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.
After the End: The framing interviews take place approximately 20 years after the Zombie Apocalypse began, roughly 10 years after humanity retakes the planet. The stories themselves take place during it.
The Alliance: When the Chinese Politburo is completely obliterated by a rogue sub's nuclear strike on their compound, the Rebels and Loyalists unite against the zombie threat, with much more success than the Politburo had.
All There in the Manual: Though it's not exactly necessary to read The Zombie Survival Guide, the book does expound on the history of the solanum virus and the ways to combat it. The book itself is given several passing references and is implied to have been made during the initial stages of the outbreak.
The Zombie Survival Guide is also spoken of by the interviewees as being imperfect, and so specific to survival in North America as to be nearly useless elsewhere. It recommends as essential things that were just flat-out unobtainable for people living elsewhere. Todd Waino dismisses it as some survivalist trash (complete with jerkoff motions), and the head of Radio Free Earth points out that not many people outside of North America would have a gun, or even running water.
America Saves the Day: Built up, but ultimately subverted. The American president decides to go on the offensive against the zombies to "restore humanity's self-confidence" rather than waiting for the ghouls to rot away. They also go on to lead the UN mission to wipe out zombies in other countries, as well as provide most of the troops and supplies. His successor, the former Vice President, mentions he could have "Made it an American crusade" but chose not to. However, while the US is the first nation to go on the offensive in the war, they can't do it without Cuban supplies, a hideously amoral but effective South African war plan, Indian battle tactics and an Australian on the ISS. It is Israel that is the first country to alert itself of the zombie threat, and Cuba that emerges from the war as the dominant economic superpower. The world's most populous postwar city is not Los Angeles, but Lhasa.
Societal Collapse: China is the hardest-hit country in the war, followed closely by Russia; it would be more accurate to categorize these as "extreme Class 1" because they manage to reform stable governments after a few years, but population centers that once numbered in the millions are now counted in the tens of thousands. North Korea probably fits into Class 2, given the theories about what happened there. Iceland is the only remaining country to be infected long after the war, because it's stated that the extreme winters bury a lot of zombies, and the summer thaws them out, forcing the UN to slog out an assault.
Species Extinction: Much of sub-arctic Canada, Siberian Russia, and Scandinavia (possibly worse if the animals went too), with Iceland still horribly infested and Finland only being cleared out now. Iran and Pakistan are also in this category thanks to their nuclear war.
Arc Words: Various forms of "you weren't there" are used throughout the book; sometimes to explain hysterical actions, sometimes to point out just how mundane simple descriptions of insane events actually are.
Art Major Biology: The robustness of zombies is portrayed inconsistently. In some parts of the story zombies' limbs detach quite easily. In others zombies walk along the ocean floor at crush depth with impunity. High explosives which should liquify corpses are ineffective because "they don't cause headshots," yet if zombies have the hardiness portrayed elsewhere it's surprising a bullet can get through the skull to the brain at all. Also, there's more to using a body than just having a working brain. A shredded muscle will not function - forget pain tolerance, it just won't respond. Characters either lampshade this by pointing out how none of this makes sense, or handwave it by saying zombies don't follow the laws of nature, and Brooks has said he purposefully took artistic license with these tropes.
The varying levels of "toughness" exhibited by the zombies is implied to be due to various decomposition levels. The more rotten, the weaker and easier to dismember. The Zombie Survival Guide, the previous book in the series, explicitly states that a zombie's environment will either quicken or slow how fast they decompose. World War Z mentions in several chapters how older zombies have rotted more; with several characters recounting these thoughts after seeing the state of the zombie.
Artistic License - Biology: The organ-smuggler claims that a transplanted heart from an infected donor would convey infection faster than an infected liver or kidney, because it has "direct access" to the cardiovascular system. While the heart does propel blood, it doesn't interact with the vast majority of blood that moves through its chambers; the liver and kidneys, which constantly add and remove substances from the bloodstream, would probably spread a viral infection much quicker than the largely-impermeable lining of the heart's chambers.
Artistic License - History: Clement Attlee was not, as one character suggests, a "third rate mediocrity" whose only claim to fame was unseating Winston Churchill, but one of the most efficient and effective British politicians of the 20th Century and a key figure in peace and war. This can be forgiven, though, as the speaker was an old, semi-senile, hard-left American politician nicknamed "The Whacko" who was known for getting very, very excited in debates.
Artistic License - Geography: Arthur Sinclair - director of DeStRes - describes his justification for agricultural land seizures in a way that does not reflect the actual capabilities of the area. Sinclair calls the land used by cattle ranchers in the west as "prime potential farmland" - however, in the West, cattle are run on dry rangeland that has insufficient irrigation to raise crops. In fuel-starved area (which the western strip of the US was described as) it would only be harder, not easier, to irrigate those areas. Using cattle to convert grass into protein is actually the efficient use of the land.
