Daily Blog #168 – World War Z (book) Review

Greetings and Salutations, blog readers and friends!

Today, I am doing a drumroll please

BOOK REVIEW!

As some of you may also know, but not many, I am doing #armedwithabingo, where we play bingo with reading books, and verify we read it by posting book reviews.

Now, World War Z by Max Brooks has been out for quite some time, so long in fact that we already have the movie version out too.

I have heard, from people who have opinions I hold dear, either in general, like Bret, or about zombie content, like @WowSuchGaming, that the book is leagues above the movie and that the movie, awesome as it may be, is trash compared to the book.

Now, a decade or so ago, when I worked in a book store, while I shelved books I would casually read some, and this is one of the ones I leafed through, but never read. The episodic short burst of stories makes reading this in bursts a bit easier, but once I committed to sitting down and ACTUALLY reading it, I had a hard time pulling away.

Yeah, it’s DEFINITELY got multiple points of view as it is told in interviews of survivors – I don’t know if I’ll go for a straight easy Bingo or let it happen naturally from reading what I want. We shall see!

So let’s get into it.

For the purposes of discussion, I will be making some comparisons to the movie, but I will save “the differences between the book and the movie” for another blog, and instead just kind of touch on it a bit while I discuss this, frankly awesome, book.

So, in the movie we have some CDC ex Military type character as our main lead, basically so whats his name can be in a zombie movie and the zombie movie can sell some damn tickets, bc when the zombie nerds find out how much this movie does not follow the book, ticket sales will be harder to come by.

The book, however, has a different kind of main character, one that whats his name could have easily played, (And who knows, maybe it was meant to be the same character but it sure didn’t feel like it). The main character of the book is a reporter, who is going around the world gathering statements and stories from people in the war.

What war?

Why the war against the undead, of course.

This book gives snippets of story from the start of the war, when it was still thought to be a simple illness, all the way to the years after the war, when the human race is still trying to eradicate zombies from the face of the earth.

As someone who thinks about zombies more than is probably healthy, and as someone who considers all sorts of factors in a zombie outbreak, I was VERY impressed with World War Z.

I can’t count the number of times i have wondered what would happen to astronauts in space if zombies broke out.

Or how zombies would, probably, end up in the water, and even if they couldn’t swim, would be a dangerous and devastating issue.

Or that people add up. Too many pieces of zombie content down play how many zombies are there in an outbreak.

Every single human, that isn’t a survivor…is a zombie.

If zombies attack people, those people become zombies. If people die, they become zombies. In a battle, friendly fire leads to zombies, in addition to death, where you lose numbers, they gain numbers.

Zombieland 2 also did this semi well, but the first wave or horde of zombies, more so when you are IN the outbreak, not in the beginning but like a year or so into it, isn’t the only horde.

Logically, there will always be more people, plus zombies can call nearby zombies, adding to the horde. Oh, and, of course, any noise you make to kill those zombies, be it gun fire or explosions will what?

That’s right, draw in more zombies.

So, the idea that one explosion kills em and leaves the group safe always pisses me off, and, World War Z made sure to placate people like me with battles that went wrong (Battle of Yonkers, NYC) and learning from those lessons (Battle of Hope, New Mexico)

Zombies Freezing.

THIS features HEAVILY in Flake City, so it was awesome to see how another writer and fellow zombie fan looked freezing temperatures as a way to combat zombies. The book also talked at length about people trying to make a go of it and get north, leading to a whole new set of problems, including exposure to the elements, not being able to handle the cold or the way of life, and of course the environmental impact when people did flee to the north or set up camp there.

(Which, if it is true and accurate to how it would go, ruins my theory that people will all die off and I will be left alone without normal non-zombie obsessed folk asking me why I keep replaying the same movie and tv shows all day)

Also fun was how well he looked at the environmental impacts, not just increased dead humans walking the earth, not just the impact of humans fleeing for their lives leaving their belongings and trash in their wake, but the longer winters from the darker skies. The extra pollution from the increase in fires to keep warm when the power went out, and presumably from burning bodies.

