Readers’ Advisory: World War Z, by Max Brooks (2006)
Synopsis: Set in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak that devastated the globe, World War Z is an oral history of the people that survived the outbreak. With stories from around the globe, the pandemic is described from the early stages to the very late – all from the point of view of the various participants.
World War Z has a very detailed background to it, and a good sense of internal coherency – even if it is not immediately apparent. Though this is set in the future, an unspecified amount of years from now, the stories feel real and engaging, with each character having their own distinct voice. The format of each chapter is not uniform, particularly since Brooks jumps from style to style – some chapters being written out like a transcript, while others are more poetic. For some, this shift may be difficult to grasp, but for those who don’t mind such a thing, the novel offers a wide variety of stories.
Brooks’ previous novel, The Zombie Survival Guide, is a predecessor to this novel, though it is lighter in tone. Still, fans of one may very well enjoy the other, particularly thanks to the consistency between the two. With the use of the zombie as a metaphor, the novel also offers an insightful social commentary about the state of the world; the fear of a mindless, uncontrollable terror; and the perils of isolationism. For those who enjoy horror or post apocalyptic settings, this book might be for them.
If you liked this book, you might also like…
Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood: Both are post-apocalyptic novels that share stories from the survivors, and that offer social commentary on the modern world. The last man on earth, known only as Snowman, mourns the loss of his best friend Crake, and the woman they loved, Oryx. With the help of the ‘perfect’ Children of Crake, Snowman sets out to find answers as to how humanity fell.
The Zombie Autopsies, Steven C. Schlozman: While World War Z focuses on the human side of the zombie outbreak, The Zombie Autopsies describes the scientific side, as it attempts to explain the science of reanimation. A medical textbook, interspersed with field notes from the doctors studying the zombies (even as they fall to the plague), it provides a very realistic look at the undead.
Robopocalypse, Daniel H. Wilson: Like World War Z, Robopocalypse focuses on the near-extinction of humanity by robots, told through the point of view of the survivors. Like World War Z, it is done in an episodic fashion, focusing on a variety of different people with a common narrator between all of them.