World War Z
is a 2006 companion piece to the The Zombie Survival Guide
by Max Brooks. (Who is the son of Mel Brooks
and Anne Bancroft. Seriously.)
The book is designated satire, as it has a combination of horror, drama, and sociopolitical commentary. It's written as a collection of interviews with survivors and important figures telling the story of a Zombie war
that nearly causes the extinction of mankind. In the Z war 'verse, zombies come about through a virus called Solanum
and it spreads in the usual way per the John Russo rules about zombies. The zombies themselves seem to operate following a bit of the Russo rules and a bit of the Romero rules.
More recently, Max has released the short story "Closure, Ltd." in the zombie anthology The New Dead
, set in the same style and universe as World War Z
. In it, Max interviews the head of a company dedicated to finding closure for survivors of the zombie war—namely, by killing their zombified loved ones. This has now also been published in a (very short) short story collection Closure Limited and Other Zombie Tales
which includes another story explicitly set in the World War Z 'verse (The Wall
), one which may be and another which is completely disconnected featuring zombies versus vampires
This page refers to tropes found in the novel only
. For tropes relating to the film, go to this page.
The book contains the following tropes:
open/close all folders
- Eat the Rich: In one story, a bunch of celebrities lock themselves in a well-armed and supplied compound during the outbreak. It falls not to zombies but to the starving masses.
- The Emperor: The new Tsar of the Holy Russian Empire. It is implied he's Vladimir Putin.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: The Indian Engineer who is forced into guarding the mountain pass during the Indian evacuation notes the mass amount of monkeys also fleeing. He later gets pissed on after a general detonates the roadside bombs, blocking off the road.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Dogs could detect Solanum infected and would freak out. Certain dog breeds were used to hunt zombies, and to attack and kill them where humans could not easily get in/out.
- The Israeli government employs them to screen refugees.
- The Extremist Was Right: The Redekker plan is a fine example of this trope, literally having been made by a sociopath for sociopathic racists (it was an evacuation/battle plan for the notorious South African Apartheid government, in case black rebellion toppled the government and its cities).
- Fan Disservice: In-universe, the Japanese otaku mentions that he fantasized about seeing a pretty neighbor naked. When he finally does, it's in the middle of the Zombie Apocalypse and she's just committed a Bath Suicide, and is bloated from decomposing gas.
- Film of the Book: Released in mid-2013.
- Film Within A Novel: Victory at Avalon: The Battle of the Five Colleges. See above. Also Anacapa, Mission District, Dos Palmos, and Fire of the Gods, the latter pretty much Backed by the Pentagon and the first of Wonder Weapons, which were Based on a Great Big Lie, as the technology they depict is useless against zombies, but images of zombie skulls literally being vaporized in slow-mo worked wonders for morale. All directed by Roy Elliot, Steven Spielberg's Captain Ersatz. There's also Hero City, directed by Martin Scorsese, of which there were two versions: one, which was pure inspirational propaganda, and the other a more unbiased view including plenty of examples of humans being total jerks.
- Four-Star Badass: General Raj-Singh.
- French Jerk: While nowhere as bad as most examples, the French soldier who was part of the campaign to clear the catacombs of France underneath Paris is dismissive of non-French cities (especially their architecture) and is condescending toward most of the other anti-zombie campaigns in the wake of the Great Panic, but for good reason: the operation in France's catacombs was one of the most dangerous, absolutely hellish anti-zombie campaigns, thanks to the incredibly cramped quarters that made firearms extremely dangerous (any propellant would have caused a spark that can cause cave-ins or immolate any soldier, thank to the gases in the catacombs, and the air-powered guns were unreliable) and most melee weapons useless, with not enough room to swing properly. This, on top of flooded portions that required divers to dive in pitch-black water with no oxygen tanks. Needless to say, his dismissiveness of other soldiers bragging about their campaigns is warranted.
- Fun with Acronyms: Noted in-universe with "Data Oriented Asset" dogs and DeStRes, the DEpartment of STrategic RESourses (pronounced as "distress"). Its head, Arthur Sinclair, wishes he knew who came up with it, because it sure was hell as appropriate, the department having been formed after the absolute failure at Yonkers.
- Gas Mask Mooks: Ever wonder what it felt like to be the mook? Ask Todd Wainio. The US Army brass made MOPP-4 chemical warfare gear the infantry uniform of the day at Yonkers, hoping to create the appearance of a uniform horde of military killing machines, ready and able to mow down the shambling horrors. Of course, to the actual troops on the ground, the result was "The boss is making me wear all this hot, heavy, movement-restricting junk. Clearly they've never tried aiming a rifle wearing this mask, or changing a magazine wearing these gloves, because this makes my job twice as hard", while allowing officers and civilian reporters to freely wear non-protective clothing.
- The earlier Zombie Survival Guide stated that a gas mask was essential to fighting zombies, since 1) zombie blood getting splashed in your mouth or eyes would kill you (Solanum-infected tissue is toxic) and 2) Zombies smell like rotten meat and they're more than likely to munch your face off while your doubled over puking from the stink.
