World War Z by Max Brooks

Following the defeat of the zombies and the end of World War Z, the United Nations commissions a report as to the nature of the war – how did it begin?; who spread the zombie infection?; how did it end?. As the unnamed narrator writes in the introduction to this book, government bureaucracy and political correctness stepped in sanitizing the report and removing personal recollections and emotions about the war and leaving the narrator with no choice but to publish the deleted sections of his report as a book.

Thus the book reads like a series of transcripts – it would have made a great audiobook, I’m sure – as the unnamed narrator travels around the world interviewing politicians, doctors, military personnel, and citizens of countries around the world in the wake of the zombie scourge.

The member of my book club who nominated this book heard all the groans at the word “zombie” and promised the novel actually addresses society and its economic structure. I was very glad to find that was actually the case because I would have passed on this book as soon as I read the word “zombie”.  Zombies sound entirely outside the realm of possibilities given what we know about science and the human body yet the transmission of the zombie virus is so believably written that it does not seem too far fetch. People do travel to other countries to purchase kidney, liver, and other organs; China, where the zombie infection is said to start in Brooks’ novel, is a major destination for such purchases.

And the response of countries to the outbreak was absolutely fascinating. I’m not sure I can believe Israel would offer “right of return” to Palestinians when deciding to self-quarantine given recent events in the region (the novel was originally written in 2005), but I can see how some countries would turn on their people and how some would abandon them entirely. And the part with the celebrities who quarantined themselves and filmed the whole thing? Fantastic commentary on our current society’s obsession with reality stars and putting your life out there for the public to view.

I would have liked the section on how society adjusts after the war to be more in-depth because I thought its suggestions were very interesting, particularly how the US government dealt with fringe groups who managed to survive the zombie invasion and declared themselves sovereign rulers of their land. Would the world return to the borders held before then? Obviously, the case of the new Holy Russian Empire and the one-state Israel/Palestine suggests otherwise, and this is the aspect I’m most interested in discussing with my book club next week. Overall, a surprisingly thought-provoking read given the genre and one I easily devoured.

Book Mentioned:

  • Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. New York: Crown, 2006. eBook. 342 pgs. ISBN: 9780307346605. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Crown. Retrieved: August 26, 2014.
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