World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Zombies have become popular in recent years, featuring in movies, comic books, books, and television shows.  Unlike their main supernatural competitor, the vampire, the quality of works featuring the zombie tend to be (at least to me) more steady in their quality.  World War Z is no exception — it is a creative work that uses the undead in order to make the reader think about topics bigger than the individual — politics, humanity, ethics, and psychology, to name a few.  It’s a piece of fiction that fuels thinking, which makes it better than a lot of other books in the horror genre.

A friend of mine, knowing how much I like to read and how much I enjoy zombies, recommended World War Z to me a couple of months ago.  I said, “Sure, sounds like something I’d enjoy.”  So, while I was down at the library pulling books for that month, I thought I’d grab this too.  I had to think again when I found that, despite my local library system owning four copies of this book, I would have to wait.  In fact, I was fifth in line, and the queue reached a total length of twelve by the time I got my copy.  This told me something — people are reading this.

There is a zombie movement right now, it appears, and I happen to think it’s a masculine backlash to the vampire movement embodied in the Twilight series.  Vampires are, essentially, a romantic creature — it sucks on you, it broods, it’s creepy in a seductive way. Vampires are for romance novels that don’t want to be called romance novels.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing — if you’re into it, you’re into it, but it’s almost exclusively women who are buying those books, watching those movies.

Now, to the zombie.  It is as far away from sexy as possible.  It’s a killing machine, one that keeps on going, requiring significant force to stop.  There’s a lot of weapons used to take them out.  Planning is needed to avoid death by zombie.  They’re a supernatural villain geared specifically for more masculine interests.  I, for one, love the fact that zombies are big right now.  I’ve not read any vampire books in a while, but I’m definitely a bit of a tomboy when it comes to my evil creatures.  I like the apocalyptic theme most zombie stories have.

World War Z definitely has that theme.  There are countries with people having to fall back and protect themselves in castles.  Some people flee to other lands.  There are fights over resources.  Countries use the zombies as an excuse to attack other countries.  Lives change in big ways, and that’s a widespread truth.  You didn’t live through World War Z without being a different person on the other side.

Brooks sets the book up like the transcripts of in-person interviews, and I think that’s genius.  We hear from all sorts of different people, from a doctor who was one of the first to encounter the zombies to a developmentally disabled woman to a man who fought zombies underwater.  We hear all sorts of different stories, through which we are able to construct our own views on what happened.  I personally liked the fact that the book allows for some ambiguity, because I like to think that most people are good, but there’s plenty of room for someone to get the opposite view, as well.

Overall, I think that World War Z is a fantastic book.  Its appeal is not limited to those who are zombie fans, but also to those who are interested in what would happen to the world in case of catastrophic events.  Brooks gives us some possible answers and allows us to form our own.

Rating: 5/5.

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Filed under 5/5, Book review, Favorable, Fiction

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