- Genre Blind: The American general officers in command at the Battle of Yonkers take this to an extreme.
- This is why there's a self-consciousness when the author and others in the story use the word "zombie." They never believed them to be real until it happened.
- Get a Hold of Yourself Man:
- Fernando Oliveira gives Rosi, one of the nurses at the hospital he works at, "a good one across the cheek" after she sees the patient Herr Mueller flatline, reanimate and kill the heart surgeon Doctor Silva. He's on the receiving end shortly afterwards courtesy of Graziela, another nurse, after he goes to see for himself and manages to blow off Mueller's head mostly by sheer dumb luck.
- Todd Wainio describes how, at the end of the disastrous Battle of Yonkers, he panicked when some of his fellow soldiers tried to drag him to safety - thanks to his heavy mask he couldn't see who it was and assumed it was zombies until one of them punched him in the face. That calmed him down, since "Zack don't punch."
- Global Currency: Due to the way things go, Cuban pesos become the most accepted currency in the world, in places that aren't on a barter economy.
- Grande Dame: The Queen of the United Kingdom is an example of the more heroic version of this trope.
- The Greatest Story Never Told: The 'Alpha Teams' deployed by the United States the initial outbreak sites to 'deal' with the problem. In this case though, the reader is just as clueless as everyone else to their stories, since the records were sealed for 140 years.
- To a lesser extend, the book is littered with implied stories all over, that sometimes are connected in two or more interviews.
- Grievous Harm with a Body: One survivor, formerly a professional wrestler, is noted to have done this with a zombie.
- Guilt-Free Extermination War: Discussed, and subverted at points. Roy Elliot notes that, if they had been fighting a human forces, a great majority of what the coalition forces did - such as using "prisoners of war" in propaganda films about hi-tech lasers vaporizing zombie heads - would be war crimes. But a lot of soldiers had to get past the fact that these zombies used to be someone's loved ones.
- Heel Realization: The guy narrating the celebrity mansion story realizes that the people attacking are human, not zombies.
- Helicopter Blender: A helicopter pilot tries this at the Battle of Yonkers. The pilot is spoken of with praise, and did at least manage to kill quite a few zombies, but the damage his rotors sustained caused him to quickly crash.
- Heroic BSOD:
- Paul Redeker, who spent his whole career engineering how to save the elite white population of South Africa from a populist black uprising through sacrificing "unnecessary" citizens in a patently amoral, emotionlessly logical, and detailed survival plan. Then the zombies show up. But it's when he's embraced by Nelson Mandela that his emotional isolationism cracks and he embraces his own humanity. He also goes crazy and assumes the name Xolelwa Azania.
- Lots of soldiers in the US Army suffer from this. One was a professional wrestler who broke down after smelling perfume that reminded him of someone he knew. Another man reached his abandoned home outside of Chicago and shot himself. The heroine of the Battle of Five Colleges—Sergeant "Avalon"—survived a battle against 10,000 zombies and stoically led a squad during the offensive to reclaim the American heartland, only to finally breakdown after seeing, of all things, a turtle. By this point in the war, seeing a turtle was like "seeing a unicorn" due to how few survived.
- Heroic Sacrifice:
- Hollywood Tactics: In-universe: The Battle of Yonkers goes straight past this and into holding the Idiot Ball. The major reasons enumerated are:
- Using anti-vehicle weapons against a massed human-wave attack.
- Being honestly surprised that they ran out of ammo for even the anti-tank weapons after half an hour of continuous fire.
- Running out of ammo in the first place.
- Only having one line of defense.
- Wasting resources and energy to build cover (blasting tank bunkers out of parking lots, even!) against a force without ranged weapons.
- Not putting soldiers in positions of overwatch.
- Failing to totally secure the combat zone.
- Reserving artillery until the enemy is in sight of said infantry line.
- Firing all your artillery at the initial small groups of zombies instead of letting the lighter guns handle them.
- Keeping the Air Force completely shut out until one emergency bombardment with a thermobaric bomb - whose effective radius was limited since the zombies don't react like humans to overpressure or intense heat... or getting their lungs ripped out.
- Deploying all soldiers in MOPP gear who had not been trained to move and fire in that gear, and in a completely unnecessary environment, as reporters and officers were not wearing protective gear.
- Failing to use the graduated stages of MOPP gear, by having infantry done the whole set of protective equipment instead of doing it in phases based on weather & threat.
- The zombies are resistant to anything that doesn't shoot them in the head.
- Hot Sub-on-Sub Action: A rogue Chinese sub faces off against a Loyalist sub.
- Humans Are Special: We're the only species that reanimates when infected with Solanum. Everything else just dies.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Various cases of people doing what they needed to do to survive...including some pretty grisly stuff.
- The Redecker Plan, which is this on a national scale. In order to keep the country alive, the "important" people would be gathered and secured in a single place to ensure the country can be rebuilt... and the rest of the population will be herded into enclaves which are armed and supported for the express purpose of giving the zombie more appealing targets that last as long as possible, so that the primary group has the least amount of danger. The enclaves are sent supplies and whatever other support is possible only as long as they are strong enough to remain a viable distraction. Most countries adopt their own variations of the Redecker Plan.
