Tuesday, September 15, 2009

max brooks, world war z

Somehow, I’ve come to a point where the paranormal—zombies and vampires and their ilk—have crept their way into my reading and viewing life. (Not so much on the listening angle, unless there’s something Fleet Foxes aren’t telling their fans.) It’s my own fault—you tell a couple of sales reps you liked Twilight okay and then suddenly books about the paranormal come flying at your head. Some have sucked (boom boom) and others have been great.

World War Z was found through a different avenue. Mr RWL is quite partial to zombies—films, comics, the Horrorpops song Walk Like a Zombie—and he was recommended this by our pals at the city Comics 'r' Us store. He read it in about two days and then wouldn’t let up until I’d read it too, asking me constantly, “Are you up to the bit about Yonkers? What about the quislings?” I wondered about his mental health and patted him nervously on the hand—until I finally caved and read it.

The bit about Yonkers is actually quite good. And quislings, well. That’s a whole aspect I’d never even considered. Are you up to those parts yet? No? Well, get cracking.

World War Z is an oral history of the zombie war, compiled from dozens of interviews with people from all over the world. It is told in the aftermath of the war, but begins when the warnings—unheeded, as undoubtedly any reports of a zombie uprising would be if it turned up in the Herald Sun today—start to filter through, then follows as the panic erupts and then into full-blown war. Where did it begin? Possibly in a quiet Chinese village, as told through a chilling interview with the doctor from the nearest town. How does insular North Korea deal with a zombie invasion? Can the might of the US Army triumph against an enemy that knows no fear, only that it wants to chomp on our heads? Can zombies swim? What happens in outer space? Does anyone take the nuclear option?

This novel takes on the aspects of total war with the undead that few, if any, zombie-related media have done. Tales of the political ramifications sit shoulder-to-shoulder with stories of blind monks in Hokkaido and desperate soldiers in Russia. Hollywood celebrities are in just as much danger as aw-shucks suburban families hiking to North America for the winter. It’s an interesting concept and one I could have read for much longer.

It’s not perfect. I found many of the characters, whether from Israel or Ohio, sounded like they were the same person. Australia barely gets a mention. Our world leaders are all assholes. (I see you there fainting from the shock.) There are a few plot holes. But you know what? Like all great actioners, I didn’t really care. I was reading it not because it won the Pulitzer Prize, but because I dig a good story about the splatty death of virtually all mankind and I adore reading about destruction. It’s an entertaining book and to be honest, I think it’d make a great TV series. I mean, aren’t you over shows about vampires? I sure am. Bring on the zombie dramas, I say, every episode chronicling the war through the eyes of someone different. Who knows, maybe they’ll even get Nelson Mandela to play himself. Oh wait, aren’t you up to the South Africa bit yet? Whoops.


  1. That sounds cool! I love apocalypses, especially ones that tell you about what happens on a meta level, not just to a small group of people.

  2. liadlaith, it was cool, and you're right - it's much more interesting to hear about the world, not just what the cheerleader, the geek, the journalist and the jock experienced in suburban LA or what have you. I was never bored, and all this re-thinking about it has just made me want to read it again, but Chris gave it to one of his friends to read. Pah!


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