06 June, 2013

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks [Sucheta, Grey Lynn Library]

“Use your head; cut off theirs.” This is one of the only ways to kill the zombies that come very close to ending humanity. World War Z is a collection of individual accounts where the author plays the role of an agent of the 'United Nations Postwar Commission'. One decade after the story's 'Zombie War', he travels across the world, from decimated cities to the most remote areas of the planet, to record the experiences of men, women and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the undead and survived.

Reading the title, you would think that this book would be about zombies, a war, gore, guts and guns, and you’d be right. However, rather than a grand overview or narrative, World War Z is structured along the lines of an interviewed documentary, where each subject would answer questions. The story begins with Patient X and the first strains, moves to the full outbreak and the fight against it, before finishing with the recovery of various countries after the war. 

Max Brooks successfully conveys the helplessness, fear and chaos that comes with pandemics and war, but also the perseverance and resistance man can show in spite of all that. I found it to be a sobering commentary on humanity and the current state of the world. Replace the Zombie War with any war or health scare that you can think of, and the reactions and actions could be quite similar to Brooks’ novel; the issues and underlying plot points are as relevant today as yesterday or tomorrow. 

One thing I took away from World War Z, is that it's a novel with a truly global scope. There is a contrast in how the Zombie War spreads in and affects urbanized, first world countries like the United States, village-centric rural areas of southeast Asia, and infrastructure-poor wastelands of Russia for example, but simple human interests like selfishness, to tense political crises are common in whatever country you are in. What is also interesting to see is how each society deals with and fights against this epidemic.

Published in 2006, this book has welcomed a recent surge in popularity, most likely due to the motion picture based on it releasing in June 2013. An audiobook is also available.

This book is stark, brutal, thought provoking and not at all what I expected from a novel about zombies. Definitely one of the more interesting fantasy/sci-fi books I’ve read in a while, check it out.

Title: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
Director: Max Brooks
Published: 2006
Publisher: Crown

- Sucheta, Grey Lynn Library

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