- Idiot Ball/Smart Ball: A good portion of the world, especially America, seems to be holding the former for the first act, then dropping it, then eventually picking up the latter. The really weird thing is that in some cases, it's implied to be the same people.
- Ignored Expert: The authors of the Warmbrunn-Knight report were one example. At the very least, it's pointed out no one would take zombies as a threat seriously, especially when China seemed to be the bigger, more credible threat.
- I Have Many Names: The Redeker Plan, the overall human survival strategy that came out of South Africa, later gained nation specific monikers, such as the Chang Doctrine in South Korea or the Prochnow Plan in Germany.
- Immune to Bullets: Unless you get the zombie with a good headshot, it isn't gonna work. It'll keep coming.
- Improvised Weapon: The genesis of the Lobotomizer, which was a lifesaver for the headache the government had to go through in terms of budget since it could be made from the plentiful and useless automobiles sitting around. Several other creative methods are also mentioned.
- Infant Immortality: Averted. Very much so. Played semi-straight with the Ferals, children who grew up without society, language, or their parents.
- In Name Only: Max Brooks more or less said this is pretty much what the film adaptation is, for better or for worse.
- Israelis with Infrared Missiles: The first official zombie warning and action plan come from Israel. As a consequence, Israel also manages to deal with the zombie invasion much better than many other nations, despite having a short civil war.
- It Can Think: What T.Sean Colins fears when he hears the inbound siege on the celebrity mansion is running for the gates.
If they could run, they could climb. If they could climb, maybe they could think, and if they could think... now I was scared
- It's the Only Way to Be Sure: When the Battle of Yonkers goes disastrously awry, the city is flattened with a thermobaric bomb. It doesn't work.
- Paul Redeker. His plan was amoral and a planned murder of millions of people, but it saved mankind from the zombies.
- The Ukrainian armed forces had a very sadistic method of 'screening' the refugees. The Kill 'em All entry shows it had a very good point.
- Jerkass: Breckinridge Scott. Proudly boasts about scamming millions off of scared people by perpetrating the myth that it was rabies, developing half-assed products that claimed to ward off Rabies (and bragging that he didn't care if it even cured Rabies), blames people's "stupidity" for buying "into the myth" when there was no information but his actively deceitful claims of rabies, and laughs when most of them wound up infected.
- The doctor who diagnosed "Patient Zero" will not stop talking about how stupid, uneducated, superstitious, and underclass he thought the rural folk he had to help were, blaming it on being "an old revolutionary at heart", being one of the Communist party's firm believes who were to smash superstition. However, he does seem to realize when telling the story how arrogant and snobbish his younger self was, and has a bit of sympathy (in hindsight) for those affected by the Three Gorges dam.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Paul Redeker. An emotionless, possible sociopath whose plan for dealing with zombies was originally designed for the Apartheid system - but he recognizes that it's impossible to save everyone, and Nelson Mandela himself accepts that the 'Redeker Plan' will save South Africa. Practically every other country adopts this plan as well.
- A celebrity (who is all but named as Paris Hilton) calls a guy who tried to fight the zombies on roller skates and gets dragged by his pony tail into the sewers 'a dumbass'. The mercenary who's retelling this event can't really condemn her when compared to the fake tears of the other celebrities watching: "Hey, at least she was being honest."
- Breckinridge Scott points out that while he didn't care if his products worked, he did make the effort to make a real vaccine for rabies, and market it as such. He also points out that he couldn't have done this so well if not for the government pushing it through to calm the masses. A press secretary even confirms Scott's claim, albeit unintentionally.
- Just Following Orders: Defied by the mercenaries at the Celebrity Bunker, who refuse to shoot the survivors besieging the compound because they'd been hired to shoot Z's, not people.
- Enforced by the Russians and the Germans.
- The Russians quell rebellion among their troops by enacting decimations in the classical Roman sense of the term. This(along with a thoroughly Corrupt Church) actually result in the re-birth of Russia as a global empire.
Brilliance. Sheer fucking brilliance. Conventional executions might have reinforced discipline, might have restored order from the top down, but by making us all accomplices, they held us together not just by fear, but by guilt as well. We could have said no, could have refused and been shot ourselves, but we didn’t. We went right along with it. We all made a conscious choice and because that choice carried such a high price, I don’t think anyone ever wanted to make another one again. We relinquished our freedom that day, and we were more than happy to see it go. From that moment on we lived in true freedom, the freedom to point to someone else and say “They told me to do it! It’s their fault, not mine.” The freedom, God help us, to say “I was only following orders.”
- German trooper Philip Adler refuses to abandon the refugees he's guarding - until his commander tells him his unit will be "punished with Russian Efficiency" if he doesn't. Adler complies, but plans to assassinate his CO the next time he sees him.
- Kill 'em All: The Ukrainian method for dealing with mobs of potentially-infected refugees is nerve gas. This revolts the troops that thought they were there to escort refugees into the safe zone - until some of the gassed refugees get back up as zombies.
