Friday, July 26, 2013

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Welcome to the first weekly book review Friday!

Those who were expecting a straightforward single-character narrative clearly didn't read the subtitle for this novel: An Oral History of the Zombie War. I don't know about you, but how often do you read the history of an event from a single point of view? In fact, if you have, what you were reading was not truly the history of something. WWZ: An Oral History of the Zombie War is absolutely what it claims to be.

This novel by Brooks, the author of the hugely popular The Zombie Survival Guide (and also the son of Mel Brooks- who knew?) follows much of the incredible detail of the Zombie Survival Guide without much of the humor (in fact, some of the interviews are harrowing and somewhat discomfiting). 

The first thing you should know is that Brooks thinks of /everything/. If you are expecting merely a blow-by-blow action adventure of the 'major battles' of the Zombie War, you will be disappointed. If you are expecting the plucky survival story of a sympathetic character as he or she lives through the Zombie years, you will be disappointed. But if you are looking for a complete scope of how Brooks imagines a Zombie apocalypse will 1) come about and 2) affect the world during and after the battles, this book will not disappoint.

Told in ever-shifting interviews with people affected by the Zombie War around the world, World War Z covers almost every aspect of the world that is often changed by world-wide warfare, but with the obvious twist that really highlights Brooks' imagination- how would that be different if the enemy combatants were the undead?

The format may not be for every reader, however. While the interview format might throw some people off at first, it becomes much easier to get used to- and it's worth noting that as the book goes on and the stories get wilder, the interviewer character sits back more often and lets the interviewee speak for pages at a time, so it reads more like a traditional narrative. Honestly, though, I enjoyed the format and the emphasis it really put on nearly independent point of views, with the interviewer acting as a mostly neutral party. 

The voices of the characters are a tad off sometimes. Occasionally they seem similar to one another, especially the various army/navy characters, which is to be expected from Brooks' real first foray into a fictional narrative instead of faux-informational style. I enjoyed his attempts at making regional dialect, mostly present in the differing names people had for the zombies--Zed Head, ghoul, Zack-- even if at times they were a bit too heavy-handed. 

The writing itself is generally strong, though his style didn't stick out to me as especially laudable. Sections of the narrative were truly horrifying and what Brooks lacked in really clear and purposeful prose at times he made up for in impressive insight into the thoughts of people trapped in situations that we can barely imagine. 

Brooks looks at the initial outbreak, the political impact of the world having a united front against evil, the aftereffects and a world rebuilding, the environmental impact- he even takes the point of view to an orbiting space station. WWZ is exhaustive and endlessly interesting. Brooks is a master at writing what he is an expert in and this book adds to his reputation as possibly the one person who has thought more about the zombie apocalypse than the average teenager on the internet.

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