The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years. (Goodreads)
Review by Laura Madsen: mom, veterinarian and writer
In the aftermath of a global zombie apocalypse, the anonymous narrator travels the world, collecting stories from human survivors: soldiers and doctors, housewives and mercenaries, politicians and survivalists. Each chapter is the recollections of a different person, assembled into chronological order.
As I read the book the night before Halloween, my husband asked, “Is it scary?” I answered, “Not scary in the traditional sense of horror, but scary in the sense that you can totally see everything happening, the way governments respond—everything is completely plausible.”
Disregard for now the zombies. Just think of any virulent, lethal, previously unknown infectious disease. The virus spreads rapidly around the globe, transferred not only by international commerce and travel, but also by the rampant black-market trade in human organs. Some governments cover up outbreaks. Other governments mobilize their armies—targeting civilians as well as the infected. Society breaks down. A few intelligence officers figure out what’s happening and hand-deliver an “Eyes Only” report to the White House, which is ignored and relegated to a bottom desk drawer in a remote field office. A sensationalized, televised battle between humans and zombies fails spectacularly when the army shows up with fabulously expensive, high-tech weaponry that has no effect against the enemy. Millions die after evacuating their homes—not from the infection but from violence or starvation or exposure. Desperation. Panic. Religious fervor. Nukes.
So, yes, it’s scary.
Max Brooks has clearly done his homework, and the novel is well-written. The voice of each survivor comes through clearly and their terror is evident, both in what they say and in what is left unsaid, as in these passages:
From a soldier who was witness to one of the first outbreaks:
Beyond them, in the first chamber, we saw our first evidence of a one-sided firefight, one-sided because only one wall of the cavern was pockmarked by small arms. Opposite that wall were the shooters. They’d been torn apart. Their limbs, their bones, shredded and gnawed…some still clutching their weapons, one of those severed hands with an old Makarov still in the grip. The hand was missing a finger. I found it across the room, along with the body of another unarmed man who’d been hit over a hundred times. Several rounds had taken the top of his head off. The finger was still stuck between his teeth.
From a girl who evacuated with her family to the woods of northern Canada:
I was a pretty heavy kid. I never played sports, I lived on fast food and snacks. I was only a little bit thinner when we arrived in August. By November, I was like a skeleton. […] One time, around Thanksgiving…I couldn’t get out of my sleeping bag. My belly was swollen and I had these sores on my mouth and nose. There was this smell coming from the neighbor’s RV. They were cooking something, meat, it smelled really good. Mom and Dad were outside arguing. Mom said “it” was the only way. I didn’t know what “it” was. She said “it” wasn’t “that bad” because the neighbors, not us, had been the ones to actually “do it.”
Recommended for anyone who has wondered, “What if?”
Market: Adult fiction (post-apocalyptic/ sci-fi)
Violence: explicit (zombies eating people, people bashing in the zombies’ brains)
Mature themes: war, pandemic, abandonment, nuclear bombs, oblique references to cannibalism and prostitution.