Until recently I thought very little about zombies. I thought about them only in passing, as in, “zombie movies are stupid” or “I am slightly freaked out by the concept of zombies, so I will not watch Shaun of the Dead.” I saw a play a couple of year ago that examined the repercussions of a zombie outbreak closely through two married couples as one spouse per couple became more and more consumed by the infection. It creeped me out. And while I sat through the entire play and it gave me the shivers, I never really thought through the logical implications of a widespread, unstoppable virus that reanimates the dead.
And then last week I started listening to the audiobook of World War Z. I was hooked immediately. Granted, I’d heard a glowing recommendation from Books on the NIghtstand for the audiobook, but it seemed like the perfect way for me to try out a new genre. The audiobook of 11/22/63 got me to start trying books by Stephen King, so why not give World War Z a shot? After finishing the book today, I skimmed reviews on goodreads and I noticed a number of complaints that there was no narrative arc and little character development. I didn’t experience any of those issues while listening to the audiobook. I was fascinated.
Brooks shifts perspectives, bringing together accounts from across the globe from survivors; civilians, military, men, women, even a “feral” adult who was a young child at the time of the outbreak. Through these shifting perspectives Brooks explores the political, economic and environmental implications of this widespread outbreak. I found the stories so compelling, in part, because it seemed so real. The great panic, the cover-ups, the American isolationism, the botched military efforts … This isn’t really a book about zombies, it’s about how people deal with fear and the unknown.
I can’t speak for the reading experience of the novel, but if the premise of the book sounds interesting, try the audio! The unbridged version makes use of a number of famous actors (both Carl and Rob Reiner!), which helps differentiate the voices. While sometimes I found it hard to distinguish between the survivors on occasion, I think that helped the overall “oral history.” So many of the stories are the same, but different. Clean, easy to follow character arcs have no place here. The tension lies in how the survivors managed, what their stories reveal about the experiences and how they feel about their place in the war. Hearing from a number of military contingents throughout the US and across the world revealed that everyone thinks their mission is the most difficult to some degree. Everyone is frustrated by lack of information or resources.
I don’t know anyone else who read this book, so if you have and you have something to say about it; I want to know! What stuck out to you? Which parts felt the most real? Can you even imagine what you would do in the event of a zombie outbreak?
One section that best embodied the conflict, in my opinion, was the part about full-on war. In that passage one of the American military men interviewed describes how fighting zombies was the first time in human history that we were actually fighting a full-on war because zombies don’t get tired, they don’t need food and you can’t cut their power supply. They just keep coming.
Ah! I loved this book and I’m so glad I tried it out. What do you think?