Mack Hogan ’15
The first thing that all readers should know about World War Z, a zombie novel by Max Brooks, is that it is not the average zombie book. In fact, I would consider it more of a geopolitical and military book primarily. It is written from the perspective of a man composing a documentary on the Zombie War. The body of the book is composed of the transcripts of all of the men and women he interviews.
Almost all other zombie books, movies, and other media that I had read, watched, or heard of has been based on a single rubric: a group of individuals, all fundamentally different and lacking proper training or close personal relationships are faced with an army of zombies. The book, in that case, simply chronicles events in the tiny part of the created universe that these characters occupy. World War Z, however, focuses more on the way the fact that a zombie uprising is a war. Like other great war stories before it, this novel focuses on not only the small scale victories of individual parties, but on the grand scheme of things; on winning the war. The writing is, to say the least, remarkable. Despite being told from a first person perspective of the interviewee, Brooks is still capable of transporting the reader into not only the situations of the characters, but also the mindset. For instance, during a chapter where a soldier recalls the trauma of facing Zack, the military code for the army of zombies, Brooks describes it so vividly that I was disturbed to the point that I could not sleep that night. In that moment, I was the character, fighting for the survival of a species in Yonkers.
The other aforementioned genre in which I place this book is geopolitical. It goes deep into the reactions of other governments and their motives for doing so. Even though it is a work of fiction, the reactions are quite realistic. Israel is the first nation to officially recognize the threat of Zack, while other nations either dismiss, cover up, or do not notice outbreaks. The character speaking presents clear rationale behind why: Israel, since its birth as a nation, has been facing imminent extinction. Due to this, they are always on the lookout, so they were the first to recognize how big of a deal this outbreak was. It is detail like this that give me a sense that Brooks really thought through all aspects of current international standings and relations. It gives the reader a feeling that the book is really and truly complete.
It is for these reasons that I love this book. I highly recommend it, and I give it a 9.7 out of 10. The minor deduction comes from the ending, because I feel that, even though it is not bad or incomplete, it is not as memorable as many other parts of the book. It fails to leave you with something to contemplate, forcing the reader to think back to the rest of the book instead of presenting a clear allusion to earlier important parts. The book has been so successful that it is being made into a movie to come out later this year, although many experts have pointed out that the trailer suggests a deviation from the plot of the book, which makes sense, as there is so much material that putting it into a movie would be nearly impossible.
Note: I listened to this as an audiobook, as recommended to me. I would highly recommend the audiobook over a normal copy of it, as World War Z is read by a full cast of around 20 people, all of whom convey the message perfectly with inflection and emotion. It should be noted that, in general, I prefer paper books to audio, but this is an important exception.