World War Z - How would the world really handle a zombie apocalypse?
by Max Brooks
Published in 2006
For those thinking “I already watched World War Z so I don’t need to read the book” doesn’t know yet that the movie is COMPLETELY different from the novel. I actually thought I was watching the wrong movie even though all the posters clearly showed Brad Pitt front and center of the World War Z movie. While I understand why they changed the movie so it’s more cinematically entertaining, I think the book is much more befitting of the name. Focusing on different countries in the world and their war 19 years prior, we get to read as humanity loses hope… and the tide turns as they win their war against the zombies in World War Z.
World War Z begins with Max Brooks, an agent of the U.N. Postwar Commission, as he travels around the world to interview survivors of the zombie war plague from 19 years prior. With the exact origin or the plague unknown, “patient zero” is thought to be a young boy from Chongqing, China. The initial outbreaks are covered up by the military until it begins spreading to various nations through travel, human trafficking, and the black market organ trade. Like China, other nations try covering up these outbreaks until a large outbreak in South Africa brings the zombie plague to the light. The United States does little preparation assuming that they should be able to suppress any infection outbreak in their country. A placebo vaccine begins circulating the U.S. making them think they will have this outbreak under control in no time. The public quickly learns that the placebo vaccine does nothing to stop the infection and thus the period known as “The Great Panic” starts as country turns against country with their citizens no longer trusting the government to protect them. More countries continue to lose against the outbreak as human civilization falls to pieces with everyone looking out for themselves and simply trying to survive.
The South African government proposes a new plan to establish small sanctuary areas for survivors which other countries quickly adopting the plan. They also learn that zombies will freeze in extreme cold as many survivors begin fleeing to Northern regions and the Arctic resulting in eleven million people dying of starvation and hypothermia. The U.S. government sets up residence in Hawaii where they repurpose their citizens into contributing to the war effort. 7 years after the initial outbreak, the new U.N. meet as several countries decide to wait until all the zombies rot while others decide it is time to go on the offense and exterminate the rest of the zombies. The U.S. begins the first attack over 3 years to eradicate the undead in their country as other countries follow suit.
Most countries manage to take back chunks of their land from the zombie threat, but at a high cost. Even ten years after the official end of the zombie war, there are still millions of zombies roaming mostly on the ocean floor and snow islands. The world never returns to what it was before as some countries like Cuba thrive while others like Iceland remain the most heavily infested. Several world-wide monuments are destroyed such as the catacombs under Paris which had a quarter million refugees that turned into zombies all living in the catacombs. Coming back almost from the brink of extinction, the humans reclaim the world as theirs once again.
Final Rating & Thoughts: 7/10
What I thought made World War Z such a unique reading experience was that it didn’t feel like I was reading a horror novel but instead an actual history book of the world. Max Brooks really tried to think through, it a zombie apocalypse were to occur, how would each country react? How would the governments respond and how long could they hold onto civilization as the infection continues to spread? What does the world look like after zombies? Maybe everyone else isn’t as obsessed with zombies as I am, but what can I say? Resident Evil has scarred me for life so I think a zombie apocalypse is somewhere in the future. In most media we see zombie outbreaks as beyond anyone’s control and that governments completely give up and collapse in a matter of days. In World War Z, it takes multiple years and almost complete extermination until they figure out how to turn the tides in their favor, and we get to read how that execution occurs.
That doesn’t mean this book is perfect. Unfortunately, since it reads like history book, there are times when it becomes a little dry and boring especially with all the government meetings to discuss battle strategy and sharing whatever new information they may have on the infection. While I know in real life, that would obviously occur in order to fully exterminate all the zombies but that doesn’t make it more exciting to read. It is also confusing to keep track of everything happening around the world as every country has their own nuances during their war and own specific events such as the “Battle of Yonkers” in New York while Israel has a civil war.
Besides that, I enjoyed Max Brooks brutal honesty in what he thought would happen to humanity. Even by the end of the book, the humans may have “won” but with all they lost in the end, I am sure it doesn’t feel like it. With billions of the world’s population gone, it will be as if they have to start all over again from scratch while also fearing this outbreak to return with a vengeance since they never did find a cure. I also thought it was extremely creative to send some humans into space to orbit the earth and their documentations of the environmental impact of this war with the nuclear attacks and cutting down trees to have the wood for warmth as they stay in arctic areas. I felt like Max Brooks really tried to think through all the impacts of World War Z as something that isn’t just physically harming, but mentally and emotionally and environmentally and even spiritually as people give up hope. He paints this picture of complete devastation which explains why by the end, the humans decide it is best to go on the offense because what else do they have left to lose? I would definitely recommend this book to my fellow zombie book lovers!