Stephanie Reviews “World War Z” by Max Brooks

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
Genre: Zombies, apocalypse, fiction, alternate history
Rating: 4.67 out of 5 stars

Summary: Twelve years after World War Z, an agent of the United Nations publishes this collection of personal accounts of the war. The interviews encompass the history of a decade-long war against a terrifying zombie enemy. The reader can watch the war unfold from beginning to end – into the aftermath of how the world has changed structurally, politically, religiously, and environmentally.

This is my second week in a row doing a book about zombies, so let me start by saying: I really like to read about zombies. I do not like horror movies. I don’t really want to watch movies about zombies. I did enjoy the Walking Dead, but I assume this is because I did not read the graphic novels so have no idea what was SUPPOSED to be happening. In general, I want to read about zombies. Nothing is better than a rainy day in bed with a zombie book.

The narrator of World War Z was part of a group putting together the United Nation’s “Postwar Commission Report.” He has a fight with his boss who claims his interviews and his reporting style are too intimate and too personal and so he decides to compile it into a book himself. He’s collected personal accounts from a wide range of different people from all over the world as they experienced the war.

One of the really cool things about this is that in the introduction we learn immediately that the war ended twelve years ago and that humans won. Many zombie stories show the start of the outbreak and go into the consequent apocalypse –  and of course it looks like the human race is doomed. Generally we see small groups of people band together, live out in the wilderness somewhere, and just try to stay alive. This book shows that some did attempt that, but we also see government organization, the army fighting back, resettlement programs being initiated. Humans are not helpless here – we fight back and it works.

As I read this, I was blown away by the attention to detail, the use of so many different languages, the technical military terms – it’s incredibly realistic, it’s easy to forget that this is fiction and imagine that something like this could happen and this might be how it goes down. The book is split up into parts – it begins with the first eye witness accounts of reanimation, goes through the denial of some countries to believe it and the crackdown in others, the all out “Great Panic” and then finally “Turning the Tide” and our eventual victory.

Many of the chapters are based around military and government officials who talk us through what was happening, what ideas were being tossed around, different weapons and strategies designed to defeat the zombies – a seemingly unstoppable foe. It really goes into the fear of an enemy that doesn’t need to eat or sleep or breathe – an enemy that doesn’t just kill one of your soldiers, but turns them to their side. It’s amazing to hear about leaders who somehow kept their heads, people who rose up with great ideas, the tough decisions that had to be made about who could be saved. It describes the unthinkable number of people trying to flee, but there’s no where to go… It’s gritty and real and terrifying.

There are a few accounts of “normal people.” One of these chapters gave me an image that just haunts me. The interview-ee was a typical suburban housewife with a husband who paid more attention to his car and the game on the TV then her, two kids, and a dog. They’d heard what was going on – sort of. They didn’t think much of it. The husband bought a gun and promised eventually he would teach his wife to shoot it. Then it happens – he’s watching TV, her son is on the floor of the living room, her daughter in her bedroom upstairs, and she doing the laundry. All the dogs on the street start barking. She goes into the living room, her back to the sliding back door to the backyard. Her son is facing her when all of a sudden his gaze shifts over her shoulder and her eyes widen… That fast, your house is full of zombies and you have seconds to try to grab your children and escape. Terrifying.

The book explores so many cool things – how fame and money won’t protect you from zombies, how sometimes you have to get over old prejudices and fights because when you have a zombie apocalypse on your hands there’s really no time for human vs. human bullshit. No matter what country we live in or what language we speak we are all united in not wanting our brains eaten.

-Descriptive and Incredibly Realistic
-Fascinating exploration on the resiliency of the human spirit

-Occasionally over -technical for my brain
-Couldn’t easily view the notes for translations of my Kindle

I highly recommend this book. Such an interesting read. Huge thanks to Cassie-la for turning me onto it in the first place. These zombies are real, not kitschy (although sometimes that’s good too.) And sometimes I do kind of wish the zombie apocalypse would just happen already – I’m tired of waiting for it and it would certainly make things more interesting… This is definitely a book I will read again.


6 thoughts on “Stephanie Reviews “World War Z” by Max Brooks

  1. Hurray! I’m so glad you liked this book! It was so realistic and terrifying. Now I know what to think about/do if zombies ever do rise. My first thought after finishing this book was, I need to buy a castle and stock it with food ASAP!

    I loved the story with the little Asian nerd not realizing anything was wrong until his internet went down. =) Also the one about the stranded army woman who was convinced someone was keeping her alive, when really she had no walkie service.

  2. You really do like reading about zombies, it’s weird, lol. I got this book on my Kindle a long time ago but I never really got down to reading it. I should do that thing! I like how you pointed out that the book starts out by saying, hey, we won. Kind of shifts the story from the usual reason to create zombie fiction in an interesting way.

    But please no zombie apocalypse. I’d be one of the first to go! I’m terrible at running and I have no arm strength for smashing zombie heads in!

  3. I have seen this book in so many places, but I assumed it would be another zombie apocalypse novel. And though it is, the format sounds very original.

    Maybe we need a zombie outbreak to get Americans to get along. Or we could convince zombies to eat all the Republicans…. #problemsolved #twitteraddiction

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