Friday, August 27, 2010

"World War Z" by Max Brooks

Summary: World War Z, a "nonfiction" account of the Zombie War, comes almost a decade after the end of the war and exists as a compilation of interviews with a variety of people from around the world.  These survivors detail their own experiences--in the military, in government, as a civilian--in living through and fighting the undead.

Musings: World War Z is an unexpectedly compelling look at what might happen if zombies existed.  Zombies have been fairly popular in literature recently, but most of those works are humorous.  This novel, instead, takes an absurd premise (the stereotypical idea of a zombie exists, and the zombies are attacking human kind) and realistically imagines how governments and individuals would react.  It's a truly fascinating look into human behavior and governance.

The reader is given a widespread look at how the world reacted through the author's interviews.  The majority of these interviews are with military personnel, although there are a few interviews with ordinary citizens.  From a storytelling standpoint I would have liked to hear more about how civilians survived (we hear about a variety of successful and unsuccessful methods second hand), but the choice of interviewees allows the reader to consider how our modern understandings of grand-scale issues like military strength, diplomacy, democracy are challenged in the face of world-wide catastrophe.  It's interesting from a political science viewpoint, though you certainly don't need to think of it that way to enjoy the book.

Even with all the macro-level policies to consider, the book is, at heart, intensely personal.  The interviewees have survived the greatest threat to mankind, but they have done so at an enormous cost.   I enjoyed the range of voices; everyone from the maker of a fake zombie vaccine who feels no regret for his actions to a blind Japanese man who survived mostly alone are included.

Brooks is to be given great credit for carefully thinking through his scenario.  The world-building is so perfect and the people so real that it's impossible not to be moved by the account.


  1. Definitely a good and slightly terrifying read! I found the Japanese story to be particularly shocking.

  2. Yeah, I was surprised by how "real" it all felt; much scarier than I had anticipated!