World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War; Book Review and Look Ahead at the Upcoming Movie

Max Brooks' (son of Mel Books) classic novel of the zombie apocalypse is being made into a movie starring Brad Pitt and the trailer is out now!

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, written by Max Brooks (son of GENIUS filmmaker Mel Brooks), was released in 2006.  This book is a must read for zombie enthusiasts, as it depicts a post-apocalyptic world that suffered from a zombie plague which started in China, after a twelve year old boy iss bitten by something while fishing with his father.

After the boy is bitten, the military is unable to contain the outbreak and it spreads throughout China before traveling to the rest of Asia and then the United States.  He is known as “Patient Zero” in the novel–shouldn’t he be “Patient One” though?  

Max Brooks tells individual stories instead of one, overarching narrative.  These personal accounts of survival create a larger picture in the zombie world.  It starts with New York City falling and then South Africa taking charge with their idealogy to segregate people into small safe zones that have been cleared of zombies.  Through his writing, Brooks comments on how people would not be ready for a zombie apocalypse if it were to happen in real life.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has.  That’s not stupidity or weakness, that’s just human nature.” 

Political views also make their way into the zombie world.  Israel closes its borders to all outsiders except Jews and Palestinians.  We also learn that Canada opens their borders to all who want to escape the zombies via the cold of winter–typical Canadian awesomeness, if you ask me!  However, millions die due to starvation.  Seven years after Patient Zero, leaders from around the world have a meeting to discuss possible courses of action.  Naturally, in typical American fashion, the U.S. President suggests war against the zombies.  (Okay, so in this case, it is obviously the right course of action.) 

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The book also brushes with political cover-ups, as it turns out the Central Intelligence Agency in Virginia knew about the situation in China and ignored it.  Also, pharmaceutical companies try to capitalize on human fear by selling “anti-zombie” drugs, which are only placebos and, sadly, do not work.  But, hey, thanks for your money, right?

We also see a swing in political power after the end of the zombie war.  For example, China becomes a democracy and Tibet becomes the world’s most populated city.  Also, Cuba becomes the leading economic breadwinner in the world.  The geographical and topographical landscape was forever changed.  Zombies become Iceland’s top export, as the country is filled with millions of zombies and no humans are left.  North Korea becomes completely void of all life.

The zombies in World War Z are slow movers and usually in large groups, although the zombies don’t work cooperatively.  They are only killed via shot to the head.  This leads to the creation of a new hand weapon called the Lobotomizer–awesome!

While not along the same line of terror as I Am Legend was, World War Z takes a more artful and tactical approach to the telling of the zombie apocalypse; the book has something more to say.  While a great zombie tale at face value, clearly Max Brooks had some political and social commentary he wanted to share with the world, as well as general commentary on the current state of the zombie genre.  What World War Z is best at is really making you think – about a lot of things.  For one, what would really happen if the world became overrun by zombies?  Would countries band together against a common enemy?  Or, would the world crumble under its own selfish blindness?  Whether you’ve read any of Max Brooks’ other works or not, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in apocalyptic or zombie novels.

The now cult-classic World War Z has led to the creation of other mediums than a New York Times bestselling novel.  For one, the audiobook is one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard–and I’ve heard a plethora of audiobooks.  While it is always a treat to have the actual author reading the book that they have written, Random House also included many other actors to give the audio a more conversational feel during the interviews within the novel. 

Secondly, and most importantly, World War Z has spawned a movie adaptation coming in June 2013 that is directed by Marc Foster (Quantum of Solace, Monster’s Ball).  From what we can tell in the trailer, the movie appears to focus on he Gerry Lane (played by Brad Pitt) in New York City.  The cast also includes Mireille Enos (who gave a stellar performance in AMC’s The Killing) as Gerry’s wife, Karen.  Matthew Fox (Lost), Eric West (Hawaii Five-o) and David Morse (The Green Mile) also are a part of the cast.  We don’t see any aspects in the trailer that would suggest scenes taking place in China or South Africa, which almost makes me doubtful that the movie will follow the book entirely.  Furthermore, we see zombies moving like frenzied ants in the trailer, which doesn’t go along with Brooks’ “zombies don’t work cooperatively” mindset. 

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While I have no doubt in my mind that this movie is going to be an awesome film, I am a little skeptical with regard to how true to the novel it will be.  We will have to wait until summer of next year to know if this will be a masterpiece of zombie theater or a bloody box office bust.  But, until then, “Only ‘the gods’ know what awaits us at its end.”

You can watch the World War Z official trailer here: