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.

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