Monday, January 3, 2011

Review - World War Z by Max Brooks

I've hesitated to review this next book. And by "hesitated," I mean I've been putting it off for several years. It's easy to review books you hate. You make a few snarky remarks, warn others to dodge the bullet you've taken, and move on. It's easy to review books you like. You chat them up a bit and encourage your friends to check them out too. But books you truly love, books that haunt your memory years after the initial reading, those are always difficult to review. How can you succinctly explain the awesome power of a work that came out of nowhere and grabbed you, refusing to let go? It's difficult, to say the least. Even so, I'm going to try.

World War Z:An Oral History of the Zombie War kicks ass.

Well, I think that about wraps it up...

You want more? Oh, ok. How about I let the book speak for itself?

From Barnes and Noble:
"The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, “By excluding the human factor, aren’t we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn’t the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as ‘the living dead’?”"

The synopsis doesn't lie. World War Z reads like a collection of firsthand, survivor accounts of a fictionalized time when an undead menace nearly overtook our world. Each story is powerful in it's own way, whether it's a foreign smuggler's recollection of those first panicked weeks when the infection spread, or a suburban housewife's tale of the living dead crashing through her living room window. Some are personal tales, an individual person's encounter with the undead, and some take on a more global perspective, like the Australian astronaut who remained in space to keep necessary global satellites operational, but was forced to watch the destruction of the planet from afar.

I can't review each individual tale. Just read them. Read all of them. Then store the book on your shelf because in a little while, you're going to want to read them again.

I know this review sucks, but what can I say? This book is at once tragic, and hopeful, and funny, and more than anything else it makes you think. It takes a fictional menace and presents it in a way that makes it seem not just plausible, but utterly, terrifyingly real.

In short, World War Z kicks ass.

Rating: 5/5



Helena Sparrow said...

Amazing novel! It actually sparked my first interest in the shuffling undead. Beautifully written and no review can do it complete justice. Everyone must read it multiple times. It's just that good :)

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