- Kill It with Fire: Not the best way to kill zombies (due to them stumbling around and lighting other stuff on fire, plus long lag time), but definitely the best method for disposal.
- The American "Cherry PIE" round incinerates zombie brains to keep infected tissue from becoming Aerosolized. Every so often, there's too much incendiary in the round, which gives the stricken Zack Glowing Eyes of Doom.
- Laser-Guided Karma: The White House Chief of Staff at the time ignored the report on zombies, inadvertently condemning millions to death. When the writer finds him, he's working at a "Biofuel Conversion Plant". Specifically, he shovels shit for a living. So he has the same job with a pay reduction.
- Breckinridge Scott, who brags about having fooled the world into thinking that they'd been given a legitimate source of immunity, and has the gall to insult the journalists who showed the world the truth. That said, his charm eventually goes away and it turns out he hadn't quite prepared for the US and Russia making a deal to extradite the bastard back to US soil.
- Last of His Kind: Averted—the military encounters hundreds of self-proclaimed "Last Humans Alive" during the reclamation of the infected zones. The military referred to the crazed survivalist sorts who didn't want to go back to society as "Last Men on Earth" (or LaMOE, pronounced "lame-o") and the people who just survived and didn't fight their reintegration were "Crusoes".
- Laughing Mad: Breckenridge Scott, the Corrupt Corporate Executive who sold the placebo drug Phalanx starts giggling about halfway through his interview and doesn't stop.
- Loud of War: Of a sort; The "enticement mechanisms" each country uses to draw zombies into their designated killboxes, typically some sort of music; Africans use drums, Scots use bagpipes, Americans use "The Trooper".
- Old Media Are Evil: And a large part of the blame for the ignorance of the public about the true nature of the 'rabies' infected and the subsequent Great Panic goes to them. Warmbrunn and the former head of the CIA indirectly defends them, as, in the paraphrased words of the latter, absolutely no one is going to think the undead are rising en mass, when there are other, far more realistic threats at hand.
- Old Shame: In-universe, a decade after the official "end" of the war, the Department of Strategic Resources chief is still kicking himself over "Project Yellow Jacket", a pie in the sky plan to use plane launched, satellite guided micromissiles to kill the zombies. It was a massive waste of cash and materials, and produced nothing in the end.
- One Degree of Separation: If you pay attention, the narrators of various sections often unknowingly reference one another. A good example would be T. Sean Collins, who mentions that a man in his zombie-killing unit eventually had enough and went home. That man, Stanley MacDonald, had been interviewed earlier in the book. It's also implied that the sword Kondo Tatsumi finds belonged to his sensei Tomonaga Ijiro's older brother, though Ijiro's narrative says he has no idea what became of him.
- Some of the coincidences can be justified, in that the reporter would naturally seek out people mentioned in the narrators' stories.
- One-Man Army:
- One of Todd Waino's sections mentions a soldier who was a former pro wrestler. "He was a monster with a two grand body count, an ogre who'd once picked up a G and used it as a club for hand-to-hand combat."
- The blind Japanese gardener, before the otaku comes along.
- A nun, who protected her Sunday school class for nine days with nothing but a giant candlestick.
- Outside-Context Villain:
- The zombies, obviously. The US Army not having a clue how to fight the living dead gets them creamed early on.
- Iran also gets one in the form of Pakistan. Iran considered itself (and, early on, genuinely was) safe and secure, with abundant natural resources, highly mountainous terrain that was extremely unforgiving to zombies, and cities located far away from one another that could be easily isolated if one of them were to be overrun. Unfortunately, Iran's attempts to stop the flow of refugees from neighboring Pakistan, blowing bridges at the border, enraged Pakistan's government and triggered a nuclear war that destroyed both countries. The man being interviewed describes how, unlike India and Pakistan, which were well-armed longtime rivals, the lack of historic enmity between Iran and Pakistan and Iran's relatively infant nuclear weapons program meant that the two countries had never developed the mechanisms and diplomatic channels to prevent war between them.
- Papa Wolf: A man recounts that his father did this to him. As a Palestinian kid, he was against their family going to Israel and went on a rant about how his parents could go and "be the yehud's whore" if they wanted and loudly declaring his intention to become an insurgent. His dad stares at him as he finishes his tirade, then pins him against the wall and yells at him until the next thing he knows, they're on their way to Israel and he's sobbing the whole way there.
- Posthumous Character: General Raj-Singh, whose rediscovery of 18th century infantry tactics helped win the war years after his own death.
- The Power of Rock:
- The strategy for fighting back against the zombies is to form a defensive position, then draw them over open fields with loud music. Each country uses some variation on their traditional war songs—the Scottish use bagpipes, for example, and the South African Zulu chant and bang combat knives (The Sou'frican equivalent of the K-BAR is referred to as an assegai) against rifle butts. The Americans' choice? Among other songs, "The Trooper", which makes things doubly ironic because Iron Maiden is obviously not American and they use a Zombie as a mascot, along with the singer dying at the end of the song.
- The documentary of the Five Colleges featured a young woman who sang to pep up her fellow students for combat. She later shows up in the army under the nickname "Sergeant Avalon", after the movie.
- Pretend We're Dead: Doesn't work. The Quislings (people who have been driven insane by the Zombie Apocalypse and start to believe that they are zombies, and moan and shamble accordingly) are attacked along with everyone else.
- Primal Fear: Some people were so completely disturbed by the horrors of seeing zombies in such massive numbers, not to mention the trauma of having to run from or kill loved ones, that they would lie down to sleep and just die, their will to live completely gone at the idea of having to survive in a world like that.
- Properly Paranoid: Israel. The Israeli agent interviewed even said a degree of paranoia was already the Israeli intelligence's unspoken policy, because, thanks to their enmity with their neighbors, it was a survival skill. They were the only ones who actually took the threat seriously and took steps to defend against it before their country was completely overrun.
- The Israeli agent's American colleague, Knight.
- The Quisling: A psychological disorder here: it's another human psychological response to living in the Uncanny Valley and dealing with Primal Fear at all times. The human mind snaps and goes "if you can't beat 'em, join em," and the still living human begins to behave like a zombie him/herself. This offers no defense from actual undead, though. Many Quislings were so realistic that early news footage of zombies eating Quislings led to people believing that the zombies eat each other. While the zombies actually can tell Quislings from real zombies through various criteria, humans can only tell by a) shooting them and seeing warm blood come out, and b) seeing if they blink.
- Even worse, quislings that bite people don't make them zombies. Which means a lot of people used Phalanx, the completely fake anti-zombie medicine, got bit by a quisling, survived, and thought the medicine worked. There's also the very real danger of getting infected by their complete lack of hygiene—solanum is toxic to other microbes, but even the mouth of a living human who has brushed their teeth every day of their life is a hotbed of bacteria waiting to happen, one that can realise its potential very quickly sans regular cleaning.
- Perhaps even worse, once Phalanx was exposed, some people bitten by quislings assumed they were zombies, and unnecessarily killed themselves out of fear of infection. One interviewee mentions this almost happened to a squadmate before they noticed the "zombie" bleeding red.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: It's mentioned that in certain areas of Africa, infectees reasoned that they could cure themselves by raping virgins. This goes as well as you'd expect it to...
- Reality Ensues:
- During their exile, the Chinese submarine crew discovers a number of vessels that are dead and abandoned because the people fleeing on them made no preparations for long-term survival at sea, the American zepplin pilot watched highways full of people fleeing the cities with no plan, and in some cases attempting to flee to cities that others are fleeing from, and an entire segment is dedicated to the panicked flight to Northern Canada that resulted in nearly all refugees being wiped out and Canada's ecosystem irreparably destroyed, thanks to the complete lack of logical planning on the part of the refugees, many of whom had time to prepare. The first two could be seen as a Take That at the Romero Dawn/Day/Land of the Dead movies, which ended with the protagonists driving/ flying / sailing away from the zombies with no real plan.
- Several of the stories revolve around this happening to people who didn't think things through. The Japanese Otaku had the realization that shimmying down so many flights isn't so easy on a set of bedsheets as the movie depicted.
- Played with the propaganda films. As the director talked about them he consistently lampshades the in-universe Reality of it, especially the high-tech weapons which performed nowhere near as awesome as they looked - they required that the zombie be almost still, or required impractical amounts of energy, but the shots of lasers punching holes in zombie skulls or a slow-mo disintegration of a face worked wonders for when human morale was at an all-time low, to the point were people were literally depressed to death.
- The mass of survivors that fled north and into Canada, hoping that the cold weather would hamper the Zombie horde and freeze them solid come winter. Unfortunately, most of them failed to realise that cold weather and the coming winter would prove even deadlier to the living and unlike Zombies, people need to eat in order to survive.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Arthur Sinclair, head of DeStRes (Department of Strategic Resounces).
- The US President in the safe zone. His tactics for maintaining peace and order (public punishments and the like) seem barbaric, but were actually perfect for their situation and were very successful.
- Redshirt Army: The numerous variants of the Redeker plan call for leaving "disposable" units behind to cover the retreat of more viable personnel.
- The Chinese Politburo sends armies of barely-trained and poorly-armed conscripts against the zombies, succeeding only in swelling the undead ranks. Similarly, the Russian Federation had many of its troops, implied to be reservists, armed with very poorly maintained WW2 equipment left out in the open. It's a miracle they didn't suffer the same fate as the Chinese.
- The Remnant: All of humanity to a degree, especially when the various versions of the Redeker Plan are in effect, but the clearest example is the United States, which is pretty much reduced to the Pacific bordering states and scattered enclaves.
- A more straight example is the Chinese Politburo holed up in Xilinhot during the Chinese Revolution.
- Since no-one is entirely sure if anyone within North Korea is alive, their government is considered this by default.
- Post-war, it's the White Zones and ocean floor that are, in effect, Remnant strongholds for Zack.
- Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: Since the zombies follow Romero rules, as stated on Boom, Headshot above.
