Book Review: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

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

Quick plot synopsis: World War Z is an episodic, almost-journalistic take on the events of the zombie apocalypse. Interviewers talk to those living through the horrors of the outbreak and record their experiences. The chapters are organized chronologically and through the passage of time you see the level of crisis reflected in the headings; “Warnings,” “Blame,” “The Great Panic,” “Turning the Tide” “Home Front USA,” “Around the World and Above,” “Total War,” and “Good-byes.”

My thoughts: The book has a strong start, with the first chapter, “Warnings” revealing the chaos and confusion of the beginnings of the outbreak from the personal view of a doctor in China. After the initial start in China, the interviews come from around the world, spanning Israel to Tibet. The interview method offers a strong cross-section of people with a variety of ethical, moral and personal convictions as well as a host of cultural and political contexts. In many ways, I feel this is the closest depiction to what a true zombie outbreak would look like in our world today.

The beauty of the zombie analog in storytelling is that it allows us to re-examine our society and the true meaning of humanity. World War Z makes full use of this opportunity and provides a sobering and satisfying commentary on our current world.

I also feel that Brooks artfully explores the problems the reanimated dead would present, despite modern technologies. In the book, a general talks about how all previous warfare revolves around troops that are “bred, led and fed.” However, zombies require none of those things, what’s worse is that their ranks grow with death, both civilian and combative. There are no zombie “leaders” and there is no way to remove strategists or supply lines.

The broken nature of the narrative keeps the pacing from being fully engrossing but the content is still thought-provoking. This is not “The Road” but for anyone who loves the zombie world, it’s a must read.

– E.B.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

  1. I listened to the audio book a couple of years ago and found it to be a great ‘read.’ Talking to a couple other people, it seems to come across better in the audio book than on paper. I liked it because I could listen to it while at work and tune into the zombie apocalypse. Loved some of the concepts as well (going to Canada because zombies freeze!)

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