Artistic License - Military: At one point, a British character claims that the town council of Beaumaris should be given a VC (Victoria Cross) for turning the local castle ruins into a functioning fortification. In reality, the Victoria Cross is reserved solely for acts of exceptional bravery amongst the military - for similar acts of civilian gallantry, the George Cross would be awarded instead.
Ascended Fanboy: The Hikikomori in Japan, who later learns zatoichi skills from a blind man (who was only a gardener) in Hokkaido. In the forest. Surrounded by zombies coming in from the overcrowded cities. They kill lots and lots of zombies, and post war, they're forming up a civilian defense and preparedness organization.
Author Appeal/Shout-Out: Iron Maiden. Some of the music blared to improve troop morale and lure Zack into prepared killzones is reminisced about with a certain fondness by the veteran interviewee, who also quotes lyrics.
Author Avatar: Brooks himself, although he never mentions himself by name (he did play himself as the interviewer in the audiobook).
It's made pretty clear, though; when one interviewee disparages the Survival Guide as worthless, the interviewer responses, "Really?" The way it's placed makes it clear the interviewer wrote the Guide.
Author Tract: It's hardly subtle that what Max Brooks likes survives the war and what he doesn't like is destroyed or changed up, such as modern-day China being a first-rate failure that propagated the infection further, the unnecessary, wasteful spending of billions of dollars on things that don't work at all in the US Military, and Paris Hilton getting stabbed in the face after she pushes her assistant too far.
Arab-Israeli Conflict: Settled by the zombie invasion, by virtue of many involved parties being dead or infected (Iran and Pakistan destroyed each other in nuclear warfare, Palestine and Egypt became completely overrun, and hard-line, ultraconservative Jews who didn't want to share space with non-Jews rebelled, and were quickly crushed), and Israel making peace by inviting in Palestinians previously in Israeli territory, with strict but fair conditions. Even that didn't stop people from trying to carry out the war, and Israel suffered daily mortar attacks, but those decreased as the zombies began swarming in.
Awesome, but Impractical: Most of the weapons the US Army uses at Yonkers. They use "Shock and Awe" weaponry against the zombies, which is ineffective against them, in addition to a combat system for infantry that allows you to hear and see everything your buddies are seeing. This does nothing for morale when it is stated that the aerial recon showed a horde of zombies millions strong marching out of New York when they were already having a lot of trouble against the front ranks. Also, a soldier is ambushed and torn apart outside a house, and his camera gets all of the action. This stuff, along with a plan that ignores much of the good terrain, written by armchair generals who had spent decades preparing for World War III with the Soviets, allows the army to be slaughtered. This happens all over the world, apparently—South Korea had a similar incident at Inchon.
MHTELS (Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser) and Zeus, anti-missile and anti-mine technology, respectively. Terribly inefficient for anti-zombie work, as they take forever to kill organic targets, but make for great propaganda footage, because they make heads boil apart. Which subverts the impractical part; since some people are so bloody sad they croak from Broken Heart Syndrome.
Also, the guy early in the outbreak who fights the zombies by strapping on some rollerblades and attempts to mow down zombies with a meat cleaver attached to a hockey stick. He doesn't make it home, as he gets tripped by a zombie, is dragged into a sewer by his ponytail, and then gets mocked by Paris Hilton after a news camera catches it.
The tactic used by the US Armed Forces in the American reclamation is almost this: two lines of infantry, stretching the entire continent, moving in synchronicity. The line wasn't in step, for obvious reasons—differing terrain and weather, places that required a grouped offensive, et cetera. Todd Wanio discusses having to wait weeks at a time before bad weather stopped hampering them and mop-up operations in places that the line missed.
Axe Crazy: Subverted. T. Sean Collins is an introspective slasher who is fully aware of his mental state, and is apparently regretful about it. He has a strong need to kill, preferably with melee weapons (firearms don't satisfy any more), and it got to the point where anyone he met face-to-face, he'd start considering the more efficient way to kill them - no matter who they were. He sates his lust by joining a mercenary unit and slaughtering as many zombies as possible. He states he will probably kill himself if the zombies run out, rather than slaughtering other humans.
Baby Factory: The Holy Russian Empire ends up resorting to these after the war ends, since there are so few young, fertile people left. The Russian woman the author interviews is currently pregnant with her eighth child; all her previous children are by different fathers, and they're taken away from her almost at once, presumably so she can get pregnant again as quickly as possible.
Badass Israeli—the State of Israel is literally the only country to take the initial reports of the zombie threat seriously and respond to them competently. This is attributed to a deliberate policy of considering every potential threat to Israel after the Yom Kippur War, no matter how ridiculous it might sound. The sheer level-headed planning and logic which Israel employs puts the botched reactions of all the world's major superpowers to shame. Israel's response is to build a massive structure out of reinforced concrete surrounding its entire border—aptly dubbed "The Wall"—like a modern Great Wall of China. In order to convince the world that they're honestly not trying to hold onto contested territory, the Wall is built on the old 1967 border lines, abandoning the West Bank and Jerusalem (Jerusalem isn't geographically very defensible). Then, they try to warn the world by presenting a detailed report on the zombie threat to the United Nations General Assembly. Finally, they announce that they'll let any Palestinians within the Wall if they go through medical screening first, again to try to convince everyone that this isn't a trick (few believe them anyway, but this arguably prevented an open war with the Palestinians). It is generally presented that Israel is virtually the only country to survive the Zombie War relatively intact (barring some isolated islands like Cuba). Of course, they did have to face an Israeli Civil War when the ultra-orthodox Jews got upset that they abandoned Jerusalem, but the IDF triumphed over the rebels because the ultra-orthodox do not participate in compulsory military training. Presumably such arguments about whether to abandon this territory died down during the first year of the zombie epidemic, when entire countries started collapsing and zombie hordes numbering in the millions seethed outside the Wall.
Anyone who survived to dictate their story post-war has to exhibit some level of badass. Especially Yonkers vet Todd Wainio, who carries about a fifth of the entire plot with his stories (and was voiced by Mark Hamill in the audiobook!).
The Indian general Raj-Singh, who had to be clubbed over the head and dragged into a helicopter by his men in order to get him to abandon New Gandhi Park. He also demonstrated the effectiveness of 18th-Century infantry tactics against the undead. He also sacrificed his life to save countless others by detonating explosive charges by hand, thus sealing off the Himalayan safe zones from the undead horde. Unfortunately, he's got a tarnished reputation due to everyone believing he ran from New Gandhi Park, but many people are trying to reverse this reputation.
Lt. Col. Christina Eliopolis managed to fight her way through zombie infested territory with nothing but a handgun and a voice on a two-way radio who may or may not have even existed.
The book also mentions a nun that defended her entire Sunday school with nothing but a candlestick and later takes part in the Battle of Hope. Never Mess with Granny indeed.
Three hundred college students from Claremont, instead of running for the hills fortified a college campus into a pseudo-medieval city, planted gardens, dug wells and managed to hold off almost ten thousand zombies. These guys are most certainly the example of the Badass Bookworm.
Badass Unintentional: Both the Japanese protagonists. Kondo Tatsumi was a imageboardotaku who spent the outbreak hacking into computers to glean more information about the zombies and hoarding any and all data he could find about the oubtreak itself—which came in handy when the invasion finally hit home, and, by both his research and pure dumb luck, manages to escape his infected apartment complex and get a World War 2 veteran's katana. At which he point he meets...
Handicapped Badass: Tomonaja Ijiro, a hibakusha, a survivor of the Nagasaki bombing who was blinded by the blast. Shunned by Japanese society due to his disability, he became a humble gardener. His knowledge of gardens and Japanese terrain allowed him to survive in the wilderness despite not being able to see. His combination of knowing the terrain like the back of his hand and having heightened senses (based on the zombies' moans, he's able to accurately sense the location of their heads for instant kill strokes) he disposes of thousands and manages to use what was left of Japan's natural features to dispose of the bodies... and that's before he encounters a scrawny nerd who he takes under his wing. It's implied they lasted through the entire war by themselves, long after most survivors had been evacuated or killed.
Badass Boast: "We might be facing 50 million monsters, but those monsters would be facing the gods!"
Bedsheet Ladder: The otaku in Japan escapes from his high-rise this way (he lampshades it, and says it was the only way to leave his flat without having to fight a bunch of zombies with no useable weapons), and nearly kills himself doing it, after slipping due to high winds and losing his grip—and ironically, saving his life by throwing him into the room of an old World War II veteran who still had his military-issue (but perfectly deadly) katana in the room. Averted, as he only goes the length of one sheet at a time, and has to loot every good sheet he can find to compensate for the apartments that are locked, infested, or both, and his scrawny nerd body wasn't meant for climbing.
Christian sects believing that the Rapture was happening, and engaging in such behavior as deliberately exposing themselves to the zombies.
To a lesser extent, third world countries, especially Africa and India. The Ganges River was choked with pilgrims who believed the river would cure them, and was quickly swarming with zombies.note In real life, the river is purported to have healing effects. Some African communities react to The Virus the same way they reacted to AIDS in Real Life; raping virgins, and bloodletting amongst other counterproductive rituals.
On the more secular side, there were some overzealous environmentalists (implied to be pagans, though) who believed the zombies were Gaia's Vengeance, attacking small towns (booby trapping trees and poisoning water supplies). Both the sects and environmentalists, however, were rare, and hysteria was only widespread due to alarmism.
