Have I mentioned that I like zombie books? Ever since being introduced to the genre while watching Night of the Living Dead at a high school sleepover, I’ve always been fascinated by the possibility that one day we could find ourselves facing an army of rotting, shuffling, undead monsters. Ever since the genre has exploded in recent memory to include numerous movies, tv shows, and books, I’ve reinvigorated my dedication to all things zombie by watching and reading as many of these books and movies as possible. That being said, you would think that I have a pretty good handle on what to expect when it comes to a book about zombies. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
World War Z begins with the revelation that what follows is part of a report written by Mr. Books, who is a member of the UN Postwar Commission, detailing the events of a worldwide war against the outbreak of a contagious agent that causes humans to turn into zombies. It appears that the UN omitted much of the report, focusing on facts and figures instead of many of the personal stories that Brooks included. He therefore decides to independently publish many of the missing stories and details that were left out. Brookes begins by including interviews of many of the survivors of the initial outbreak of the virus, which was thought to be somewhere in the rural, mountainous interior of China after a zombie of unknown origin bites a young boy. The virus begins to spread, helped by international travel and a black market organ trade that plagues mainland China and surrounding countries. A large outbreak of the disease in South Africa finally brings the event to the world’s attention, and ironically, brings about a strategy that helps to bring back the population from the brink. The “Redeker Plan”, instituted by ex-aparthied official Paul Redeker, consists of creating small safe zones that are naturally easy to defend. Outside these zones, larger populations of uninfected individuals are gathered to act as bait for the horde of zombies, effectively keeping them away from the safe zones. Although incredibly immoral, the plan works, and most of the world’s countries are able to save a percentage of their population. After a demoralizing defeat in Yonkers, New York, the United States establishes its safe zone west of the Rocky Mountains. After this initial period known as “The Great Panic”, a UN conference aboard the USS Saratoga decides that the world’s remaining human population must fight back and destroy the zombies instead of waiting for the pandemic to pass. With a new sense of purpose, the United States and other countries poise to take back their land from the zombies. Will they be able to do it?
I think one of the reasons that I like zombie-related media so much is that it is just as much a commentary on our society as it is a piece of exciting entertainment. The outbreak of a zombie infestation makes every other piece of our lives instantly insignificant next to survival. Your job, salary, car, house, etc, are all a nonentity when you’re up against an enemy that won’t stop until they devour your flesh. It’s both terrifying and uniting. Brooks writes an amazing story that tells this tale from multiple angles. Military, political, economic, and social themes are weaved into the stories that are recounted in chilling detail. Brooks writes with such passion and precision that at times I forgot I was reading a work of fiction. His words are not only a call to action to wake up to the social and economic injustices in the world, but a sharp rebuke of government bureaucracy and the actions of those who attempt to capitalize on the population in a time of crisis. His words are a playbook for survival during a time of great uncertainty and fear. They can be applied to any time where panic is widespread and survival is uncertain. They show how the lowliest of workers in our modern society can become the greatest leaders in a postwar world as their knowledge of valuable basic skills to maintain a population and become self-reliant are placed above the “headhunters” and “corporate job trainers” of this world. This ironic twist where the previous heads of society are replaced with those who do the “real” work of continuing our existence is the kind of irony that the zombie war brings about. It is a return to a time when hard work and contribution to the whole instead of contribution to self was valued. All in all, Brooks writes an excellent fusion of social commentary and amazing horror story. I have never given a book 6 out of 5 stars before, but there’s always a first. I truly believe that World War Z is it.
6 out of 5 stars