Friday, September 9, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: World War Z

World War Z (Max Brooks)

World War Z covers the impending zombie outbreak from its origins in China, to a look at what the world is dealing with ten years after victory day. Told through interviews with people crucial (or not) to the war effort, World War Z does a fantastic job of world building, and making a zombie apocalypse seem like something that could actually happen. Interviews of important state officials from around the globe build a picture of events that is extremely realistic, as nations handle the outbreak and associated conflicts in ways that make sense given their cultural backgrounds. For example, the U.S. in particular succumbs to a Great Panic not unlike that of the last ten years which results in a much more devastating outbreak in North America. Japan's people, whom have always lived for the country first, manage to work together and flee their beleaguered island. Misinformation, lies, and mutiny in Russia leading to the restoration of a monarchy was a particularly enjoyable bit of the past reflecting the (fictionalized) present. Other nations are dealt with in varying degrees of depth, but overall the truly global scope of World War Z makes it stand out from the endless flood of zombie related material, and greatly enhances the impact of the conflict.

Another way in which the near-future in World War Z is meticulously detailed is in the sheer amount of different concepts that the viewpoints cover. Some viewpoints detail how soldiers went about surviving, how their high tech equipment was mostly rendered useless by the zombie's physiology. It also reveals threats that I would not have considered, like feral children and "quislings"- people that aren't infected, but pretend to be zombies nonetheless. Other points of view cover things like the evacuations, origins of the outbreak, and the role of dogs in the conflict. The interviews are presented in mostly chronological order, and they successfully create an comprehensive tapestry of the conflict. Though the plot does end on somewhat of a cliffhanger-the zombie outbreak is contained, but not eradicated-it is extremely fulfilling due to the excellent world building and realistic, serious take on a far fetched scenario.

Characterization is thin, but effective for the purposes of the novel. The author never uses the same character more than twice for the duration of the novel (if used twice, the second passage deals with the person's reflections on the zombie war, in the "Goodbyes" chapter of the book.) As such, growing attached to, and in most cases relating to, the characters is very difficult. The stories the characters contribute are very important to the overall narrative, but taken individually there isn't much depth. The author does a good job of characterizing people from different cultures and professions in an authentic way, without coming across as stereotypical. Overall the characterization does what it needs to in order to further the narrative, but isn't anything special.

The novel is written entirely in an interview format, and as such certain writing mechanics are entirely left out. It doesn't hurt the novel at all, and this format was a nice change of pace, especially for a fiction novel. The interview format was a very effective and creative way of concisely conveying the various aspects of the zombie invasion. The interviewer plays a very minimalist part in the proceedings, and things like setting are handled adeptly enough through the various monologues. The writing style here isn't astounding or particularly impressive, but it fits the idea perfectly, and makes for an entertaining, quick read.

This book is required reading for any fans of the "zombie" or "survival horror" sub-genres, and its uses of mature themes and realism make it an exceptional read for everyone else, too.

Final Score

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