I can’t explain why, but I put off reading World War Z for several years. I knew about it, knew it ticked a bunch of my boxes, but never started it. Maybe I thought the style (written as a series of personal interviews with survivors of the zombie war) wouldn’t work, maybe it was the Brad Pitt movie. I’m not sure, but I was wrong. This novel blew me away over and over again. By the time I’d finished I felt wrung out, and will probably return to re-read it again before this year ends.
What is it?
World War Z unravels the events of the great zombie war, written by a special investigator for the UN. This investigator, having submitted his report, was distressed when the personal accounts — the human stories — were stripped, in favor of focusing purely on facts and statistics. World War Z is a compilation of those accounts, showing us how the war was fought (and won) through the experiences and memories of the survivors.
Why is it special?
World-building. WORLD-BUILDING. Did I mention world-building? The author, Max Brooks, has plotted the course of this war, fought on a global scale, in staggering detail. Everything from the individuals, to communities, to government responses has been accounted for. Brooks also hasn’t shied away from tackling a variety of cultures, presenting snapshots of the US, South Africa, Korea, Japan, Russia, the UK — all with a sense of authority that feels believable. It’s obvious he’s spent a great deal of time working through the question of a zombie apocalypse and pulling on every string he can find. That being the case, the danger is producing a book that reads like a history text. This is where the genius of Brooks’ approach comes in, by presenting this wide-ranging tale as a series of survivor interviews, he’s able to give us small, personal stories, each of which contributes to a greater whole.
I loved this book. It defied my expectations and delivered something both unexpected and delightful. If the zombie or apocalypse genre interests you at all, this book should be mandatory reading.