(Cover picture courtesy of Max Brooks’ website.)
We survived the zombie apocalypse, but how many of us are still haunted by that terrible time? We have (temporarily?) defeated the living dead, but at what cost? Told in the haunting and riveting voices of the men and women who witnessed the horror firsthand, World War Z is the only record of the plague years.
To be honest, I never intended on picking up World War Z, but circumstances forced my hand. That sounds very grand for the reality: I was stuck in an airport for a while because my flight was delayed and the bookstore there had a horrible selection. World War Z was the only book that was small enough to fit in my carry-on laptop case but large enough (nearly 350 pages) that I wouldn’t finish it halfway through the flight back home if I was careful. Whether it was good or not didn’t matter; I was bored and willing to read almost anything, even a zombie novel I thought would be completely idiotic.
That’s why I’m glad I was wrong. World War Z certainly isn’t at the level of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh Trilogy, but it does come close. Instead of focusing on the science of the outbreak, or being all about people fighting zombies while the apocalypse is happening, it focuses on something that’s often neglected: the effect on people after a terrible event. How would a zombie apocalypse change the world? What effect would it have on the people and countries, especially since many countries began the dreaded Redeker Plan (or the various versions of it)? Would humanity survive and how would life be different for the average person? Well, World War Z answers that through the many ‘interviews’ with people. These people are doctors, soldiers, crooks, you name it! Through them we learn not only the effect on people, but on politics, economics and the environment.
This isn’t just some dumb zombie novel. World War Z is a novel that you should not read when you’re tired because there is always new information being presented to you. When you read it continuously, you may notice that some questions are not answered in one interview, but the outcome of certain events are hinted at in the next one. I really didn’t catch any loose plot threads, which is quite an achievement in a novel with over 10 info-filled ‘interviews.’ Quite impressive when you think about it.
What I was also impressed with is the different voices Max Brooks uses throughout the novel. Each person being interviewed has a very different outlook on life and did very different things in order to survive. Sometimes when an author does this all the characters start sounding the same after a while, but this never happens in World War Z. Every character is unique and there’s a character for everyone. Want the tough, grizzled old soldier? You got it. The doctor who just tries to do his job when he doesn’t know what’s happening? Yep. The innocent little girl who grows up during the apocalypse? You bet. These may sound like clichés when I list them like this, but each character is definitely not a stereotype because Max Brooks has taken archetypes we all identify with and tweaked them to make them unique.
So good characters, a good plot and a well thought out apocalypse…you can’t ask for more in a zombie novel.
I give this book 5/5 stars.