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The Zombies are coming!
World War Z - Max Brooks
Member Name: historywitch
World War Z - Max Brooks
Advantages: realistic, well written, convincing, compelling
Disadvantages: some reliance on stereotypes
Beginning with the very first case in China (although never explaining exactly how the virus made its way into the human population) Brooks makes his way around the world, 'collecting testimony' from survivors and compiling them into this book. They aren't all ordinary survivor stories but cover a range of eyewitnesses to key events, governmental initiatives and insights into how each country or region of the world dealt with the threat. Brooks does an excellent job of writing these stories so that each appears to be the words of a genuine individual who has lived through something totally horrific and I was completely convinced. Whilst reading the book I had to keep putting it down and reminding myself that I was actually reading a story and these events had not actually happened.
Brooks' explanations for the transmission and rapid spread of the 'disease' are equally convincing as people smugglers carry lorries of immigrants across boarders, unaware that infected individuals who are not yet zombies are inside (with a lovely surprise when they arrive); or rich people receive the organs of 'infected', awaking on the operating table to kill their surgeons. Governments are reluctant to admit they have a problem until it is too late, assign blame but no resources until it is too late. In other zombie literature and films the sheer mechanics of infection spread have never been dealt with and this increases the palpable horror of this book, it oozes realism.
Amongst the stories of political hesitancy, military bungling and mass indecision are the truly terrifying stories that really sent a chill up my spine. In the few pages allotted to each story Brooks has often distilled the essence of the zombie movie or horror novel into frightening, unsettling, gory and nailbiting 'testimony'. From the suburban mom in her SUV to the Japanese man trapped in a tower block full of zombies, a mass exodus by sea that turns into horror and a pilot crashing into a jungle full of zombies there is something for every horror fan. Even though I tend to eschew horror in favour of lighter literary fare, even I had to admit that these were superb examples of their genre and have featured in some truly unpleasant nightmares recently! It turns out that you really aren't safe at sea in the event of a zombie infestation (shudder).
There are tales of heroism, cowardice and insanity, the latter often manifesting itself in the strangest and most disturbing ways I have ever come across, not something I had ever thought about with regards to people's reactions to a zombie invasion. Surprisingly there is also humour as celebrities hole themselves up in bunkers but their desire to still be the centre of attention proves to be their downfall; and dodgy businessmen prey on the gullible in the early stages of the epidemic. The most interesting section for me was the aftermath; at the time of writing the book the zombies are still a problem and we follow the various worldwide cleanup squads as they discharge their duty (shudder).
To write a global history of such an event is obviously an enormous undertaking and on the whole Brooks has managed to pull it off with no loose ends. I am the original cynic but I finished the book in one evening and was wholly sucked in by the realistic approach of this book. However there were a few small things that niggled i.e. the focus on India, China and the USA and the ignoring of much of South America and Africa. Brooks also indulges in stereotypes and the caricature of the Brit living in Windsor castle and fighting off zombies with a sword did have me giggling a little bit; light relief perhaps amongst the adrenaline pumped and politically complex stories that surround it. The 'testimony' approach is quite frustrating in parts as you want to find out what happened next at a particular time, or some more about the 'witnesses' themselves. It is also quite sketchy and less dense than other more involved horror novels, but I found that once I got involved in the narrative I tended to forget this, just wanting to read the next part of the story.
I really enjoyed this book, much more that I ever expected to; it isn't great literature but it is a cracking horror/zombie novel for those who want some depth to their zombie infestation. I found it quite easy to read but hard to digest (ha ha) and it has certainly led me to consider 'what if' and create my own imaginary 'zombie plan' just in case. Brooks has managed to write in hundreds of different, well conceived and researched voices to narrate a terrifying and thrilling event and I think he did a fantastic job! If reading this book in Switzerland as I did, make sure your reading of this book doesn't coincide with the day they test all the nuclear sirens for your area, you may act irrationally.
RRP- £8.99 (it is currently £6.99 on Amazon.co.uk)
Summary: A fantastic novel about zombies