Monday, November 20, 2017

World War Z

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie WarWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am not a big zombie person. In fact, I couldn’t care less about, for example, The Walking Dead. I just am not into zombies. Never have been. Okay, 28 Days Later was okay. Okay. And Shaun of the Dead was actually good, but that’s because it made fun of all the zombie tropes. But really – I do not understand the fascination with zombies.

So, of course, I’m going to read World War Z, hate it, and give it one star, maybe two, if I’m feeling generous, right?


Now, let’s not kid ourselves, this is not a great novel, definitely not a masterwork of literature. Its prose is utilitarian. Interesting, in places, but lacking eloquence – maybe intentionally so. Because this is a novel about people, many of them ordinary people, dealing with an infestation, a war against those who were once family, friends, fellow-countrymen, but are now undead.
But it’s not about the zombies. Not really much at all. And this made it, not a great novel, but a good novel. It’s really more about what it means to be human, and all that comes from that status, good and evil. It’s about dreams, family, bravery, cowardice, love, friendship, terror, technology, survival, profiteering, pride, and regret. The zombies are merely a foil against which the human stories are set. And that works to its advantage. Sure, you’ll find a few harrowing accounts of battles with the living dead, but the most terrifying aspects of the book lie in what humans, driven by fear, will do to other humans. It’s messy and complicated, tragically triumphant with a question mark after it, sort of like life. It will leave you asking questions about how you would react in the circumstances, as presented. The answers might be a little uncomfortable. Would you have what it takes to survive such an apocalypse and, more importantly, would you want to have what it takes? The novel cannot answer this for you. In fact, it poses many questions to which there is no one good answer or questions that are altogether unanswerable.

One of the greatest questions implicit in the novel is not “What is a zombie,” but, much more poignantly, “What is a human”? World War Z will present that question to you again and again, and that question will haunt you long after you’ve finished the book, rearing its ugly head from time to time, like a slow-moving army of the undead.

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