Tuesday, September 17, 2013

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

World War Z paints a comprehensive and detailed picture of the global zombie war. The unnamed narrator interviews a wide variety of people from all around the globe ten years after the zombie war. It was first intended as a government report, but all of the human element was removed from it to reveal the facts. The narrator opts to write a book detailing how different individual people felt and what happened to them during that horrible time in human history. For each story, a short introduction of the person and setting is followed by that person's first person account of what happened interspersed with the narrator's questions either for clarification or to elaborate on a subject. It reads as a nonfiction historical book and a harrowing one at that.

None of those interviewed know each other and aren't connected in any way, but their narratives tell the entire story of the zombie war, from patient zero to world ten years after the declared end of the zombie war (although millions still walk the earth). The people interviewed ranged from high ranking government officials to members of the military to scientists to ordinary people trying to survive. These stories showed the best and worst of human nature as well as the simple horror living in such a time. Each character was fully realized with their own insights, motivation, and reactions. Many of the stories were more emotional than I expected and really packed a punch.

My favorite story is about a famous filmmaker working hard to film and show an account of a group of college students staving off thousands of zombies at their university. He thought it bombed at first because people didn't seem too enthused at his showing and he moved on with his life. It was later revealed to be a huge hit and he went on to make many more. Suicides and sudden deaths went down drastically, showing that art can have a profound effect on people. It gave them hope when all seemed bleak. One of the most despicable characters was an opportunistic businessman that created an untested vaccine in the US that didn't work, but made millions of dollars. He justified it treated rabies, which is what the virus was originally called. He has no remorse for the damage he caused, which largely contributed to the Great Panic, the panicked and chaotic realization that the zombies are real.

This war was completely different than any other war. Each and every zombie is working 24 hours a day to end life on earth. They don't tire or weaken or die naturally. Every human casualty weakens us and strengthens them. This is war as no one has ever seen. Existing weapons don't take into account that wounds, even normally fatal ones, don't matter to the undead, so many of them are useless. Tactics and weapons have to be completely rethought to accommodate the new enemies' weaknesses or lack thereof. Most countries don't have many resources or the manpower to completely re-evaluate how they fight, especially when they are trying to stave off the total collapse of their government and society at the same time. These zombies are slow and shuffley, but this doesn't mean they are easy to kill or safe to be around. Their moans can signal zombies from miles around and set off a domino effect until there are thousands of zombies called to your location. Numbers are always on their side since there are more of them and less of us every day.

World War Z is the most well researched, detailed zombie novel I've ever read. It presents itself as history and puts the events in context of actual history. It's definitely one of my favorites and I notice more and more with each reread. The novel is ultimately optimistic. This is the only book I've read where humans actually win over zombies and the majority of people were shown to be decent, resilient, and honorable. Most zombie novels are bleak and incredibly depressing, but this one manages to send out a hopeful message.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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