The Russian chaplain who came up with the idea of chaplains taking responsibility for Mercy Killing infected personnel accidentally gave Putin the excuse to kill dissidents and undesirables under the guise of infection, and believes Putin did nothing wrong in making himself theocratic dictator.
A quiet Palestinian father goes Papa Wolf on his son in order get him to go with the rest of the family to the Israeli quarantine zone, instead of blowing his life away by becoming a suicide bomber.
"He knew that fear was the only weapon he had left to save my life—and if I didn’t fear the threat of the plague, then dammit, I was going to fear him!"
A suburban housewife allegedly tearing a zombie's head off to protect her children, and an old nun described as 5 foot, 100lbs defending her Sunday school class from a horde with an iron candlestick taller than she was (who later joins the Army!).
Berserk Button: Never hurt a dog in front of Darnell Hackworth. It doesn't matter if he's suffering from a fever, the rickets, and dangerously underweight, he will tear you a new one. Hackworth comments on it, saying that he hated dogs until he was forced to listen to puppies starve to death in a nearby pet shop.
Big Applesauce: The Battle of Yonkers was to intended to stop the zombies pouring out of it.
Brooklyn Rage: New York is referred to as the Hero City after the war. After World War II, the Soviets gave the title of "Hero City" to twelve cities that had displayed outstanding heroism during the war, many of which either held out against the Germans (Leningrad, Moscow, Stalingrad) or only went down after a heavy fight (Kiev, Smolensk, Minsk). From that, it can be inferred that a sizable group of especially badass New Yorkers managed to hold out in the city against the zombies.
Bittersweet Ending: Humanity's eventual triumph over the zombies comes at great cost—two-thirds of the human race dead, vast swaths of the ecosystem devastated due both to the zombies and human carelessness, the seas and the Arctic zones remaining perpetual battlefields.
Blade on a Stick: Maori warriors are mentioned using their indigenous weapons, staffs with crescent blades on top, to great effect against the zombie hordes. Zulu tribes in South Africa use traditional spears.
Black Blood: Zombie blood is black. One of the ways to tell a Quisling from a regular Z is that Q's bleed red.
Blood Knight: T. Sean Collins, the mercenary. He realizes that he is "addicted to murder" and will eventually either kill himself when he runs out of zombies to kill or face losing control and slaughtering actual people.
Body Horror: Kinda hard to pull off a zombie story without generous helpings of this. Special mention goes to the child Christina finds after her plane crashes, who is little more than a head attached to an empty ribcage.
Book Ends: "Don't worry, everything's going to be all right." Initially used by Dr. Kwang Jingshu's friend in an out of character moment to show just how bad the situation has become, it is used again un-ironically by the doctor himself near the end, since he believes everything really will turn out all right.
Boom, Headshot: A necessity in this case, and part of the initial failure by human militaries—most notably, the US Army at Yonkers—to repel the initial waves of undead is that human soldiers are trained to hit the center mass with repeated shots, not the head with one hit.
The "Lobotomizer", a versatile and efficient zombie disposal device developed during the war, is made from scrap metal from all the abandoned cars, and is little more than a sharpened, flattened entrenching tool.
The Sandlers: a MOS in the reorganized American Army, whose whole job is to reload empty magazines for the guys on the firing line. Without them, the 18+ hour firefights during the march East would be impossible.
Bottomless Magazines: Heavily subverted. A major contributing factor to the devastating defeat at the apocalyptic Battle of Yonkers is because the generals in charge never even bothered to consider how much ammunition their forces would need for sustained fire. A major plot point of the novel after this is the "Resource-to-Kill Ratio", how the survivor enclaves have to make the maximum use of their limited ammo production capacity. By the Battle of Hope, vehicles are only used to bring in cases of ammunition by the truckload for the infantry. See "Hollywood Tactics" below.
Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Among the things that Colonel Christina Eliopolis says are being dropped into the blue zones holding out are, "tools, spare parts, and tools to make spare parts."
Break Out the Museum Piece: A number of British people who were holed up in castles did just that, sitting on large stashes of combat-tested and proven efficient beheaders and skull-smashers.
Bring My Brown Pants: Todd Waino describes this happening to him and his fellow soldiers(both literally and metaphorically...maybe) in every section he's interviewed in except the final one.
Fernando Oliviera, the black-market transplant surgeon, wets himself as he shoots a zombie.
Britain Is Only London: Avoided. British supreme command is relocated to Scotland. Conwy, Wales served as the base of the reclamation of Great Britain. The defense of Caerphilly Castle in South Wales is also mentioned.
But What About the Astronauts?: They all were exposed to deadly levels of cosmic radiation due to their voluntary prolonged stay in space and the sole survivor died days after giving his interview. They did it so they could maintain the satellites in Earth orbit and allow the surviving people and nations of Earth to stay in contact, share information, and fight back.
Call Back: A diver who specializes in underwater zombie combat mentions the Chinese sub that was sunk in an earlier story told by a Chinese submariner. Todd Wainio and his squadron come across the church that Sharon the feral child had been trapped in during the Great Panic. Wainio also serves with the girl who sang "Avalon" at the Battle of the Five Colleges. Arthur Sinclair still hopes to arrest Breckinridge Scott. Jurgen Warmbrunn mentions having come across both the psychological evaluation of Stanley MacDonald and the blog of Fernando Oliveira's nurse in his research. Collins mentions MacDonald trying to find his peace among the monasteries in Meteora when discussing war veterans trying to deal with their trauma from the war. It's also strongly hinted that the old man Kondo Tatsumi gets his katana from is the older brother of his master Sensei Ijiro. A photograph of the old man as a young officer shows he had a little brother that would have been about Ijiro's age.
Cassandra Truth/Elephant in the Living Room: The Warbrunn-Knight report. Features detailed information on the first zombie attacks and forming patterns, and nobody in a position to affect meaningful change even reads it, save, perhaps for Israel.
Could Have Avoided This Plot/My Greatest Failure: Despite Israel's unexpected success in withstanding the zombie apocalypse, the people whose names mark said report still consider the whole thing a failure; the whole plot could have been prevented had it been taken seriously, but knew no one would - and they don't blame them. After all, who seriously thought something that only happened in books and movies and was only discussed by nerds would happen on such a massive scale?
The Captain: Captain Chen, and his son, Commander Chen.
Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Averted: not only the French interviewee remarks about La Résistance in World War II, but also specifies why clearing Paris' catacombs had been the hardest campaign of the war... And that they had to make it even harder because you couldn't use firearms (a single spark would blow up entire tunnels filled with flammable gas), only blades and air carbine (the latter being dangerous: if you missed and struck stone you could produce a spark and blow everything up). They did it with no external help, outside of the made-in-Italy air carbines that would work... if you were supremely lucky. And all in supremely treacherous conditions, where one step could send you barreling into a horde of hidden zombies ripping your face apart in water, dying in sewage, choked to death, or the various cave-ins.
Averted by the other target, the Italians: it's implied they fought hard and had a sufficient weapon surplus to supply other countries (it helps that most of Italy's weapon factories are in one of the most easily defensible areas of the country).
Cool, but Inefficient: Both played straight and subverted—the Battle of Yonkers used Shock and Awe techniques, but Zombies cannot be shocked or awed. Later in the book, they filmed laser weapons and their effects because, although they didn't do much against the zombies, they were excellent for survivor morale.
Continuity Nod: To real life, as her father made the same decision during World War 2. When ministers insisted on evacuating the princesses to Canada, the Queen stepped in with a similar quotable line "The girls will not leave without me. I will not leave without the King, and the King will never leave".
Corrupt Church: During the war, the Russian Orthodox Church took over the job of executing infected, as the officers, especially those who had gone through the decimations, often found themselves pushed over the edge by having to kill their men—or got decimated themselves. Eventually, either the church started abusing its power or the government took control of it; either way, Russia ends up as a totalitarian theocracy.
Corrupt Corporate Executive: Breckenridge Scott, who openly gloats about fooling most of the population into believing his rabies vaccine was a cure.
Cozy Catastrophe: A handful of countries managed to get by almost unscathed: Israel was pretty much the only nation that took the initial zombie threat seriously while Ireland and Cuba were isolated enough to be zombie-free. On the other hand, the Israelis had to contend with a brief civil war against ultra-Orthodox dissidents over abandoning Jerusalem and letting in goyim, and Cuba faced democratic upheaval with Fidel Castro willingly giving it to his people, guaranteeing his own legacy and ensuring he didn't get toppled over by an increasingly overpopulated, diverse, and liberal populace. North Korea meanwhile attempted pulling this off through having its entire population go underground to wait out the zombie apocalypse. Decades later, no one's in a rush to figure out whatever became of them.
The Apartheid South African government had a contingency plan worked out in case of a revolt of the native African population, one version of which went so far as to detail which locations and people would be declared lost causes, and included the nuclear option. This plan, Paul Redeker's "Orange 84", would be retooled into the "Redeker Plan" and was adapted into a Zombie Survival Plan by South Africa's black government, and later copied by other countries.
