Zombies. In some ways they are my least favorite among the multitude of supernatural creatures—they don’t tend to have terribly interesting personalities, and the new trend of zombie romance is just far more disturbing than the classic vampire love stories. Nonetheless, zombies can be very interesting in what they represent. While vampires embody our complicated yearning for immortality and power, zombies represent our fear of death at a downright primitive level—the finality of death and decay, the simple meaninglessness of it, the shift from human to inhuman, and the loss of the self. Meanwhile the survivors of zombie pandemics fight for meaning, and humanity, and for living one more day. My latest read captures this struggle on an epic global scale: World War Z by Max Brooks.
I had the absolute pleasure of listening to the audiobook version of this zombie classic. The audiobook has an amazing full cast packed with big-name voice actors such as Nathan Fillion and Paul Sorvino (whose role as a corrupt heart surgeon seemed especially fitting, since I was first familiar with him as the owner of GeneCo in Repo! The Genetic Opera). The voice of the narrator is read by Max Brooks, himself—which adds to the book’s presentation as a factual oral history compiled from interviews collected by the author. Listening to the story being read in a variety of voices and accents really helps to immerse you in this alternate world.
World War Z tells the story—or rather the many stories—of a global zombie infestation from start to finish. Compiled by an American who was initially tasked with submitting a report of the war to the American government after most of the zombies had been eradicated, the stories are presented as interviews with subtle promptings from the narrator to guide the speakers. The first interviews involve witnesses of some of the initial zombie breakouts in China, Africa and around the world. It is unclear exactly how or where the virus first cropped up. Then the tales expand to include important political figures and the decisions they and their countries made about how to face the problem of the rising dead. Soldiers and ordinary citizens tell how they survived, and commentaries are made on the ways in which countries, environments, and people have been changed forever by the experience.
The most impressive thing about World War Z is the intricate detail with which each aspect of global life (and how it might be affected by a zombie pandemic) is explored through these stories. Max Brooks leaves absolutely no stone un-turned. Ever thought about which country would be the first to accept the zombie threat as real? Or how zombies would affect the tensions of nuclear powers? What about the effects that mass migration would have as people flee the zombies? Could infection be spread through the organ black market? Ever wonder how animals–both domesticated and wild–would be affected by a zombie apocalypse? What would celebrities do when the pandemic struck? All the questions you didn’t even know you had about the zombie apocalypse have their answers cleverly woven into the stores of World War Z.
If you have even the slightest interest in zombies, international relations, military strategy, or politics, this book is everything you’ve been looking for. Even if, like me, those topics don’t normally pique your interest, there’s still plenty to love about this book. Because what’s really at the heart of this book is: people. People being pushed to their limits. People from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds. People representing all the diversity of humanity, fighting one common enemy—the inhuman.
Have you read World War Z or listened to the audiobook? Which tale was your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments!