World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
by Max Brooks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
World War Z / 9780307346612
This book is a collection of 'interviews' and vignettes in the wake of the world wide zombie war. I'd had some concerns going in that the book wouldn't sustain suspense very well, since all the stories are told retroactively (so you know the teller survived their tale), but I shouldn't have been worried. "World War Z" brings suspense to the table, along with an incredible freshness of tone and ideas.
The new ideas are where this book really shines. Brooks doesn't just reach for the low-hanging zombie fruit; he looks at the zombie apocalypse from a variety of lenses. Some of the new ideas explored here include: The spreading of the virus via the organ transplant black market. Neighborhood cleanup in the wake of the war and what that would entail. Feral children and animals and the rise of both after a global apocalypse. The dangers of the "Lone Rangers", particularly ones who set bombs willy-nilly. A look at both successful and unsuccessful military initiatives. Life aboard a submarine as an escape from the walking dead. Tracking zombie movements along coastlines via tagging. And those are all things off the top of my head -- there's a huge wealth of ideas in this book that I haven't even touched on.
There's so many things to like about this book, but I love Brooks' treatment of minorities. This isn't your average zombie apocalypse where only the meaty manly men survive. We get to see a female fighter pilot trek to a pick-up point when her cargo explodes and she has to eject from the plane. We see a man in a wheelchair and hear him talk about his time on the neighborhood patrol. We talk to a blind man who lived in the wilds of Japan on his own, listening carefully for the zombies and killing any who came within his range. It's so rare to see such a wide range of people in a zombie novel, and Brooks delivers in a way that a more focused novel simply couldn't. I also love that the novel explores the apocalypse from a very solid class perspective -- the rich who treat the whole thing as a bizarre reality show fare (on the whole) much worse than the average folks on the street.
I read "World War Z" for a book club, but it's one of the few books that I finished only to want to pick it up and read it again. I recommend the book highly, though I will note one pet peeve: Brooks' interviews are written in the vernacular and I did get very tired seeing the word "crazy" thrown around when really what was meant was "silly", "foolish", "ill-advised", or some other, better word. Still, if you can get past that, I think you'll like this novel if you have any affinity for zombie literature.
~ Ana Mardoll
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