The otaku subverts this. He was looking for information online about zombies simply for e-prestige, but does not bother to learn, understand, or utilize the information in any way. He had no mental or physical preparedness, despite having every opportunity to do so. He realizes how childish his "information mining" is when he finds a government official's own plan, which DID use the information to create a real plan of action and preparedness, but still doesn't do so himself. His escape from his apartment is mostly by luck, and from half-remembered action movie escapes, not from real learning or preparation, and he only later begins to actually think about all the facts he learned online and how to use them properly; his first real thoughts about his knowledge are when he reaches the streets and remembers that he's mostly safe in the open, and he kicks himself because he never bothered to look up enough to be able to hotwire a vehicle when he had the time. The only real reason he survived the entire mess was because an apartment he happened to accidentally crash into after he falls off his bedsheet ladder contained a genuine military-issue katana.
While researching for the novel, Max Brooks interviewed representatives from various police departments, emergency responders, and Homeland Security regarding the best way to defend against a zombie attack. According to Brooks, almost all the people he talked to had put at least some amount of thought into the subject, as it is a common scenario used to train people to think about disasters.
Death by Materialism: The celebrity mansion/fortress on Long Island. They're overrun not by zombies, but by desperate survivors who had seen all of the supplies that they had flaunted through their live Internet and television feeds. It honestly never occurred to them that this was informing thousands of other people, who wanted to save their families, that they had this fortress. Directly commented on by the mercenary recounting what happened, who says he frequently wonders why the heck they didn't just stay where they were, without broadcasting it on live TV and Internet. His theory is that maybe they really could not keep quiet about it, that "celebrity" was an inner switch they just couldn't turn off.
Disability Superpower: One unusually troperrific chapter features a samurai with Daredevil-type blindness surviving alone in the woods. He was blind as a result of being a Nagasaki survivor, and became a Bad Ass simply by running away into the woods so that nobody would have to think about the useless old gardener that nobody likes. Using a spade to kill the zombies and politely thanking them for making so much noise before he did so just makes it better.
Another interview has a wheelchair-bound man taking up zombie defense patrols— crawling zombies trying to attack him from behind get his (perfectly mundane) wheelchair instead of his legs.
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 Solanuminfected 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 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 humansbeingtotal jerks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Subverted with General Raj-Singh. He tries to do as such... only to be bashed over the head by his men to force his retreat. Later double-subverted when the Indian Army attempts to blow up the mountain passes to the Himalayas Safe Zone, the explosives fail to go off. Raj-Singh goes back, on his own, and detonates the charges manually.
Played straight with the ISS crew.
The German "Rapid Reaction" Force that was ordered to "hold to the last".
The US Special Forces that were para-dropped into zombie-infested areas to help beef up the "Blue Zones".
Most of them knew they were in it for the duration. Not all of the Blue Zones remained safe. Some were eventually overrun. A lot of heart. All of them.
The French soldiers who cleared the Catacombs of Paris (a very deadly and horrific campaign that saw more people killed by cave-ins, friendly fire, drownings by flooded catacombs, and weapon misfires than zombies themselves), particularly the soldiers who died at the battle for "The Hospital".
One squad against three hundred zombies. One squad led by my baby brother. The last thing we heard before the radio went silent was his voice on the radio: "On ne passépas!"
The US President, probably an expy of Colin Powell. As his Vice President would later recall:
"Do you know he never tried to find out what happened to his relatives in Jamaica? Never even asked. He was so fiercely focused on the fate of our nation... I don't know if great times make great men, but I know they can kill them."
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.
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
Ultimately subverted, as it's not zombies running to the gates to get in and eat, but uninfected humans, trying to get in to survive.
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."
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.
The Russians quell rebellion among their troops by enacting decimations in the classical Roman sense of the term. This(along with a thoroughlyCorrupt 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.
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.
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".
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".
Make the Bear Angry Again: The Holy Russian Empire. There were some damned smart and damned ruthless people in Russia during the Great Panic. When soldiers sent to eliminate Zeds got cold feet and rebelled, their commanders decimated them - forced every ten rebels to kill one of their number or be executed. The sheer horror of that choice made every single survivor so dedicated to Just Following Orders that they pretty much took a vow to never make a choice again. The only thing they wouldn't do was kill a fellow soldier - even Zombie Infectees. Instead, they would commit group suicide - uninfected right alongside infected. That is, until a shell-shocked priest present at one killed the infectee himself, proclaiming that as a Man of God, he would take the sin upon himself so the soldier could die cleanly. Cue priests being given carte blanche to eliminate infectees... Or anyone deemed "infectees"... such as political dissidents...
Mama Bear: When Mary Jo Miller's daughter was nearly eaten by a attacking zombie, she ran up and literally tore its head from its shoulders with her bare hands.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Mets Fan: an ordinary skywatcher, the hallucinated product of a desperate mind's subconscious survival instinct, or the goddess Metis herself?
