World War Z Is Not A Typical Zombie Story

World War Z Is Not A Typical Zombie Story

World War Z (the book): A meticulous, global history of the zombie apocalypse.

What it is: Max Brooks’ 2006 novel stitching together dozens of fictional accounts of a zombie uprising that almost killed off humanity. Adapted in a 2013 into a film that threw out the book’s entire concept and kept only the name.

What I’ve read: Finished it a couple of nights ago.

Is it good? Yeah, I liked it a lot.

Quick thoughts: I actually watched the movie on a whim a couple of years ago and thought it was really boring. I remember being vaguely aware that it was based on a much better book, but it didn’t occur to me to read it at the time. The book takes a smart approach that allows it to have a noticeably different energy from your average end-of-the-world story, zombie or otherwise. Everyone the author interviews is a survivor, and it’s established in the early goings that humanity won this one. The zombies lost. The narrated flashback format removes a lot of the usual dread and tension from the story, and replaces it with these meticulously created, detail-heavy accounts of the war. The huge cast of characters lets the story hop from place to place and date to date, which kept me from caring too much about any one character but gave things an appropriately global focus. (I gather the audiobook is terrific.) My favourite apocalyptic stories tend to focus on how the world reacts to a world-killing threat (see also: Horizon Zero Dawn), rather than just focusing on the fight for survival itself. World War Z is most interested in imagining how the people of various nations — China, Israel, America, Japan, South Africa, Cuba, North Korea and so on — might respond to an unprecedented, impossible threat. It paints in broad, almost satirical strokes, but I found the whole thing fascinating. Also, there’s a really good chapter about dogs.

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