Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Book Review: World War Z

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
by Max Brooks

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

The subtitle of World War Z says it all – it is an “oral history of the Zombie War,” a collection of survival stories looking back on an event – the outbreak of a zombie plague – that nearly destroyed humankind. This fictitious work was recommended to me by a couple of enthusiastic fans, but I failed to find the book overly engrossing. This is due largely to the book’s format. World War Z consists entirely of retrospective, first-person accounts that (generally) have little to do with one another. It is an inherently dry way of presenting a story. There is little opportunity for the reader to feel any genuine suspense, and hence there is little motivation to push forward to find out what’s going to happen next. Realistically enough, some of the interviews—and I hesitate to call them such, for the interviewer’s presence is negligible—are more interesting than others, but nothing really borders on fascinating. It took me several chapters to feel even slightly invested in the book.

On the other hand, the book thrives on realism. Though collectively the interviews are a bit too homogenous in tone (even despite the supposed geographical diversity of the interview subjects), Brooks effectively presents a wide array of psychological reactions to a planet in crisis. What we read here is what we could, should, and would expect if anything so devastating (even if more realistic) ever occurs. In the end, then, what makes World War Z so terrifying is not the zombies, but the sheer plausibility with which Brooks paints a picture of a world—our world—as it faces an apocalyptic threat for which it is scarcely prepared. Let us pray that there will never be a reason to look back on Brooks as a kind of quasi-Nostradamus. Of course, if there is, I trust the survivor stories will prove more intriguing than Brooks has managed to create here.


  1. Your writing never ceases to amaze me.

  2. You use so many descriptive words!!! I am jealous....but proud.