World War Z – Max Brooks

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If you’re anything like me then the notion of a ‘zombie novel’ is one to be quashed at the first moment of hearing. How can something like that have any literary importance, or be well-written and in the slightest bit original? But then I started hearing more and more things about this one, one which was actually good – better than good, really good. As misguided as it may be, it was a long time ago now when the first announcements came of a film adaptation with Brad Pitt, that I actually became excited about both the film and book. Ashamedly I have only now just got round to reading the book, just before the film is released (as obviously book must be read before film seen). And the results…

Amazing.

Forget any preconceptions you might have about the genre as this is so much more than a book about zombies. This is about how the world handled a zombie invasion, something brought terrifyingly to life in Max Brooks’ world, and the impact of such an invasion on humanity. Whilst containing scenes of vivid and disturbing action, the book delves into the emotions of the humans caught up in this war and the terrible effects it had on them.

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Before I go any further I should tell you the book’s style. The whole story is retold through a series of interviews with a range of different people, from different parts of the world. The chapters are broken up into stages of the invasion, starting with the preliminary stages as the outbreak started and people slowly began to take notice, and moving through to retaliation, total war and the rebuilding process for a broken civilisation. It explores the decisions that were made to deal with the situation at hand, and the rationalities behind them; the extremities that governments were forced to go to in order to neutralise insurmountable threat (this includes decisions which included collateral loss)

The book is enthralling from start until finish – so much so that you will actually believe that there is a zombie invasion going on around you. I found myself getting confused watching the news and tv programmes, expecting to hear the latest developments, or a zombie burst onto screen and tear someone apart. That is how real the world Brooks creates is. As absurd as it may sound, everything and every action is so believable, which is why you can so easily confuse it with our own world. Whether it’s the nuclear warfare reactions between certain countries or the different tactics used by each country, you believe it. And in the aftermath, the camps of refugees and the emergence of unexpected countries and currencies; as out of the ordinary it is, it is so natural in its place not once can you question it.

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It’s the exploration of humanity and the depths it has to plunge to that makes this book so captivating, mixed in with the terrible action and violence. Hearing people’s own personal stories of the invasion, allowing us so many perspectives on the heartbreak and problems, make the book impossible to put down. You just have to know what happens next.

In short, the book isn’t about the zombies, it’s about us. It’s about humanity. And it’s about the lengths people will go to in order to survive. It’s a win-win situation; if you already love zombie type stuff then here’s your bible. And if you don’t, then you’ll still fucking love this because it’s bloody awesome.

★★★★★

(Which reminds me, I said I was excited about the film…but having read the book I have no idea how they’ve made this into a film, it’s impossible. There’s no one storyline or lead character, anything needed for the plot to a coherent film. Obviously they’ve made it from one person’s perspective but that destroys the whole point of the book, so how this can even really be called World War Z is a mystery to me. I will now still watch the film, however I dread to see the mess they’ve made of such an original take on a worn-out genre.)

You can buy it from Amazon, of course, but I’m not going to link it. Go find it at your nearest independent. We don’t like Amazon.

The Unknowns – Gabriel Roth

I’m telling you straight up, this post will be short. Not because I can’t be bothered to cover the book properly or anything like that but for the simple reason, I just don’t think it’s worth the time of day.

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                The potential was there – the reviews decent enough, the comment from Sebastian Faulks, ‘Fast, funny, full of snappy dialogue, and never losing its poise. Gabriel Roth is a find.’ Even the the book itself was a good looking one and I won’t lie, I was looking forward to it, and maybe unearthing a new favourite author. Unfortunately I didn’t.

It started strongly, but I suppose every book does in its own way, and I got into it pretty quickly. The first chapter captivated me and I rushed on, even more hopeful. However it wasn’t much later that I felt my attention begin to waver. The overly neurotic lead character annoyed me. Now I know such a person probably does think like this but to see it on the page in such a way about ridiculous things just didn’t seem right to me, and instead of sympathising with him I just got angry.

It wasn’t just him who annoyed me, pretty much all the characters did. None of them felt real, whether it was the lead and his supposed millionaire status (this just seemed ridiculous all the way through as he would keep saying things like ‘when should I tell her I’m rich), his reporter girlfriend, or the recently ‘out’ lesbian Cynthia. It all felt caricatured and stereotyped.

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In the end I was left wholly unsatisfied, rushing through the second half just so I could move on to the next, and hopefully better read. Promises made on the cover (‘Will our hero be driven to uncover the whole truth about his lover – or will they continue in bliss and wonder?’) were not kept and to be honest nothing really happened. Actually the word ‘hero’ there is absolutely ridiculous. And then it just ends. The ‘climax’ is reached and the book is suddenly over. It’s not that it prematurely ejaculates; more that it never even gets the chance to get close enough to pussy to even have the chance. For that to happen you need to be turned on, and this just won’t get you there.

Rant over.

Move on.

★★

(P.S. I know it says I’m currently reading World War Z and that review is just around the corner but I’m just waiting on my copy to come back so I can check a few details before posting…)

Notes of a Dirty Old Man – Charles Bukowski

To Funky Bukowski

I call you funky Bukowski, because

I think you’re nasty

Don’t get mad, cause, I like your

Nasty – it makes me hot to read

About; you looking up ladies dresses

Or jacking-off in elevators or sniffing drawers – to get

High;

Now I know you’re wondering who

This is writing you. Well I’ll tell

You who I am, nice and clear

 So there’ll be no mistake

In pointing me out. I’m the clean

Smooth cunt you think about

When you fuck those discharging wrinkled

Pussies, I’m the lady who sits

Down the row from you in the all night

Movies, and watches you cum and cum

In your jacket pocket, and I slowly hike

My skirt up, hoping you’ll look at my thighs

As you – get up to go wipe your hands, I call

It long dis-stance sex. But I love it

I love the feel of your heavy breathing on the

Back of my neck as you try poke your

Fingers in my asshole through the crack

In the seat; now you’re thinking, (it sounds

Nice, but I don’t remember you.) but from

Now on you will/think of me/and after all –

That’s what I wanted any way. My nasty

Man –

Unsigned

This poem, a column from Notes of a Dirty Old Man, is Bukowski through and through. Bold, beautiful and downright crude. The book is a collection of his columns from an underground LA newspaper and along with this short extract, they epitomise his gritty style that his fans adore him for. No one can write direct prose quite like Bukowski, his novels are for me near perfect, about nothing and everything; the tale of an alcoholic bum’s life. These stories are no different, although in much shorter form and with no continuing narrative due to it just being a collection, they are still written as himself or his alter-ego, Henry Chinaski. The tales are familiar; stories of fighting, women, booze and general low life behaviour. But the charm which Bukowski somehow manages to convey even when describing in graphic and disturbing detail and language is ever present. No matter how much he may disgust you at times you can never root against him in his battle against normal life and its inhabitants. His chilling realism is refreshing to read when sided alongside other fictional writers trying to present an alternate realityto the one we really live in. Bukowski makes no excuses, he hides nothing.

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It is plastered all over most of his books, Time magazine describing him as ‘a laureate of American low life.’ Others have said ‘A professional disturber of the peace.’ It couldn’t be truer and it drives me mad that the average reader will not have heard of Bukowski. Whether it’s poetry, short stories or novels you’re interested in, Bukowski wrote and excelled in them all. As big of a call as it may be, he is my favourite writer, and everyone should be reading him.

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