- Retraux: Following the Curb-Stomp Battle at Yonkers, the US Army actually learns from its mistakes and adjusts its tactics to fight the zombies. As one veteran states, this involves going "back in time". Instead of high-tech digital displays and heavy artillery, there's a return to Napoleonic Wars combat doctrine, solid marching lines, one shot per second rifles, and a cross between an entrenching tool and a medieval battle axe. It works beautifully.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!/Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: T. Sean Collins and some of the other mercenaries at the mansion abandons the celebrity "hideout" when it becomes clear that the building is coming under attack not from zombies, but refugees, including women and children.
- Selective Obliviousness: In "Closure, LTD.", it's not that people don't mind that the supposed corpse of their loved one is someone else; they just don't care. It's symbolic, and that's all that really matters.
- Sergeant Rock: There's Sergeant Avalon who participated in the Battle (Victory) of the Three Colleges and her replacement Todd Waino. Also the French Sergeant, Renault, who's team happens upon an underground vault of at least 300 zombies, and, rather than simply denote the chamber and seal them in, they elect to sacrifice themselves to the last man to ensure the zombies never reach the streets of Paris.
- One of the characters Brooks interviews in the book tosses out a line from one of his father's movies, The Producers.
- Near the end, two Marines play a skit from "Free to Be, You and Me", another of his father's works.
- Jessika Hendrick's father (the family that drove up to the north in the first wave), sure seems to be described as if he's Mel Brooks.
"He was a gentleman in the most literal sense—he was a gentle man. Short, bald, a pudgy face that turned red when he laughed, he was the king of bad jokes and cheesy one-liners."
- In "The Whacko"'s finale at the end he talks about Winston Churchill, and a page later uses a fragment from one of his most famous speeches.
We're still at war, and until every trace is sponged, and purged, and, if need be, blasted from the surface of the earth, everybody's still gotta pitch in and do their job.
- Also doubles as an internal shoutout: the US Army's resuppliers and reloaders were called "Sandlers", after one of the reloaders mimicked Adam Sandler's performance in The Waterboy during a training session.
- And a Russian priest who fights zombies, with a messiah complex bigger than Jesus.
- Arthur Sinclair, Jr., refers to the idea of "tools and talent" as "a term my son had heard once in a movie." This is likely in reference to Winston Zeddemore from Ghostbusters saying, "We have tools! We have talent!"
- The story about the Long Island celebrity fortress is highly reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death.
- There's one part where the astronaut mentions that the zombies must have found a high concentration of rabbits in the south of England and dug a large hole.
- Christina Eliopolis refers to her sidearm as her "Meg." A footnote mentions this a common name for the sidearm, and posits the name comes from how the suppressor, scope, and stock attached to the pistol◊ make it resemble the original Megatron, though it notes nobody has confirmed this as the source of the nickname.
- Two K-9 unit escort dogs are named Pongo and Perdy.
- The Siege: The Hero City, all those other little holdouts, and the defense of the Five Colleges in California.
- Significant Green Eyed Red Head: Sharon, a "feral" kid who was rescued and partly rehabilitated, who describes the outbreak reaching her town and serves as exposition for 'ferals', children who were abandoned or orphaned during the outbreak and grew up as Wild Children. She's described as exceedingly pretty—if it wasn't for the fact she has the mind of a four-year-old.
- Slow Clap: Mocked. The person narrating the UN meeting and America's decision to go on the offensive said that, after the US President's big speech to retake the world, it'd be the sort of bullshit, cheesy speech that'd be followed by slow clapping and maybe the camera focusing a tear slide down someone's cheek. Instead, the UN council stares at him in stunned silence.
- A Storm Is Coming: Alluded to in the opening chapter. Boy, is it.
- Strawman News Media: A lot of people got infected or trapped by infected because the media didn't sit up and pay attention until it was too late. At the very least, it's repeatedly mentioned no one would believe zombies rose from the dead until they were knocking on their door, but it's still portrayed as inexcusable.
- Straw Vulcan: Paul Redeker, who firmly believes that empathy only inhibits human progress, and made the original, extraordinarily racist Redeker Plan for Apartheid-era South Africa because he saw no reason not to. When Nelson Mandela shows extreme empathy for him, he snaps and develops a split personality, far more cheerful and compassionate than Redeker ever was.
- Take That:
- Against himself—one interviewee (Barati Palshigar, starting from page 194 for the Three Rivers Press edition) comments on Brooks' survival guide being useless because it was written by an American, for Americans... and thus not a whole hell of a lot of good to people living in vastly different cultures and environments (not every country will allow you to have an assortment of firearms and blades lying around the house just in case the dead rise). It's also dismissed (after a fashion) by Todd Wainio, complete with a masturbation joke.
- There are also plenty of Take Thats toward obvious celebrities, usually highly-obvious copies of contemporary celebrities, including a a thinly-veiled Karl Rove, Bill Maher, Ann Coulter, Paris Hilton, and various movie stars and musicians.
- The Rove-surrogate is found literally shoveling manure.
