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World War Z back to reviews
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High in fatty doom and gloom; Low in believable presentation.
While the book is an interesting take on the zombie apocalypse scenario Max Brooks drops the ball on two imporant aspects of this story.

The zombies are presented as a horrific and difficult to stop wave of dead corpses converting the living into more of their own. Veritable super monsters in their own right.

There in lies the problem. The zombies are unbelievably resilient to environmental conditions which would in the vast majority of cases speed up the break down of various tissues through dessication and destruction of tissue from excessive exposure. From surving crush depth of the ocean to magically retaining moisture and becoming little more then another dry set of bones in arid areas, to the extensive damage freezing then thawing causes to tissues, the zombies defy any rational consideration for environmental factors. In fact little if any consideration is given if at all as to the unbelievable resilience of the zombies.

The second error is more unbelievable then the first. Brooks portrays the various militaries of the world in an very unrealistic light. Suddenly numbers of professional soldiers are dithering cowards. Even worse is the very obvious lack of research given to how weapons actually work and their effect on a body dead or alive. The battle of Yonkers excessively dumbs down the military and grossly underplays the actual effect of the weapons.

While the book overall is an interesting read, the excessive liberties taken with the zombies endurance and the military demand too much suspension of disbelief. If Brooks had worked out a more believable scenario for the military being neutralized say being exposed early to virus in some form say an air born form that then mutates into the bite transferred version would have been more believable and honestly a much better story.
There are a several specific points where characters mention the impossibility of some zombie traits, like the submersible pilot noting their resistance to seawater. Most were towards the end, so methinks you didn't finish. It seemed clear to me that the author explained them as well as possible in a real world framework, but since zombies are inherently impossible for several reasons he had characters mention that they shouldn't exist, then shrug their shoulders since they clearly did. The other has been covered far more extensively elsewhere, like the headscratchers page, so I'll just say two things; humans are fallible, and weapons aren't worth a damn without ammo. Three; I thought he described their effects quite accurately, from the shredding effects of .50 machine gun fire to thermobaric bombs internal effects.
comment #15659 Westrim 4th Aug 12
@Westrim

That lampshading doesn't solve the main problem: WWZ attempts to create a somewhat realistic, plausible scenario about zombies, but is hampered by the fact that zombies are, by their very nature, utterly unrealistic and implausible. Ironically, it would have been more realistic to claim that the zombies were produced by magic - because that immediately provides a reason for why zombies survive crush depths, are resistant to gunfire etc.
comment #15661 maninahat 4th Aug 12
Only thing I can say is that zombie disasters like those depicted here probably aren't impossible, but they have just too many unnecessary impossible traits.

For example, a functioning immune system does exist in corpses for some time and would provide a good protection against decay, instead of a definitively-not-going-to-exist universal poison.
comment #15664 SeptimusHeap 5th Aug 12
Westrim: I read through the entire book cover to cover. I think you didn't pay attention what I pointed out. Saying they shouldn't exist doesn't fix the flaws in the story with the zombies presentation and the nature of the plauge in the first place. None of it explains the massive idiot ball handed around. It also doesn't deal with the fact the body is dead which means no new cells. Just walking around your bodies cells are dying. With a dead body once the cells are dead thats it. The tissue will start to rapidly break down especially with exposure to the elements and repetitive movements. Never mind the rapid desication that would shrivel the brain and further damage any remaining tissues. Most of the zombies wouldn't last a year. Also hardwinters dehydrate you just as much as hot summer day. Oh and having your body freeze does extensive damage to the tissue.

Also starting out the military had plenty of ammo and he did not accurately describe the effects of the weapons at all. Explosives do not kill by the completely fictional nerve shock trauma effect.

They kill by excessive heat, fragments, and destruction of internal organs, connective tissue, soft tissues, hard tissues nerves, and damage to the bones by the shock wave.

The zombies wouldn't be walking around with their lungs hanging out. They would be chunks and charred corpses with burned and mangled bodies on the outer edges of the blast.

Incendiary weapons would also be incredibly effective as they would rapidly destroy tissue and suck moisture out of the body. Any incendiary agents get on the head the zombie is going to have its brain boiled out of its skull. White Phosphorus is worse. It keeps burning until the fuel is consumed, removed, or smothered. It is noted to burn through bone.

He made the military whimp out at the slightest problem. Frankly thats horse shit. The battle of yonkers is utterly unrealistic. Also if zombies need the nervous system to work after reanimation killing them with nerve agents would mean no zombies. Nerve agents damage and destroy the nervous system as part of their kill mechanisms.

He also didn't accurately desrbie the effects of even medium machine gun fire, what a .50 cal ball round does to not just one person but inevitably many, how tanks and autocannons work and what they are capable of against infantry.

No he did not do the research. He frankly half assed it at best.

I appreciate the effort he went through to make the story more realistic but he dropped the ball with said reality in several places. A lot of the simple research needed to fix this is freely available both online and in libraries at the time the book was written.

He did a good job on society breaking down and people freaking out and mental issues though.

Septimus: The virus is what keeps the bacteria out. Once your body shuts down everything shuts down with it in very short order. Micro organisms producing a toxin to kill off rival micro organisms is well documented so that part isn't all that unrealistic.
comment #21716 TuefelHundenIV 24th Oct 13
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