Survival Guide too, but then again, it literally was a survival guide so there wasn't much to expect out of it I felt.


Caryn Seak, do yourself a favour and read Cloud Atlas. There are some people here on GR that hate it, but many more of us who LOOOOVE the book. Obviously very different than WWZ, but a wonderful book.

I actually really enjoyed WWZ, but my expectations were not so high. I read it because it came so highly recommended by my 12 year old! I'd expected a YA novel, or one that was not too very deep. It was surprisingly well thought out and complete. Quite scary in his completely apt descriptions of our messed up socio-political world and how ill prepared we are for any natural disaster or pandemic that may come along.


message 26: by seak (new) - rated it 3 stars

seak Caryn wrote: "Seak, do yourself a favour and read Cloud Atlas. There are some people here on GR that hate it, but many more of us who LOOOOVE the book. Obviously very different than WWZ, but a wonderful book. ..."

Good to hear, I have CA on my kindle and it's at least on my super huge TBR list.

I actually meant to mention that about how WWZ explains so well how we are not prepared for natural disasters. I thought that was great that CEO's would have to work for their housekeepers and whatnot. Great points.


Kimberly Kelly smiljanic Bravo to your review - it was spot on... I was disappointed and there were many parts I struggled to get through and then other parts I liked. I didn't love or hate it either and I'm so happy to know I'm not alone because I thought maybe I'm missing something. All I can say is thank you :-)


message 28: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah Maile I just saw the movie and liked it but thought there were some characters that might be developed better in the book. I just started the book and I didn't realize it was so different from the movie.

I think it's funny that people get so worked up when books are made into movies. It's hard not to make comparisons but if you try to separate them and take each in its own merit then it's not as bad. I LOVE the Harry Potter books but I also LOVE the movies. Sure they could have done some things differently but I didn't walk out of any of the movies thinking holy crap they totally jacked that up. I loved them both in different ways :)


message 29: by Rick (new) - rated it 2 stars

Rick Fisher I was disappointed in the book. But, I enjoyed the movie very much. Mainly because it was so different from the book. Great review, BTW.


message 30: by seak (new) - rated it 3 stars

seak Rick wrote: "I was disappointed in the book. But, I enjoyed the movie very much. Mainly because it was so different from the book. Great review, BTW."

I keep missing comments, doh! Thanks a ton, I thought the movie was so much better. The style of the book is unique, but it just doesn't work as well as the traditional approach to get you close to the characters. And that's what keeps me reading.


Brandon.skorupa i dissagre with the movie the movie wasnt that discriptive


message 32: by seak (last edited Sep 12, 2013 10:34AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

seak Brandon.skorupa wrote: "i dissagre with the movie the movie wasnt that discriptive"

You're definitely right, it leaves out the whole discussion of the laborers becoming the executives' bosses, the ideas of how these slow-walking masses could overwhelm trained troops, how jets and rockets were pretty much useless. I thought those discussions were brilliant and yet I was still disconnected to the story of the book and very much connected to the movie.


Deren Kellogg To me, the movie was dull and the the book was much better precisely because it included many viewpoints instead of just focusing on one protagonist.


message 34: by seak (new) - rated it 3 stars

seak I can completely understand that. There's something to following just one person or set of people that can make something more dull, but for me I didn't feel connected to any of the book characters to care about them much.


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