World War Z abandons the normal narrative structure and instead presents a series of vignettes (normally not my favorite storytelling method) that highlights the human impact of the arrival of the undead. The diversity of experiences presented in the vignettes is the most impressive aspect of the book. The reader is presented with devastating scenarios and situations in China, then South Africa, then India, then Japan, and so on and so forth. It's really quite impressive how convincing each experience is. Max Brooks writes with confidence from each perspective, whether it be on a Chinese nuclear sub or on the International Space Station. If the dead did start to re-animate, then how would people in all of these places and cultures react? It's a fun thought experience, but it's also extremely unsettling.
World War Z presents nightmare scenarios, but it doesn't require zombies to be a nightmare. In fact, the scariest aspects of the book are in the epidemic consequences of the story rather than the undead. In so many ways, any civilization's peace and tranquility hovers precariously on a very thin line between order and chaos. It's not difficult to see the chaos which can result when law and order breaks down; it's currently happening in many places around the world and always has. It doesn't take zombies to do that. World War Z smartly reminds the reader of the realities of our modern world and then tears it all to pieces. Having said that, of all of the end of the world type stories I've read, World War Z is possibly the most hopeful. It showcases devastation, yes, but it also showcases the triumph of human reason and adaptation.
Max Brooks has written a truly human tale, even though it doesn't focus on one protagonist or even several. Brooks has exposed the common human emotions expressed in the midst of tragedy and desolation. World War Z is much, much more than a zombie book. In some vignettes, zombies are almost an afterthought. The living, not the undead, are the focus of this book, and for that reason I found it extremely troubling, engaging, and entertaining. I still don't have much interest in zombies, but World War Z is well worth a recommendation.
- "The monsters that rose from the dead, they are nothing compared to the ones we carry in our hearts."
- "The UN is a bureaucratic masterpiece, so many nuggets of valuable data buried in mountains of unread reports."
- "Lies are neither bad nor good. Like a fire they can either keep you warm or burn you to death, depending on how they're used."
Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: Guns, Germs, and Steel
Reflections: Good Omens