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

I’m very excited to be writing this for a number of reasons:

1) This is my first non-music-tournament post

2) Anyone that has talked to me after midnight on any given weekend of at least the last two years has indubitably heard my preliminary thoughts on Zombie Apocalypses in general. And for a lucky few, promises about my plans to fetch them along with grossly arrogant, unproven predictions on my survival abilities during said Zombie Apocalypse. I actually contacted a girl I dated last summer to inquire about this. Her response was literally, “Guillermo, all you ever, ever talked about was zombies. And how you’d come save me if they came. Are you still doing that?”

…so moving on to 3) In case you haven’t heard, according to Family Radio, the Rapture is at 6 pm on Saturday. And what could await those that surely won’t be raptured (I very much fall into this category) than a Zombie Apocalypse? Why not? I read an article recently that was actually really compelling in its presentation of five scientific reasons why a zombie apocalypse could actually happen (never mind that it’s at Cracked magazine, just read the article.)

So, last night I finished World War Z, a book published in 2006 by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks) that details the trials and tribulations of those lucky, brave souls that survive the zombie war that decimates something like 95% of the world population. This is all done from the perspective of a reporter who had formerly worked for a United Nations Post-War Commission Report putting together a comprehensive account of what exactly happened when and where as the zombie menace overtook nation after nation. Except his final report ends up super-censored, so he goes rogue and publishes the interviews he thought really mattered (I’m not spoiling anything, this information is in the first two pages.)

So it’s not only the stories of the individuals, but the stories of the government response in different places. This book wasn’t just a silly, ROARRR GRRRR tale of how six people survive in an abandoned farmhouse for a night, by the way. This was literally how entire populations react, how information was disseminated, how nations quelled fears at times by wagging the dog, so to speak.

Said mercenary from Barbados might as well be Jack Sparrow, who would be a pretty high pick in my Celebrity Zombie Survival Draft

There is no one main character, and the reporter’s voice is arguably distinct from all those he interviews, from a Chinese doctor to an Israeli spy to a Montana real estate tycoon to a mercenary living in Barbados, and many, many others. In fact I would estimate there are close to 80 separate accounts of what happens where, how it happens, how people react. It is incredibly inventive, ridiculously engaging, and maybe most notably, seemingly realistic. Today on CNN there is an article about how the CDC would react to a zombie virus, which I find adorable but a bit optimistic (sorry, Public Health friends.) I think what would actually happen is closer to Brooks’ interpretation.

Brooks manages to marry the humanity of lives and tragedy to the realistic nature of war against an enemy that has no fear. One of the highlights of the book is a massive, massive military stand at Yonkers, with the might of all of the U.S.’s branches standing against 11 million zombies flowing north from Manhattan. I won’t tell you how it turns out, but one thing that resonates in the book are consistent allusions to the reliance on the emotion of fear in military tactics to this point in time. In other words, fighting an enemy that will only die if you do one specific thing (you have to aim for the head!), that has no fear, and will

You forgot a chapter, Sun.

walk, crawl, or nudge itself toward anything alive no matter what is something Sun Tzu failed to account for in The Art of War.

Overall, I give World War Z an A-. It doesn’t get an A+ only because I didn’t really like the ending, but everything else was awesome. I have great confidence after reading this book that Brooks has given the appropriate foresight necessary for preemptive planning against the rise of the undead. And as I am an individual involved with emergency planning and preparedness in New Orleans today, I can not emphasize enough that planning saves lives! Readers, please pick this book up and give it a read to see what I’m talking about. And for goodness sake, go for the head.


About g-mo

The day I was born, Michael Jackson's Thriller album was at the top of the Billboard 200. I've been trying my best to live up to that expectation ever since.
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4 Responses to World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (Book Review)

  1. The girl he dated last summer says:

    Actually, the conservation went more like this:
    “Guillermo: Did I used to talk about zombies a lot when we dated?
    Me: um… yes … and we watched a lot of zombie movies too… well, some… thankfully I did not let us watch “Zombie Strippers”” [I really had to put my foot down for that one and met with some amount of resistance]

    — provided to you by gchat recorded chat records

    p.s. I still am counting on you to save me from a zombie attack if it does happen, by the way, b/c most of the guys here at Yale are wimps.

  2. brian says:

    One of my favorite books. FYI – there is on/off news that Brad Pitt’s ‘Plan B’ production company will be making this a feature.

    Let’s hope the movie about the zombie apocalypse happens before the actual apocalypse.

    Recent news:

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