The environment would take a huge hit, too, with trees being chopped for fire wood, which was also discussed. All in all, I would say World War Z not only mentioned the environmental impact, it nailed it on the head, beautifully. I would have only asked for some more info, maybe a story or two of a a marine biologist dealing with the side affects of whales eating zombies, or some shit, but, it already covered a TON of material, and had to focus on the divers who were trying to get rid of underwater zombies, so even though I didn’t get to have a story about a giant squid fighting zombies, I still got plenty of good reading about the environmental impact of the zombie outbreak and ensuing war.

World War Z didn’t talk too much about how fucked up humans get during zombie outbreaks either, which is amazing. The cruelty and depravity of humans was, of course, mentioned and alluded to, but it was never outlined and detailed.

(Although, we did discuss humans being stupid, a little, in this book, with details of brief war between countries and a civil unrest in China)

Which I was thankful for. Humans are evil, we know that, and The Walking Dead confirmed it if you had any questions. I don’t like zombie stories that focus on humans fighting humans. Also, in an all out war against zombies, it makes less than no sense.

Speaking of “All out War”- Brooks made sure to make this distinction, and for that I was pleased as well.

“All out War” means every person in the entire country is fighting with purpose, against a single enemy. Every resource is going towards the fight.

Humans can’t spend every single second working against an enemy, even if they were physically able to do so. Humans have those who object to war, or who just aren’t able. Zombie’s don’t have that.

Humans need to sleep, eat, drink water, and not be bit by zombies.

Zombies don’t need sleep, eat humans which turns them into more zombies, don’t seem to need anything to drink, and oh, hey, VERY hard to stop them from coming at you, forcing you to totally destroy each and every one, to do less only wastes ammo.

Oh, and speaking of ammo, instead of the stupid pop culture trend of everyone always having enough ammo and ammo being readily available everywhere anyone goes, even the military had to worry about running out of ammo.

Resources actually got discussed, and not just drinking water and food, but ammo, medicine, and other needed supplies…but supplies we as a society have after the collapse.

World War Z outlined a few details of supplies, the things left behind. In the war efforts, supplies were needed, but, as the book brilliantly points out, thinks become much more local, transportation isn’t the same, hell, we cant even use resources from some areas. Factories can’t exactly be built to make the things needed to finish the war efforts, without supplies, and the zombies being EVERYWHERE stopped the gathering of supplies…but good ole America, land of plenty, had homes full of tech, gear, canned food, tools, plus materials used in building the homes. These resources, the stuff left behind, rarely gets discussed because so many zombie stories don’t talk about the recovery process, so i was glad to see it discussed, even if it was a bit briefer than i would have liked.

Also fun was the way they discussed the new society we found ourselves in, with many intangible jobs like marketing people, agents, talent in general, people who didn’t have what one would call marketable skills in the war against zombies, like the ability to fight, treat people medically, build things, or grow food.

This labor pool was forced into classes to teach them how to cook, how to clean, how to do marketable skills. The journalist found this fun, noting that one lady kept using the instructors first name, before finally learning the instructor of the “how to be useful” type class was a former maid, and used to be employed by one of the very “worthless” talents who had to take the class.

Too many people think that the rich, the privileged, those who never lived hard lives, won’t survive an apocalypse type situation. It’s foolish, to me, to think these kinds of people won’t survive, when life has handed them plenty of other lucky breaks, why not this one too? Thankfully, surviving zombies wasn’t enough. This reset apparently also allowed more people to have true satisfaction with their jobs, with monetary things no longer the big determining factor in job satisfaction, being pleased with your work comes back, in some forms, which was a great bit of human condition to think about.

Overall, World War Z was fucking fantastic and I was really glad to finally read it. I agreed with much of the theory involving what would happen and how it would play out, and even the stuff I didn’t agree with, I absolutely was appreciative of how Brooks arrived at that conclusion. I appreciated the journalistic approach, just letting the witness statements and interviews tell the story, with only brief introductions and wording of questions to show any personality or bias in the interviewer…which only helped create the picture of the man who was “writing” the story. All in all, excellent.

I will be writing a comparison of the book and movie of World War Z, so if you liked this, be sure to check back for more.

Thanks for reading!

Abbi

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