Summer Book Club: World War Z

The AMC monster-hit (pun intended), The Walking Dead, has led me to realize that I am a surprisingly big fan of the zombie genre. I think what draws me to this topic is the survivalist aspect of the entire subject. Zombie epics tend to focus on how characters adapt to the dangerous new landscape, survive despite the horrifying twist in human nature, and work towards an ultimate solution.

I was intrigued when trailers for the movie, World War Z, began appearing and wondered how it would hold up. I was pleasantly surprised by the film – it was fast-paced and thrilling. These zombies were different than their The Walking Dead counterparts, but equally as interesting to watch. The movie also focused on the global nature of the pandemic, whereas The Walking Dead zeroed in on a group of survivors in Georgia. My interest was piqued…I decided to purchase the book by Max Brooks.

The format of the book was one thing I found most impressive and most interesting. It isn’t written as a regular narrative but, instead, as an oral history of “The Zombie War”. The main character travels all over the globe and takes down the testimonies, memories, and recaps of all those who experienced this undead nightmare first hand. By weaving together the stories of many people from many countries and many backgrounds, Brooks pulls together a fascinating story of human nature and national survival. Though the entire “story” is set ten years after World War Z has ended, the detailed accounts from each character make the reader feel as though they are living through it with them. Each person’s story revolves around the same major event and, yet, each story is vastly different than the one before it.

Brooks underlying social commentary is subtle, though very much present. The tale leaves readers with eerie thoughts of “what if?” – what if this really happened? What if I had to live through this? What if we didn’t respond quickly or effectively enough?

Another thing that I enjoyed was the difference between the book and the film. The film operates from the perspective of one man and how he travels the globe to help combat the pandemic, unlike the book which operates as an oral history from dozens of different perspectives. As a film, I felt this way of story telling was much more effective. It pulled general themes and specific events from the book, but lured the viewer in with action and a personal attachment to the protagonist. Because it was very different that the book, the differences were not bothersome but, rather, quite welcome. It felt like the same story told from one perspective, rather than many.

Have you read World War Z and/or watched the film? What did you think?

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