World War Z
By: Max Brooks
I wasn’t at all sure I’d like this book. Zombies are not really my thing, but at the urging of my offspring I took up the challenge of reading it; reading only during daylight hours and steeling myself for the gruesome bits.
Much to my surprise, though, World War Z is actually a very good book. Yes, there are gruesome bits, but they are in context, not gratuitous. The format of first person accounts as related to the narrator is inspired, and I marvel at the author’s in-depth knowledge of the history and socio-political state of the many regions his narrator visits to collect these stories.
What strikes me most of all is the seemingly very accurate descriptions of how easily a society unravels when faced with a threat on the scale of the Zombie epidemic. That humanity prevailed in the end is in no small part due to individuals who step up and go outside established the rules of society, some willingly, some under orders.
Societies are in essence nothing more than groups of people who have chosen to live together for economic and security reasons. These groups agree to abide by certain rules in order to enjoy the benefits of the group, and they know the consequences of breaking the rules. The concept of how and why societies form is a theme that shows up in many of the early books by Robert Heinlein, “Tunnel in the Sky” in particular comes to mind.
What happens when that group agreement faces an extraordinary threat, in this case Zombies, is something we’ve seen at various points in history. It unravels. Panic ensues, and the social niceties disappear. The majority of humans seem to revert to some dormant character trait stored deep in the lizard brain, the home of the fight-or flight response.
All this is what Max Brooks describes in eloquent vignettes of ‘real‘ people who have survived the horrors of the Zombie epidemic. Many of these characters stayed with me longer after I finished the book, along with an inkling of how truly fragile is our society...
And, a bonus book review from a teen.
Here are Spencer's impressions of World War Z
It was a quick read, you can get into it easily and it reads quickly. It was super-realistic, you feel like you were there with the survivors, and not just with the military types but also with the people who made no contribution at all but just tried to survive. Or those who did the seemingly unimportant jobs that needed to be done too.
It didn’t focus too much on the horror that most zombie materials focus on, instead it focused on the human element. It felt like it was a real chronicled history instead of a fictional what-if. It also had a lot of realism and emotion in it. You could get a good sense of the feelings of the interviewees, and how they thought and reacted to everything.
The book made you think how things would play out if this really happened and how much it would follow what happened in the book; the reactions of governments and people. In the book it really comes down to people.