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December 20, 2006

Filed under: fiction»reviews»brooks

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

You may know Max Brooks, author of World War Z, from his previous book, The Zombie Survival Guide. That was a softcover novelty similar to the Worst Case series of books. It showed that Brooks had watched a lot of zombie movies. World War Z, in contrast, demonstrates that he understands what made the best of those movies great.

The central conceit of the book is that it doesn't present a straightforward narrative, but instead collects interviews with survivors of an undead uprising from the near future, under the guise of a "UN Special Report." The interviews detail an outbreak that begins in China and spreads rapidly, overtaking the globe before the remnants of civilization adapt and begin to regain control. There's a lot of talk about how the zombies require a different kind of war and a ruthless outlook--but the best part of Brooks' plot device is that it lets him put a very human face on the survivors--how they fought among themselves, who was saved, and what was sacrificed. Those have always been the real draw of zombie fiction, and Brooks details them deftly.

There are a number of references to recent events, including a "brushfire war" that drains American resources, but they're not too distracting, and in some cases (like the military's myopic focus on technology over effective tactics) the futurism feels a little too accurate. It's probably not a good idea to read World War Z as a metaphor or a disaster prevention guide, but it does provoke thought about our response to emergencies, and provide a pretty good Apokalyptica read in the process.

Future - Present - Past