So much more than a zombie book – “World War Z” by Max Brooks
Max Brooks is a clever, clever dude. After arriving on the literary scene with a book I still hold dear to my heart, “The Zombie Survival Guide,” he could have so easily become a one-trick pony writing zombie books that surely would have grown more lame over time.
Instead, he produced a masterpiece.
I’m not being facetious or heaping undeserved praise – “World War Z” is that good. It’s a book that rises above the gimmick that might make someone purchase it, and transcends genres.
It’s not a zombie book, but I’m not sure how else to describe it.
Basically, human beings survived the zombie plague. Many people died, and the world is in shambles, but in the tradition of humanity rebuilding has begun and people are starting to look forward.
Enter a young man with a tape recorder who asks them to look back.
The pages of “World War Z” do not read like an action-packed Hollywood zombie movie. That’s honestly what I was expecting, especially after hearing that Brad Pitt is attached to the film project. Instead, it’s a thoughtful and at-times touching commentary on the way this world we live in works.
From regular housewives to the Vice President of the United States, the accounts in this book are told from first-person perspectives. These are the stories of the people who survived the zombie plague, for one reason or another. After a few pages, you forget that you’re reading a book about zombies and start reading a book about humanity.
Honestly, more so than any horror novel I’ve read, “World War Z” reminded me of the play “The Laramie Project.” In the wake of the brutal attack and murder of gay college student Matthew Shepherd, a New York theater company went to Laramie, Wyoming (where the attack happened and which became a media circus almost immediately afterward) and turned on their tape recorders to let the citizens of the town talk about what happened. Those conversations became an honest, unflinching, award-winning, world-renowned play.
One of the most touching stories in the book is that of Christina Eliopolis, a pilot. When her plane goes down and she;s the only survivor, she has to make her way through treacherous areas to where a rescue helicopter will come get her. She does this with the aid of a Skywatcher named “Mets.” The whole storyline struck me as wonderfully Hitchcock-y, and it’s one of the things I hold dearest about the entire book.
At the end of the day, there are few heroes and few villains. There’s the Queen of England insisting on staying at Windsor when she could have easily gone somewhere much safer. There are the men and women of the special canine squad. There are politicians and astronauts and soldiers and priests and kids. Simply, there are people who make choices for various reasons.
As one man, who made a fortune off a new drug that was supposed to cure rabies (which the zombie outbreak was originally thought to be) says: “What, you’d have rather we told people the truth? That it wasn’t a new strain of rabies but a mysterious uber-plague that reanimated the dead?”
The scariest thing about this book isn’t the zombies.
It’s the fact that were you to replace zombies with some other more “realistic” threat, this book is absolutely believable. The squabbling, the nations feuding amongst themselves, the cruelty of common people – it’s all disturbing.
Because without zombies, this wouldn’t be far from non-fiction.
[Note: Apparently there’s an audio book of “World War Z” read by a full cast that includes Mark Hamil, John Turturro, Henry Rollins, and Alan Alda. I’m so there.]