Author: Max Brooks
Genre: Science Fiction
Original Pub. Date: 2006
Zombies lend themselves so well to film that it's not surprising books aren't their most frequent medium. Given that we're all used to the excitement of low moaning, splashes of gore, and piles of corpses on a big screen, then, it's pretty impressive how well Brooks managed to pull off zombie horror on the page.
The book is done documentary-style in a series of interviews with survivors of the titular apocalypse, in which most of the world's population died after being infected with a mysterious plague that caused typical zombie-like symptoms: living death, an insatiable urge to devour living flesh, American Idol-watching, and horrible moaning. Interviewees include the doctor who was called to tend Patient Zero (in China, naturally), the vice president of the U.S. during part of the ten-year zombie war, the South African mastermind behind the leave-some-civilians-as-bait plan that ultimately saved the world, various military personnel, and a few garden-variety survivors.
World War Z is cleverly written in that each of the interviews tie together, with little bits of information revealed in one interview casting light on tidbits from the last, and various survivors' stories intersecting just enough to be interesting without being too clever. The writing's solid. Suspense is maintained, even though the story's told from a post-war perspective -- no small feat, that. The pacing is good.
This is the point at which, were I some high-falutin' critical reviewer, I might maunder on about whether cannibalism and cold-blooded survival rate calculations render survivors as inhuman as their shambling predators, or about the first world's preparedness for a more realistic pandemic bursting out of China any day now, or about varying political philosophies and their application to a truly dire worldwide emergency. What is it to be human? I might ask. Or, does the possibility of zombies argue for or against the existence of the soul?
Who the hell am I kidding? This book has large-scale military engagements and creepy abandoned cities full of flesh-eating horrors and half-rotted slimy moaning things oozing out of the surf and swamping Indian cargo-ship death-boats by the thousands. I didn't read this for the philosophy, and neither should you.
Four stars -- zombies kick ass.