Wednesday, July 18, 2007

World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War

I very recently finished reading Max Brooks' novel World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War. I had read his other zombie book The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead some time ago and was quite impressed with how thoroughly Brooks approached the subject of a zombie apocalypse. In the survival guide he expounded, at great length, on various strategies for surviving a zombie attack, but what really struck me was how a lot of the examples he provided in that book would make excellent premises for novels. He was giving little glimpses into really captivating zombie stories. In World War Z he goes one step further, instead of siting examples of how survival strategies worked during a zombie infestation he writes about characters who give their accounts of how they coped in a world going through a zombie apocalypse.

No longer would I have to try to imagine for myself how stories in that zombie-ravaged world would go down. Here it was, at greater lengths than the examples provided in The Zombie Survival Guide. Mind you, the stories aren't all that long because the fictitious Max Brooks is interviews many survivors and compiling their accounts of what happened from their points-of-view. That's how the book is presented: a series of interviews chronicling different stages of the war with the zombies, from the onset of the plague to the pushing of humanity to the brink of extinction to the war to reclaim the planet from the zombie oppressors. This manner of telling the story really provides a broad scope and I was really awe-struck by how meticulous Brooks was in exploring facets of how a zombie apocalypse would affect the world. He was finding stories that you just don't see in zombie movies. It was fascinating to see how global the war really felt in World War Z. That is this book's greatest strength and something that I wish makers of zombie movies will learn from.

I love zombie movies. They provide an excellent platform for suspense and for social commentary. The genre lends itself to social commentary so well by virtue of the fact that zombies, by nature, are usually depicted on an epidemic scale. There is never just one zombie, or if there is, that number balloons to epic scales. Naturally, it becomes more than a problem that one person deals with and becomes more of a problem that large groups of people address, opening the door for all that great food-for-thought on societal topics. World War Z takes a lot of that much further than zombie movie has ever gone.

Sometimes, I found the messages and morals were heavy-handed, but I can't really find fault with it since, if these are to be understood as interviews, transcripts really, people tend to be heavy-handed in communicating their viewpoints in their story-telling. I can let the heavy-handedness slide. Other than that, sometimes the really engaging stories just were not long enough for my liking, as though in my mind I was saying, "More, more!" Again, nothing I can fault Brooks with really because that could very well be me loving the book too much.

This is a book you should definitely check out even if you're not into horror books because the way in which this book is presented, the horror of the face-to-face encounters with zombies isn't so much the focus of the stories as the transition of the world in turmoil and the changes in its inhabitants. It's as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. Do check it out. I insist.