“World War Z” by Max Brooks (Crown, 2006)

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I’ve read two books about zombies this year: one I found fascinating, incredibly interesting, and decreed it the best book of the year!; the other was formulaic, predictable, kind of failed in its goal, and ended terrible – one of them was written by Stephen King, can you guess which one?  Being an avid King reader (yes, I’ve read them all!), you would expect the King zombie book to be the former, but alas.  Cell was not good; World War Z is the best book I’ve read in a long time.

The key to World War Z is in its execution not as a horror book – even though it’s about humanity’s struggling war against zombies, and even though it’s most likely categorized as horror in every bookstore – but as a piece of thrilling and thought-provoking and contemplative fiction.  Brooks’ greatness with this book is in using a quasi-journalistic format where the narrator is traveling around the world interviewing a variety of different people from different backgrounds and cultures on how they managed to survive the war with the zombies.  The book is set about a decade after World War Z, giving the reader the reassurance that we survived, and this book is about how.

Brooks’ first book, The Zombie Survival Guide, gave step by step preparedness for what to do when confronted by one or a host of zombies: it’s a humor book meant to make you laugh and snicker at this outlandish situation.  World War Z is not a funny book, but a deadly serious one.  It’s quite shocking to contemplate the extensive research Brooks must have done to find out crucial details not just about the thirty different countries the narrator visits, but to also find out specific slang and expressions to that country and culture, and to know how a member of the military would act as opposed to a ordinary person, or another specifically skilled member of society in that particular country.  He must have gained a wealth of knowledge about the different societies of the world in general.

Brooks then takes it one step further in coming out with different operations and game plans for the different countries: what the government did, what the military did, and what its citizens did, all pertaining to the current regime of the time.  The book is set no more than twenty years from the present time, so we are all familiar with the regimes and different governments of this world: from Bush’s conservative, military heavy America; to a clandestine and mysterious North Korea; to a potent and still racist South Africa.

World War Z is a book about zombies that changes the way you think about the world and its people.  It makes you think about how we’re all in this together, we’re all the same – regardless of the world-threatening devastation, be it zombies, terrorism, or a pandemic virus.  World War Z serves as a guide book to humanity, so that when the “big thing” – whatever it is – happens, we’ll be a little more caring of other people around the world, regardless of what god they believe in, or the color of their skin.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on October 29th, 2006 ©Alex C. Telander.

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6 thoughts on ““World War Z” by Max Brooks (Crown, 2006)

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