- Also against other zombie literature, in a metafiction manner—it's repeated several times that there were rampant rumors that the zombies were fast (the 28 ... Later series, the remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004)), supernatural/demonic (Evil Dead, Doom, et cetera) mutating (Resident Evil), intelligent (Romero's later movies and Russo's versions of the Dead series), trainable (ditto), invulnerable (Russo's rules again), and there were many attempts to quell these rumors.
- Another metafiction shot at the 28 series: T. Sean Collins talks about seeing the thermal signature of the horde of survivors bearing down on the celebrity compound and thinking that they were fast zombies, but he quickly realizes that a real zombie wouldn't be giving off heat signatures, running, or having the mental faculties to actually run.
- Tank Goodness: Subverted and averted. At Yonkers, the tanks aren't carrying appropriate ammunition—anti-tank kinetic darts are worth fuck-all against the living dead. Later in the war (in America's case at least), tanks get mothballed because the resources required to use them (i.e. fuel and ammunition) don't equate to a higher number of dead zombies than, say, an infantry platoon would.
- Played straight in the army's reclamation of rebel enclaves in territory they're recapturing.
- Also played straight by the Russians, who use anything and everything they can against the undead, which includes running them over with obsolete tanks.
- This Is Reality:
- The CIA director points out that they didn't and never had anything close to the resources people think they do, but also admits that the illusion therof was something the CIA actively encouraged; they wanted the world to suspect the CIA of being responsible for all its woes, to fear its wrath, and perhaps think twice before trying to harm American citizens. He also admits the downside of this was a big reason the Z War harmed America so badly; Americans believed those same things about the CIA, and thus the agency became the Fall Guy for The War on Terror, was crippled by the resulting purges, and his personal efforts to prepare for the Z War were dissected in search of ulterior motives.
- Actively subverted by Waino, a filmmaker who admits that the movie made about the Battle of Hope was unrealistic, but also points out that when 'reality' is a zombie-infested nightmare of bleakness, misery and hopelessness where simply going to bed one night and subconsciously choosing never to wake up ever again becomes the best option, a movie being 'unrealistic' is not the worst thing in the world if it also gives people enough hope to build a better world.
- Too Dumb to Live:
- Jessika Hendricks explains to the interviewer how people (including her own family) traveling north packed horribly and were generally woefully unprepared to carry out their plans for taking advantage of freezing temperatures to protect them from zombies. She shows him a trash heap filled with DVDs, video game consoles, laptops, and other things that couldn't possibly be of any use to them, and describes people dynamite fishing and cutting down all of the trees in the area for firewood in the early stages of their camp. Hendricks blames all of this idiocy mostly on authorities and news broadcasts which advised people to travel north without providing any information about long-term cold-weather wilderness survival.
- The enclave of celebrities who broadcast their easily-overrun "fortress" to nearby urbanites who were either fleeing the zombies, infected or both. You do the math.
- The guy on TV whose plan of attack was to rollerblade at the zombies with a meat cleaver attached to a hockey stick and cut off the zombies' heads. He gets dragged into a sewer by his ponytail and then ridiculed by Paris Hilton.
- From a military standpoint, nearly everything the US military does at Yonkers. The soldiers wore HAZMAT suits that hindered movement and aiming on a hot day, ignored terrain advantages, brought in equipment that wasn't needed like portable bridges, and most crucially didn't have a sufficient supply of ammo. The grunt being interviewed bitterly lampshades this—it was all part of a ill-advised propaganda campaign that quickly went south.
- The extremist Israelis who rebel because Jerusalem was abandoned. They decide to attack the safe area instead of just going to Jerusalem themselves, where they would have, at a minimum, not had to face the one military on earth that faced the zombie completely intact.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: Land Warrior, Chinese nuclear subs and Comanches are deployed, the Chinese have a Space Station (though it turns out it's not much but an orbital denial system in case things heat up on the ground), and computers have voice-typing. One of the previous wars is heavily hinted as having been the Iraq War, and fuel-cells are used on boats, though it's apparently a recent post-war invention.
- Took a Level in Badass: Seems to be one of the books central themes. In the face of a Zombie Apocalypse, some people get killed and others get Awesome.
- Tomonaga Ijiro and Kondo Tatsumi. A blind gardener and a hikikomori, respectively, before the war. Together, they fight zombies. And did so until the Japan infestation was cleansed.
- A nun who ended up using a candlestick to kill zombies for a week straight, and then joined the army.
- A bunch of California college students turn zombie repelling force; outperforming the professional militaries of most countries. Damn.
- The campuses themselves go from ordinary academic buildings and grounds to anti-zombie fort.
- The US Army itself. Utterly humiliated at the Battle of Yonkers, forced into tucking tail and running for the Rockies, they alter their entire doctrine, equipment, and tactics, and become the first standing military force to initiate a counterattack against the hordes. It takes three years, but they literally scour the country and make the United States the first country to be liberated from zombies.
- As Sergeant Wainio explains, many of the new soldiers were people who prior to the zombie war would never been in a uniform. But when faced with extinction, many folks get in gear.
