Literary Feline and I were the only two participating in this readalong and I couldn't even achieve my own deadline. Argh. However, I finished. And while I didn't fall madly in love with it, I enjoyed it immensely. And for those who think a book about zombies isn't up your alley, please do read on. This might be the one that sways you to give it a try.
This is an extremely entertaining book to read. It is an apocalyptic horror novel about zombies that sort of isn't about zombies at times, but instead is an oral history of eyewitness accounts of those who relay the initial breakdown, the Great Panic as people fought back or got bitten, and as people trusted the modern-day snake oil salesman who provided the "cure all" vaccine. World War Z is a successful sociological representation of how societies, countries, people, fall completely apart and what they do to survive, and what they ultimately do to rebuild it. Can you have a "smart" zombie story? Yes, and this is it. Max Brooks has done more homework than most scientists and sociologists (this is my opinion) to get a clear view of each piece of technology, survival skill, and social recovery than most. It is a fascinating approach to taking the natural and instinctive responses people have and applying it to a war with zombies, an ultimate enemy who has no limits, no need for air, no capacity to "take a break." It is the total war that countries have prepared for, knowing that it's more than likely that our enemies have some sort of humanity. But what if they have zero humanity? No ability to reason, to think, to have compassion? How do you fight against that?
Some stories in this second half captured me: The realization that it would be virtually impossible to eradicate the world completely of zombies, the Redekker plan (which was first presented in the first half, but the second half solidified the fear of a program which sacrificed healthy humans to divert zombies in order to preserve the overall masses), the changes in our environment and the loss of ecological systems, the "traitors" of China and what they went through, the Russian priest, the "quislings" who were human but who identified with the zombies and became wild and acted like zombies. I wish Max Brooks had included what an interview with a rehabilitated quisling might have been like. That would have been interesting.
Each interview of a subject includes a brief one paragraph intro at the start on who that person is, where they are now located, etc. Invariably, because every few pages included a new documented eyewitness account, it was difficult to absorb who the character was, or get into the story too much because it would end shortly thereafter and move onto a new character. Most of these stories were not linked at all, but occasionally, one interviewee provided a slight detail that reminded me of another story. It did feel like I had a collection of government files I had surreptitiously received. Bear in mind that, as I mentioned before, (in one way or another) this book is a complete dissection of what a societal breakdown could result in, and that was simultaneously frightening and fascinating.
So the bottom line is that I liked it a lot, but I didn't love it as so many others have. I wish I had, I do feel like I'm missing out. I have heard that the movie has been somewhat well-received, and that it's very different than the book. That's not necessarily surprising, considering the fact that the book is just a collection of three- to five-page interviews, or collections of eyewitness accounts, so I was intrigued to hear how they were planning to adapt it to film. I plan to see it this weekend, hopefully, so we shall see!
The monsters that rose from the dead, they are nothing compared to the ones we carry in our hearts. (p.252)
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