Reviews: World War Z
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.
"Perspective" is the name of the game. (Plus a side note on realism)
A lot of fiction just shows things from the perspective of the heroes. It's relatively rare to see how an average Stormtrooper feels about the Galactic Empire, or learn how a pedestrian will react when he finds out Spiderman used his car to beat up a super villain. What makes WWZ stand out is the different perspectives given. In a lot of works the apocalypse (zombie or otherwise) is just background while we follow a group of survivors. Sometimes it can almost seem lazy, writing off the government, society, and the world at large as "destroyed" so they don't get in the way of the story. Not so here. WWZ asks questions such as "What ever happened to North Korea? What Happened To The Astronauts ? " We get interviews from soldiers, politicians, refugees, even the K9 Corp. Instead of just focusing on America, each country has its own slightly different approach for dealing with the undead. Zombie Apocalypse stories are often said to be about how survivors react to a world with no society. WWZ is about how SOCIETIES react to a zombie Apocalypse, and it's a fresh perspective. A SIDE NOTE ON REALISM: Some common complaints i've heard about the book are that the military are too incompetent, or that zombies would be destroyed by some of the military's bigger guns. On the incompetence level, I think history has shown what screw ups we can be, and it's even more understandable with an Outside-Context Villain like zombies. Don't think of the book as "This is how society WOULD react" so much as "This is how society MIGHT react". On the "scientific accuracy" level I agree that some of his attempts to make the zombies more of a threat come off as hand waving, but I think he did his best. There's only so much realism you can put into something fictional like zombies. You may make Superman MORE realistic by making sure he can't talk in space or coming up with reasons they don't realize he's Clark Kent, but there's always going to be unrealistic things about a man who can fly. Same goes for zombies.
I'm Surprised by These Reviews (Update)
Listen, zombies aren't realistic. If you honestly think they have to be realistic to be good entertainment, I disagree. One review seems like a poor attempt at trolling. But you see, zombies aren't supposed to be realistic. Its a good book that these reviews seem to bash for the unrealistic pretense. Yes, Brooks was trying to get it to be realistic. But this book isn't set in the real world, and neither are those zombie films. The author even references why their impossible, but apparently that isn't good enough. The best thing about this book is the way the world reacts. And that's good enough for me. I recently reread the book, and while the satire is either offensive or dull, the general story is good. Some were too short, some were too long. But most were entertaining and I recommend this to anyone who liked Romero. But if your looking for a realistic zombie book, I don't think one exists.
Really Good Book
This book was an enjoyable read, so much so that I've re-read it several times and I've even gotten some of my friends who are not-so into the zombie genre to read it and they liked it too. I really like how the narrative, while it does focus on what's going on in the United States, has some international prescriptive. There's still some unanswered questions, such as "How did the Canadians feel about everyone fleeing to Northern Canada?" and "How did Australia fare during the war?" Actually, I guess you could wonder that about any country that didn't get a heavy focus. It's also interesting about how while there is some blood and guts type horror due to it being a zombie novel, there's some other scary stuff, like plenty of Adult Fears (it's implied that parents killing their children to spare them from being eaten alive by the zombies was a common thing), and just the general collapse of society. The nightmare fuel page goes into detail. As for claims about realism, I doubt that Max Brooks is seriously claiming that zombies that he presents in this book could actually exist, but that it's entirely possible for most of the world's governments to screw up in containing such a threat. Just look at how the world governments responded to AIDS.
Do Your Research
Well, Brooks spends most of the book whining about how fat and retarded humanity is, about how we are going to die because we didn't prepare for the zombie he made up. to get his point across about how only the tactis HE says will work are viable options, he makes the army act like idiots at Yonkers, and their weapons, which should have been liquefying the Zombies, be somehow ineffective. He goes off on a thinly-veiled commentary about misguided American arrogance and Chinese evil. Adding to this ridiculousness is zombies prowling all over the ocean floor and proving a Green Aesop, somehow not invulnerable yet not crushed by the pressure, while the zombies are magically immune to most everyday wear-and-tear and somehow able to move without drawing energy from their food. even if he had justified the corpses rising, their biology makes no sense, and he assumes that most humans are total idiots. this book as poorly-written as it is poorly-researched
Make some room at the table, George.
An at times disturbing, at times triumphant look at what could happen if the dead did rise, possibly even on par with the first modern zombie work, Night of the Living Dead. Of course, your mileage may vary, check with your doctor for possible side effects. Coming on the heels of the Zombie Survival Guide, World War Z takes us from patient 0 to the rebuilding of humanity. The flashback style works well for the book, since many of the events probably wouldn't have worked as fully explained events, instead leaving the reader to wonder what really happened. Other times, you'll thank the author for leaving some details out. The reactions of people to a zombie plauge just springing up worldwide is quite plausible, and reading about how people my have turned thanks to infected transplants or just having zeds appear from the sea is a frightening thought, and would understandably make people frightened and panicked. However, his portrayl of the media, while nice, is still strawman, and the fact that blogs an e-news go unmentioned that recently is a little confusion. Still, it wouldn't surprise anyone if some people took the news too far to heart and did the wrong things. Another nice touch is his shown work, having interviewed multiple federal and state employees on what their response would actually be in the case of undead invasion. Truth be told, I have high doubts that even the top brass wouldn't be able to figure out what was happening before losing their men in such numbers. Still, the Battle of Yonkers is a decent image of a media war gone wrong. If I had any complaints, it's that he gave us so much that we want more. We want to know about other parts of the world, like mainland China or Africa. We want to know more about the Lam O Es, the refugees, everything. Maybe there will be a sequel, but for now, don't hold your breath. Really, it's a good read for any zombie fan, especially those who got their first bite from Mr. Romero himself. Grab your primary firearm and check yourself for bites when you sit down to read World War Z.
[Audiobook review] They're coming to get you, TV Tropes!
When I found out that one of my favourite mockumentary-type novels were made into an abridged audiodrama, I was giddy. The book reads very much like a series of transcribed interviews (which was the author's intent, I am sure), and this makes it perfect for the change in medium. The audiodrama leaves out several parts of the plot, mostly unimportant overseas stuff, such as the tense cleansing of Paris, the bit with the astronauts, and the Russian revolution. This does not, however, alter the novel's impact much. It mostly focuses on the American side of things, but gives enough glimpses of the rest of the world to remain coherent. The voice acting is patchy, but never terrible. Some of the voice actors seem to be reading the book, rather than telling the story. Also, the text itself has not been altered to fit the medium. Written language and grammar is, after all, significantly different from spoken language, and it shows, especially when the voice actor is less than great. The voice actor that shines is, of course, Mark Hamill, playing army veteran Todd Wainio. From Yonkers to Hope, the character's feelings and motivations shine through, and the audiodrama does not waste this potential. Overall, it's a pretty good audiodrama, well worth your time. However, I recommend reading the book first. The left-out parts are perhaps not integral to the story, but gives an impression of a bigger world, where the zombie war has implications reaching further than the U.S. of A. tl;dr Yeah, it's alright.