World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has. That’s not stupidity or weakness, that’s just human nature.

The Zombie war almost destroyed life on earth. This disaster was narrowly avoided through sheer luck and the depths of human determination against the darkest days the earth has ever seen. Max Brooks travels across the world to collect firsthand accounts of the war after surviving it himself. He sees that these stories must be told and must be kept safe, they are after all, history. He records the stories of women, men and children who experienced that war from the bright lights of Tokyo to the barren deserts of the USA. He starts with patient zero who infected the first undead in the village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China. He speaks with doctors, army infantrymen, pilots and civilians. Their brave and terrifying stories are spellbinding, graphic and ultimately, triumphant.

The last book I read with Zombies in it was Pride and Prejudice & Zombies. I enjoyed the idea of Elizabeth carving off the heads of zombies with a sword and the ninja moves she learned from a sensi in the fighting arts. I reveled that book because it was ridiculous, making fun of Austen’s work while also carefully reshaping it with humor. For those that haven’t read it, the story is much the same as the original, there’s just a few more roundhouse kicks and battle scenes. I quite enjoyed it. So upon picking up World War Z (which I avoided reading for a while because of all the books and movies that have circled around zombies/theendoftheworld etc) I never thought I’d truly enjoy a book with zombies in it. Not in an actual this-is-a-great-piece-of-writing way. I was more than happy to be proved wrong.

I downloaded the audiobook, which is in a word, awesome. Each story is told by a character with a different voice, age and accent. We hear firsthand accounts from what seems to be the people themselves. Their fear, their determination and their blood shape the testimonies captured in this book. I’m sure reading this book is an experience as well, but I can’t imagine anything beats the audiobook.

We hear voices shake with fatigue as they speak of killing thousands of zombies in the last stand of the war, the bodies piling up in a wall of death as more claw their way over the top to reach the soldiers. We hear of people who were saved, who were killed and who helplessly watched the people they love become infected. We hear voices fill with incredulity as they realize they outran, outsmarted or just plain got lucky enough to survive the onslaught of the dead. The amount of emotion and humanity in each testimony is electrifying.

The hours you will spend listening to each chapter will hold you fast until the silence and credits that signal the end of the book. But still, you’ll probably wait. Maybe there is a little more? Maybe there is just one more story? Finally you’ll realize, there isn’t. And it will be with a sense of loss and finality that you will turn off the book and go back to real life, which now seems a bit duller. This safe, coddled existence, free of the living dead.

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6 thoughts on “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

  1. I was a little wary of this book too when I picked it up and was surprised with how much it got to me. I thought this would be a sort of tongue-in-cheek effort, and I was impressed by how much Brooks was able to convey a palpable sense of dread and fear.

    I also thought he did a good job of getting digs in at human nature and society without getting preachy or having it distract from the story.

  2. I also read this after reading P&P&Z and I went into this one thinking it would be another funny zombie romp. As you well know, it is FAR from that but as you said, it’s. so. good. I’ve read this twice and both times reading I had zombie nightmares.

    I’ve heard good things about the audiobook and really want to check it out. Especially the chapter/story with the feral girl. The one who’s an adult but is telling the story of what happened to her in the church and she does an impression of the zombies. How was that one? (If you can figure out which one I mean from my vague description.)

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