Militaries Are Useless: In the first half, every single armed force of the world (save for Israel and... that's all) holds the Idiot Ball until the world gets really screwed. For example, the Battle of Yonkers, where the military fails to bring enough ammo to wipe out the waves of zombies. While the zombies being protected by solid Plot Armor -only headshots seem to affect them, and things like napalm and high caliber explosives that should transform them into liquid bits of corpses are ineffectual- doesn't help, armies still make most bad decision that caused the apocalypse. Part of the reason is that the story seems to take place in an Alternate Universe that isn't quite so obsessed with Zombie Apocalypse-themed media, making a real zombie apocalypse an Outside-Context Villain. They really get better once the situation has become critical, though.
Mission Control: Christina Eliopolis, the former fighter pilot-turned-C130-pilot whose plane goes down in zombie-infested swampland, is talked through the experience via radio by a "Skywatcher" (military personnel and civilian volunteers who are airdropped to help direct the military's supplies to stranded bases and cities) to safety. But, as it turns out...
Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: The Skywatcher helping her supposedly got way more involved than any other Skywatcher, though Eliopolis denies this. Military psychologists also told her that her radio broke as soon as she hit the ground, that the Skywatcher going under the name "Mets Fan" never existed, and that "Mets Fan" was either short for a Greek Goddess or standing in for her mum.
More Gun: The Army takes this approach at Yonkers, throwing every kind of weapon they had into the setup. This includes weapons meant for use against hard targets such as bunkers and tanks, and weapons that are great for inducing fear or debilitating wounds over large numbers of soft targets. Unfortunately, with zombies there's only two ways to make a kill: destroying the brain or completely obliterating the body. The latter was achieved in bulk—Todd explains that "It was a meat grinder, a wood chipper..." until the guns ran out of ammo (also to Todd's disgust: the brass apparently believed in Bottomless Magazines, and had spent logistical time and effort on bringing in useless junk such as field latrines and bridgelayers to this urban battlefield instead of bringing in ammo) and most zombies simply stepped over the liquified remains of the first rank. Not enuff dakka.
Motivational Lie: Roy Elliot admits that his wartime films were this. Morale was so low among Americans that significant numbers of people were apparently dying of pure despair. So he made propaganda movies showing inefficient, expensive weapons vaporizing zombies so that people would believe and pull themselves through the crisis. It worked. He also strongly hints that many other filmmakers were doing this, specifically mentioning how his friend "Marty" (almost certainly Martin Scorsese) made two versions of a film called The Hero City showing people under siege from zombies. The one released during the war is a portrait of bravery, kindness, and determination under pressure from those heroes under siege. The postwar version shows the truth, including that many of those "heroes" were in fact cruel, evil bastards.
Must Not Die a Virgin: The former guard of the Long Island fortress manages to escape, but as he does he witnesses two people he thought were supposed to be political enemies (implied to be Bill Maher and Ann Coulter) "going at it" like there was no tomorrow. Which, for them, there wasn't.
New Media Are Evil: Lampshaded. The interviewer asks the pharmaceutical exec why people didn't hear from alternative media. The exec says that anyone from such media would be dismissed as crackpots. The book was published in late 2006, and even then, people would have posted the zombies on Youtube and Flickr the second they got an Internet connection. Thousands of people would definitely make CNN sit up and take notice. There's a grand total of one blog mentioned in the entire book, though it's implied alternate media was on fire with this stuff.
Played with, in the case of the nerdy Japanese kid. 2ch/2chan had been busy, but they had been gathering information on the zombie hordes solely for e-fame, not once focusing on the infection physically spreading to their homes. By the time Japan is completely overrun, all of them had completely useless information, thanks to Japan's lack of harmful weapons lying about. Tondo only survived by finding a WW2 Veteran's katana.
The general implication that Max Brooks gives, is that those of us on the internet tend to drastically over-estimate the extent to which "New Media" had penetrated into the general population.
Nicknaming the Enemy: Americans refer to the undead as "Zack", and the Europeans refer to them as "Zed": a take-off on how Germans would be called "Jerry" in World War II, or Viet Cong would be called "Charlie" in the Vietnam War. Zombies are also referred to as "Ghouls", frequently shortened to "G's", similar to how the Viet Cong would be called "VC". The reformed US military's new battle doctrine is described as trying to "out-G the G", which is a reference to a quote about US strategy against the Viet Cong. The Japanese call them "Siafu", which is another word for the African driver ant, due to their swarming and all-consuming nature.
Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Sharon, whose terrifying, heart-rending story is made even more so by her sheer lack of comprehension about what she's describing, and her innocent glee at being allowed to do a (frighteningly accurate) impression of a zombie.
Sharon's story about how the church she was holed up in as a child was overrun and some of the adults started killing their own children in order to "save" them from the zombies. Her own mother tried to kill her, but another woman (who lost her daughter to zombies) shoots the mom and tells her to run. She spends the rest of WWZ "feral," running from zombies and bereft of any other human contact. All this told by a very broken young woman with sound effects thrown in.
