World War Z by Max Brooks | Book Review

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Release date:  September 12, 2006
Series: N/A
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic, Horror, Dystopia

I started reading this book on a whim: the movie was coming out in a few days and I decided to skim through it before I see the film adaptation. I didn't really have any expectations for this book, because I never saw zombies as a novel-worthy subject, despite my love for dystopian and sci-fi related things. So here I was, just a few pages in and realizing World War Z was worth putting the rest of my life (including sleep) on hold for.

What immediately drew me in was the way this book is written: it doesn't follow a specific character, it's not about one person's quest to save the world or their own life - it's a collection of many stories, that paints a picture of humanity as a whole. The narrator, who isn't ever actually named, conducts a series of interviews with people from different countries and socio-economic backgrounds. Those interviews are what the book consists of. I found it to be a unique and thought-provoking commentary on survivalism, politics, corruption and personal gain. Who knew a post-apocalyptic zombie novel could have such deep meaning?

World War Z  is broken up into eight sections: Warnings, Blame, The Great Panic, Turning the Tide, Home Front USA, Around the World and Above, Total War, Good-Byes. Each section contains multiple stories, ranging in length. I'm not going to lie, the lack of a central character can make the book hard to relate to at times. Personally, I found most of the interviews very interesting, but there were a few I almost gave up on. My favorite was about Colonel Christina Eliopolis from the Home Front USA section: it's one of the longer stories and it's about a pilot, who crashes in zombie-infested territory with nobody but a radio operator to help her.

I think the overall tone of the book is best described by this quote from the Good-Byes section:

I’ve heard it said that the Holocaust has no survivors, that even those who managed to remain technically alive were so irreparably damaged, that their spirit, their soul, the person that they were supposed to be, was gone forever. I’d like to think that’s not true. But if it is, then no one on Earth survived this war.
— Max Brooks

It's not all grim, of course, but don't look for an "all-is-well-again" ending either. All those who survived went through great changes, as one would expect. I loved how different all of the interviews and personalities were, and yet all of them felt unified. I enjoyed the writing a lot for its flow, intelligence and details. I also liked the abundance of footnotes, that were a mix of real life facts and fictional details. I'll admit, I actually got to a point where I started googling them to distinguish one from the other - the seriousness of the book had me caught up. It really does read as a collection historial accounts.

I thought World War Z was absolutely brilliant. That being said, I don't think it's for everyone. It's about the human nature rather than the zombies, but a lot of it is also full of terms, ranks and technical details. I feel like it's one of those books readers either love or hate. Once again, I loved it, but I am curious to know what you guys think. Have any of you read this? If not, does it sound appealing to you?