Review: “World War Z” by Max Brooks

Title: World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War
Author: Max Brooks
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Crown, 2006

Are you a hardcore zombie aficionado? You should read this, if only to get a break from the current mire of cookie-cutter zombie fare. Not a fan of zombies? I urge you to give this a shot. I promise you this is one zombie novel that will not fit your dismissive stereotypes. World War Z mildly grabbed my interest when I first saw it, as in “I should read that someday.” Then I reallized that Max Brooks was the son of Mel Brooks (of Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men In Tights, and History Of The World: Part I fame) and my motivation to read it jumped quite a bit. Illogical? Sure, just because I’m a fan of his dad’s films doesn’t mean his writing will be any good. Nevertheless, I wanted to read this. When they released the film, I downloaded the ebook….and promptly didn’t read it until about a week ago. I wish I’d gotten around to reading it sooner, but oh well. My “to be read” list is truly epic…. I’m told that the audiobook is full-cast and includes such stars as Nathan Fillion….kinda wishing I’d gone that route, honestly. But even just the book was great.

I enjoyed this book immensely. The premise is that of an oral history, post zombie-uprising, looking back at the war. The format is of multiple interviews with various survivors, from soldiers to sailors to an astronaut, all around the world, all their individual stories adding up to the big picture of the rise and eventual fall of the living dead. The degree of research that Brooks would have had to do for this book is phenomenal, and very impressively done. The realism lent to the book by this concept is perhaps the most chilling part. Brooks knew where he wanted this to go–a worldwide outbreak–and so studied viruses and how they spread, deciding where to set his “Patient Zero” cases. From there, everything plays out believeably, from governments’ reactions to how the military would react, both initially and later on after the problem was better understood, to how individuals would cope with a world where the dead walk again. If you have read Brooks’ other book, The Zombie Survival Guide, you’ll know he has a subtle sense of humor that occasionally comes through. Less so in this book, but it’s definitely there in certain characters.

Content: Violence. This is a book about the Zombie uprising, after all. Language. Some of the characters interviewed are foul-mouthed. Mild sexual content. I honestly don’t remember any….


Filed under Books, Novels, Reviews

2 responses to “Review: “World War Z” by Max Brooks

  1. At the end of World War Z, just as the credits began rolling, a gentleman, scratch that, an idiot spoke up from the back of the theatre exclaiming, “What? That sucked! The book was nothing like that! Booo!” I’m sure he scurried away back home, logged online, and began tweeting, posting, and blogging, furthering his rant. Much like my response to him at the theatre, I hope he receives silence in return.

    It’s true, World War Z is nothing like the book. The book is told from the point of view AFTER the war. It’s a “historical,” account of what happened during the war. Rather than make a mockumentary with flashbacks, which would have been the wrong decision in my opinion, the filmmakers decided to put us right in the middle of the action.

    When adapting a piece of literature it is impossible to bring every page, every paragraph, every nuance onto the screen. Some have come close depending on the material, but for the most part, they all have to take their own creative licenses. After all, it’s called an “adaptation,” for a reason, otherwise they would call it a copy or mimic.

    Where World War Z works (that’s a mouthful) and where so many others fail is that just because the world slips into total and utter chaos, doesn’t mean that governments, military, and law enforcement agencies go away. Quite the opposite. If anything, these scenarios bring out the best of all of them. We see generals, UN delegates, and scientists trying to solve complex issues that they don’t know anything about. Rather than going into hiding, they act. Society doesn’t crumble. Bands of cannibals and leather strapped gangs don’t patrol the streets with necklaces made of teeth. People do what they can to survive, and the higher ups try their best to find a fast and effective solution.

    At first, I thought the movie started too fast. How could something this violent and concentrated go undetected, but after a while I got it. The opening montage of news reports said it all. How many of us listen to everything we hear on the news? Exactly. So much goes undetected while we focus on issues that effect us immediately. It’s too late when the virus touches US soil. Not even social media can keep up with it.

    As far as zombie movies go this one is pretty great. Though I think 28 Days Later takes the cake in terms of realism, in-camera effects, and sheer terror, this one holds its own. Brad Pitt plays a former UN investigator who is traveling with his family just as the zombie attack on Philadelphia unfolds. The film goes from 0-60 before you take a sip of your Coke. This is a fast paced, edge of your seat thrill ride led by one of the finest actors of this generation (Pitt’s acting ability is far too underrated and lost in the kerfuffle of tabloid news).

    For those of you who stare at the ticket window debating whether or not to see a film in 3D or standard, you might want to spend the extra few dollars to see this one in 3D (I know it’s asking a lot, but maybe you can sneak some candy or a bottle of water to offset the concession stand price – deal with it). I tend to air on the side of “screw it, I want to see it in 3D.” Now not every movie NEEDS to be seen in 3D, hell there are really only a couple that absolutely have to be seen in all three dimensions (Avatar and maybe Life of Pi), but this one really surprised me. 3D is not about things jumping out at you, but it’s about layers. Luckily this film has both. Big chase scenes in Philly, particles floating about in South Korea, and tracking shots in Jerusalem make this one of the 3D events of the year. No exaggeration.

    Like so many other summer blockbusters before it, civilization is on the brink of extinction and only a handful of experts can save us. What World War Z does that so many have failed is give us hope. Hope that humanity won’t dissolve into nothingness. In the face of sheer danger these fighters stand tall, take a deep breath, look the enemy in the eye, and say, “No.”

    More about the movie you can also find it here

    • Wow….a full review of the film in the comments! I did enjoy the film on its own merits, you just had to divorce it from the book in your mind. And I concur about 28 Days Later as well….

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