Book Review: World War Z

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I’m not a huge fan of the zombie genre but Max Brooks kept me thoroughly entertained with his ‘fictional history’ of the Zombie War. This all started by watching the movie “World War Z” which I surprisingly enjoyed. Curiosity getting the better of me, I had to read the book.

Let me start with the first shocker of the book. It’s not like the movie. In fact, it’s going to be easier to make a list of all things that are the same between the book and the movie:

1. They both have Zombies in it.
2. A lot of zombies die.
3. Israel’s “10th man” concept is communicated clearly.
4. They are both titled ‘World War Z.”

Let me double-check….Yeah, I think that about covers it.

The movie is entertaining and so is the book. They are just very, very different.

The book is a not-so-subtle slap in the face to the American value system and arrogance. Cuba comes off as the model country of how to survive in case the entire democratic/capitalistic system craters.

The real genius of the book is because of the way Brooks tell the story, it’s entirely possible to miss the critique of American arrogance. It reads like a commissioned report, an investigative history. The interviews are from widely different characters all over the globe detailing their experiences with the zombies. It’s through these interviews we learn not only about individual tales of heroism but also the nightmares they live with. Each story is told from distinct perspectives, no objectivity is even attempted. It leaves the reader having to understand that none of the accounts are objective.

Telling the story this way allows Brooks to get in many critiques about American hubris, arrogance and dependence on technology. It’s a not-so-hidden critique on our abandoning the “dirty jobs” for white-collar jobs. What makes Brooks brilliant is that he is able to do this in a way that doesn’t compromise the story. It’s brilliant and completely works. We are transported from Brazil to China to Russia to Japan to different cities in the United States hearing of the successes and failures against people who had been reanimated by the virus. Along the way, the depravity of man is clearly exposed against the backdrop of a worldwide tragedy. But the goodness of man is exposed thru the stories as well.

It is absolutely worth reading.

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