World War Z – The Book
An Oral History of the Zombie War, By Max Brooks
|Value for money||8/10|
|Did it do what it said on the box?||9/10|
"The World At War" with Zombies!
Christopher Tookey’s review of World War Z the movie made me decide two things simultaneously: I did not want to spend £20 on going to see the film, but I did want to read the book. Having done so, I’m very glad I did.
The book takes the simple concept of “a plague of zombies”, and tries to tell the story of a modern, global human struggle to first survive and then fight back and retake the world. To do this the author, Max Brooks, adopts the unusual but highly effective device of a series of interviews with key witnesses: soldiers, survivors, leaders, administrators and political or social commentators.
The book is as much about the socio-economic upheaval of such a happening as it is about how zombies behave. Given the concept of “flesh eating zombie”, the emerging story then reflects a very modern understanding of virology, military capabilities, human behaviour and geopolitics.
The interview-based structure really resonated with me, although initially I was slightly puzzled why. Then the penny dropped. This is “The World at War”, adapted for science fiction. I am a great fan of that 1970s epic documentary, told largely through interviews with soldiers, survivors, leaders… The author doesn’t explicitly acknowledge that influence, but once you see it, it’s obvious.
I haven’t seen the film yet, but based on the trailer and reviews it sounds like the screenwriters have thrown away this wonderful structure in favour of a much more simplistic linear narrative focused on a few central characters. If so, that’s an enormous shame.
For an intelligent, inspiring tale which will keep you turning the pages you won’t do much better.