World War Z by Max Brooks

world war z

I have wanted to read this forever…and once again, thank you library, for making books that are outside of my fiduciary liabilities available. I am glad to say that it lived up to the wait and the hype. I really enjoyed this.

The blurb is long – so here is the link, and here is the first paragraph.

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.

The book is a series of recollections collected years after victory was declared over the walking dead. However, they are not gone. Even as he (our nameless narrator) collects stories, he walks across frozen fields were zombies are slowly thawing, to rise and walk again. *shudder* Each person has their own section – it’s sort of like a book of short stories. And there are a lot. As a reviewer it’s hard to get a grip on where to begin.

What I liked about this was the realistic spread of the disease and the world’s reaction to it than I’ve seen in a movie or most of the books I’ve read. So often, a zombie story is set on the ground. You see an individual or group struggling to avoid the shuffling horde. You have no idea what the government is doing – the government often completely disappears. Usually because the writer doesn’t want to deal with them. Same with all municipal functions: no water, no electricity, no delivery of goods and services. Society completely breaks down. The police/military are rendered null. This story takes the long view of the zombie apoxyclips. It shows utter destruction of some of those things, but also how in places, life continued, different, but not entirely thrown back into the dark ages.

It begins in China. A man and his son were driving for sunken goods left behind when their valley was flooded for the Three Gorges Reservoir. The boy was bitten by something- the father disappeared. Before he could be subdued, the boy bit several people, who all fell ill. The doctor informs a colleague in the Institute of Infectious diseases, and the place is put on lockdown. The doctor realizes this can’t be an isolated incident. China is slow to react – they are too convinced of their military might and the iron grip over their people. That iron grip turns to a pitted colander at the borders. People flee. And the smugglers don’t care if people are infected, as long as they can pay. And so the world burns. Or you know, people get bit, die, and then get up and do their biting in turn.

The stories collected range from heroic to heartbreaking, are sometimes filled with brutal indifference, where individuals profit from the deaths and terror of the populace. Others are squirm inducing tales of government spin machines, blatant lies to keep up morale (good) or to stave off panic at the government’s complete lack of preparation (bad). In the end, it all comes down to handling fear. That is what zombies are, I think. Shuffling fear. How do you keep a society together and functioning in a war where the enemy isn’t fighting for freedom of one kind of another, or an ideal, or territory? They aren’t really fighting us. They are just eating and/or infecting us. For every soldier lost behind enemy lines, that is one more shuffler for the horde. The book has a few passages on fear. One of my favorites is from a soldier who has survived a battle that was expected to be a decisive victory, and went totally FUBAR.

“…but the weapon that really failed wasn’t something that rolled off an assembly line. It’s as old as…I don’t know, I guess as old as war. It’s fear, dude, just fear and you don’t have to be Sun freakin’ Tzu to now that real fighting isn’t about killing or even hurting the other guy, it’s about scaring him enough to call it a day. Break their spirit, that’s what every successful army goes for, from tribal face paint to the ‘blitzkrieg’ to… what did we call the first round of Gulf War Two? ‘Shock and awe.’ Perfect name, ‘Shock and Awe’! But what if the enemy can’t be shocked and awed? Not just won’t, but biologically can’t!” 

I don’t want to spoil anything but I will tell you a few of my favorite recollections: the blind gardener in Japan who stayed behind when the island was evacuated, the tale of the girl who drove north with her parents after the US government pulled back, the story of the Chinese submarine, a sort of Hunt for Red October in the zombie apoxyclips, and the story of the astronauts stuck in space.

I’d like to read it again, this time not taking copious notes in order to review it…

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