- Uncanny Valley: The fact that zombies never blink (which causes the milky-white eyes in older corpses, due to built-up dust, filth, and eye damage) is enough to make Waino and the New Army hesitates for a second during their first real engagement. It's also theorized that the sheer inhumanity of walking corpses is what drove several people into literally being depressed to death in having to share a world with freaks that shouldn't live.
- Unreliable Narrator: Since the book is a compilation of statements made by various survivors ten to twenty years after the events occurred, not every piece of information should be taken at face-value.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Gee, thanks China. If the Chinese government hadn't tried to cover up the plague, rather than sharing information with the rest of the world, billions fewer people would have died. Also the malice of the Chinese space station designed to blow up and cause Kessler syndrome, denying space to humanity for decades and taking out out most existing satellites, not to mention actively making the situation in their own country worse by attempting to Zerg Rush zombies. This does nothing but eventually end up with the rogue Chinese sub firing a nuclear missile at the government bunker, allowing the military to fight effectively.
- The Virus: Solanum, although never mention by name, is implied to be the reason for the living dead.
- Voice of the Resistance: Radio Free Earth, one of the only constants of the entire war. Given that a great deal of countries lacked access to the internet or television, and that radio waves couldn't be cut off by zombies smashing in the nearest data/broadcast center, it was a very vital resource for survivals, teaching them how to fight back and hole up.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: "Metsfan," the (possibly imagined or divine) Skywatcher that helped the downed pilot Christina Eliopolis get picked up in a white zone.
- The War on Terror: Not mentioned by name, but cited as a reason the Z-War hit so hard and without warning; described as "a brushfire war" that the CIA had "been ordered to justify" and later "became a political liability", it ultimately resulted in massive purges to America's intelligence network—they couldn't defend themselves without violating national security, so most of them left just when spies were needed to penetrate Chinese secrecy.
- We ARE Struggling Together: The book is a deconstruction of sorts to the "humanity forming a unified front against a global enemy" concept.
- We Have Reserves: the Chinese leadership's behavior, until the reserves rebelled and dropped a nuke on them.
- Deconstructed and discussed; the idiocy of employing this tactic when each of your casualties turns into an enemy is talked about and illustrated.
- What Happened To Mommy: One of the reasons the virus spread out of control; family members carry their infected loved ones across borders, even if they have to smuggle them past checkpoints, and even if the victim has gone full zombie.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In-universe: North Korea. No one knows what happened, no one wants to know, out of fear that they've been zombified if the theory that they're underground by now is true.
- White Man's Burden: 'Rich Man's Burden' in "Closure, LTD" is the reason Thomas Kiersted chose to take up his line of work.
- Wild Child: The Ferals, who are young adults, teenagers, and children who were either abandoned or lost by their parents during The Great Panic as very young children, or had their parents killed by zombies, disease, suicide, or other humans. Todd Waino compares them to very angry feral gorillas. There's a post-war effort to tame and reintroduce them into society; Sharon, the one who is interviewed, is described as one of the luckier cases since she has retained the capacity for language.
- Zeppelins from Another World: Part of the US anti-zombie defenses after the war is airships. Zeppelins can theoretically fly low enough and slow enough that snipers on board can pick of zombies one by one, they're more fuel-efficient and can cover long distances, both of which matter when you're trying to recover vast swathes of contaminated areas, they're airborne and thus safe so long as they stay that way, they don't need fuel to stay airborne and mobile (they're "just" uncontrollable), and your speed doesn't have to be very fast when the enemy's top speed is "shamble".
- Zerg Rush:
- The zombies, particularly massive chain-swarm battles like Yonkers. A massive human-wave attack in which individual zombies are utterly expendable, and using superior numbers soak up all of the humans' heavy ammunition, then just keep on coming. At the height of the war, the continental United States east of the Rocky Mountains is swarming with 200 million zombies, each of which is its own self-contained fighting unit. In contrast, the ~100 million or so surviving humans west of the Rockies are a support base for the small fraction of humans actually serving in the new military (its not as if babies and the elderly can fight). So the actual odds are truly something like two hundred to one.
- Also, the Chinese military's entire strategy up until the Revolution. Russia also attempted this... and was a tad more successful. The difference was that the Chinese attempted simultaneous zerg rushes against every city in the country, not establishing Safe Zones to use as a springboard for later offensives. The Russians actually did establish a Safe Zone east of the Ural Mountains, walled off all of their major cities, and then cleared each city one by one, using zerg rushes. The Chinese Politburo used zerg rushes because they were stubborn fools who refused to change tactics, while the Russians used zerg rushes mostly because most of their military was so antiquated and poorly armed that they had little choice.
- Zombie Apocalypse: naturally.
- Zombie Gait: It's mentioned a handful of times that you're better off in the streets, where you can easily outrun Zack, than in a bottlenecked building.
- Zombie Infectee: Many stories included the infected trying to hide their infection, and the methods used to detect the infection.
- Averted, however, in many stories where people were accidentally infected and completely at terms with what this meant, including one story where a man believed he had been bitten by a zombie who turned out to be a quisling. Ironically, he almost died of a staph infection as a result.