World War Z

Before I read World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, I can say that I've never read a zombie book before, and only seen two (excellent) films, 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead. I would count the bunny version of Night of the Living Dead, but somehow I don't think that applies. Suffice to say, my knowledge of the zombie genre has been limited at best, and while I don't seek it out as entertainment, generally find it pretty interesting. But only enough to see two movies in my 38 years.World War ZMy interest was peaked by a Cinematical.com mention in an article (from somewhere in 2008) that Brad Pitt's production company was interested in buying the movie rights. I read the brief description by the author and decided to give the book a read (this is exactly how I got interested in reading Hyperion and Let the Right One In). The book turned out to be incredibly creepy, moving, and riveting. A serious book about zombies that overrun the world, and a well-thought-out story of how this would affect all different aspects of society. This kind of thing is what I find a lot of films don't really delve into, the thing you don't think about.

Cinematical posted an update to the film status on their site. The author of the piece posts a spot-on encapsulation of what makes the book special:
    The first thing Brooks does is set ground rules. Once infected and undead, zombies are essentially monomaniacal brains unmoored from brains' normal contingencies – e.g. a pumping heart, a digestive system, oxygen. Until the brain itself is destroyed, it will stupidly, relentlessly pursue human flesh, using whatever parts of the original body remain at its disposal. Zombies move slowly, with arms – if available – raised toward their target. If a zombie finds prey, it will moan; if a nearby zombie hears a moan, it will move toward the source and let out a moan itself. You see how this could escalate.

    Then Brooks considers what a worldwide zombie epidemic would actually look like, and ends up at some scary and eerily plausible conclusions. Israel, ever vigilant and pragmatic, is the first to take the threat seriously, voluntarily quarantining itself and – we gather – escaping the worst of what would befall the rest of the world. The States, like most other first world nations, spends far too long in denial – and by the time reality could no longer be denied, the best scenario became to grab as many people as possible and fortify in the Rockies. Survival would require unbelievable sacrifice on a mass scale – as you read, keep an eye out for something called the "Redeker Plan," a truly terrifying idea that the novel treats with chilling matter-of-factness.

    The "real-world" implications World War Z considers don't stop at the geopolitical. Chapters dwell on the economic, military, personal and psychological consequences of the zombie crisis. Deep down, I know how silly that is and so do you – but the book does not. That's its genius. Brooks also wrote The Zombie Survival Guide, a cute little effort that was similarly obsessed with details and specificity, but its tongue was planted firmly in its cheek. World War Z actually asks what the world would look like if the dead started to rise. And then it begins to answer the question. It's fascinating, thought-provoking, frightening in the sheer vastness of the events it depicts (there is an amazing description of what the epidemic looked like seen from a space station), and ultimately even uplifting.
Even if you are new to the genre, or a casual fan like myself, this is a book that will stay with you long after you are done reading it.


Hackett said...

I, like you, am a casual fan of the zombie genre and i thouroughly enjoyed this book. I've also heard from avid zombiephiles that it's a favorite. Very well written with a unique style. The detail to which he has thought about the subject is obviously obsessive, but not intimidating. I'm always amazed when writers can come up with completely new adaptations of battle tactics without having had military experience (see also: Ender's Game). It'll be interesting to see how the director approaches the vignette style of the book.

Red said...

I agree as well, I've been wantiong to read that book for a while, after I picked up "The Zombie Survival Guide" by Brooks as well, and when I finally got the book, I was blown away. It provided so much insight, and was the best book I'vve read in a while.