"I won’t let them get you. I WON’T LET THEM GET YOU!”
If you keep an eye on the other interviews with Americans, you learn that parents murdering their children to keep them from the zombies was apparently a frequent phenomenon. So were feral children.
The possibility that the person bearing your loved one's name is actually just a random person with very good plastic surgery, if you hire "Closure, LTD" to find their zombie corpse.
The 'Ferals', kids that were all alone, traumatised and somehow managed to survive. Years after the outbreak, the clean up soldiers keep finding them, and they still have the minds of kids—if they're lucky. Most acted a lot like rabid gorillas.
North Korea. The entire country just goes underground, and to date has not come back up. Nobody knows what's below the surface now, with some speculating that the whole thing is nothing but zombies.
Howard Stern survives the war, and even gets his radio show back on the air after civilization is restored - a fact which Jessika Hendricks finds massively unfair.
Geraldo Rivera goes down at Yonkers. He at least had the token dignity that he was trying to defend himself with a revolver when he got swarmed by the zombie horde; a lot of the other reporters and celebrities died like cowards.
The wartime President and Vice-President are implied to be Colin Powell and Howard Dean, and the pre-war President's Chief of Staff appears to be an angrier Karl Rove (his name is given as 'Grover Karlson', just to make absolutely sure you realize who he is). Meanwhile, Barack Obama is mentioned in passing as having been the first choice for Vice-President of the bipartisan wartime U.S. government, but he was passed up because the idea of both the President and Vice-President being black was too much for some people to bear.
Todd Wainio states at one point that he had a squadmate he swore to God was Michael Stipe, but was never able to get the man to admit it.
Nelson Mandela has a brief cameo, though he is only referred to as Rolihlahla, his original given name.
Martin Scorsese is implied to have made a masterpiece film about the Battle of Hope, but he's only referred to as "Marty."
"Roy Elliot" seems to be an expy of Senor Spielbergo. He actually really helps the war effort by making morale-boosting propaganda movies, initially just using his own hand-held cameras to make documentaries funded out of pocket, similar to the kind that got us through the darkest days of World War II.
Noodle Incident: There are many, since the book is written as if the reader survived the events, and these are assumed to be (in)famous events everyone knows about.
Particularly chilling references are given to battles like "Black Hills" (where the Americans first destroyed rebellion strongholds—it's implied these were the ones that split away due to the massive, and harsh, shifts in Government the US had to undergo, not the typical far-left/far-right strongholds that would pop up - basically, normal Americans). Other references appear to be this until they are elaborated on later in the book. For example the "Battle of Yonkers" and the "South African war plan" are mentioned in passing since early in the story, so when the chapters finally arrive that start with characters stating that their interview will give an eye-witness account of Yonkers, or the details of the South African (Redeker) plan, you're filled with dread at what they're about to reveal.
China Lake Weapons Research Facility is mentioned in passing several times. Aside from a high suicide rate and an unusual amount of Section 8s (psychological discharges), it's for the best we don't know what, in the words of Todd Wanio, "those sick fucks" were doing.
The fate of the Queen and the final broadcast from Buenos Aries also get several mentions in the book.
No Party Like a Donner PartyThe northern Canada wilderness refugees, after overfishing, exposure, and sedentary city life kills a majority of them, turn to using the now plentiful corpses as food. Yum.
By Christmas Day there was plenty of food.
Not Distracted by the Sexy: One of the survivors tells a story about watching an old porn film at his friend's bachelor party post-war. The lead actress is having sex on the hood of a BMW Z4, and the survivor can only think about what a shame it was that no one builds cars like that anymore.
Not So Different: The zombies swarm and devour every living creature they encounter. Guess what the waves of refugees fleeing to the North Canadian wilderness do with the available resources?
Not Using the Z Word: They used words like "Zack," "Zed," "Z," and "Zed Head." When the word "zombie" was used, it was with the sense of how awkward and weird it was to use it, because zombies are movie creatures, but the creatures encountered by the survivors of World War Z could not really be described by them in any other way. "G" is also used a lot in the more military portions of the novel, apparently being short for "Ghoul".
Nuke 'em: Deconstructed. Iran and Pakistan wipe each other off the map by launching their nukes at zombie-infested cities. The interviewee wonders how many uninfected were vaporized, and how many people died of radiation-induced illnesses the world over from the fallout.
The Chinese Civil War is also ended by nuking the Politiburo's bunker.
Avoiding nuking in the Himalayas is the focus of one story, since that last ditch plan would have given the zombies a nice gentle ramp to follow the refugees.
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 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.
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 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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The CIA director points out that they didn't and never had anything close to the resources people think they do. Waino also points out that the movie made about the Battle of Hope was unrealistic.
Actively subverted by the filmmaker, who 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.
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.
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: invoked 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.
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.
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.
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".
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 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.