Monday, April 25, 2011

I WILL Survive a Zombie Attack, Dammit!

In January 2009 I let you all know that I was deathly afraid of zombies. (Who isn't, though? Really.)

That's when A-to-e reader Craig recommended I check out both The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, in order to be prepared for the possible (inevitable?) zombie apocalypse. Alas, I didn't get to read much of anything besides business books after that point, but over the past few weeks I've been making up for lost time and have gone on an absolute reading bender, as it were. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had tons of novels patiently waiting to be hauled down from my massive bookshelf, and so when I discovered that my good friend and fellow blogger JOpinionated went to college with ZSG and WWZ author Max Brooks (who I just learned is the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft), I promoted World War Z to the top of my queue. I'd bought it in paperback... and then once Jo found out I was planning to read it, she got Brooks to sign the hardcover version for me when she saw him recently at WonderCon.

How cool is this?

I also have to include a picture Jo tweeted of the other copy she got Max to sign for a LOST fan/former tour guide she and I met in Oahu, Matt. Matt had told Jo that WWZ was one of his top 3 favorite books of all time. I LOVE what Max wrote to him!


So... what did I think about World War Z? You guys know I have to keep it real, so I can't claim to have loved it as much as Matt (or the vast majority of other readers). It was written as a series of interviews with various people who survived a global zombie attack -- the discussions take place about 10 years after the situation has been contained (though zombies have not yet been totally eradicated). Each chapter reveals the perspective of a different person -- it could be a soldier, it could be a leader of a foreign country, it could be a filmmaker -- none of the subjects were necessarily tied together in any way. Through these oral accounts of what came to be called "World War Z," the reader can piece together what happened and how everything got so out of control, so quickly. It is not tongue-in-cheek, it is not funny. It is dead serious. There WAS a zombie war, and you're reading the accounts of a few dozen who lived to tell the tale.

What I appreciated about the book is that I 100% believe almost everything Brooks covers would actually happen if zombies popped up somewhere. How politicians would respond, what tactics certain countries would take, how the military would approach the situation, what normal people would do -- it all rang true. In that sense I was reminded of Stephen King's Under the Dome (which I will eventually dedicate a post to) -- another book which I thought nailed human behavior in desperate times.

What's more, I have a ton of respect for the insane amount of research Brooks must have done to ensure his characters who were specialists in a certain area really came off as specialists. I believed every character could be a real person -- they didn't feel like fictional characters in the slightest. For me, however, that's where the book fell apart a little bit -- I'm just not into different kinds of weapons and military tactics and whatnot, and there were A LOT of details about such things in the book. While it was initially fascinating to hear soldiers' accounts, it got old after a while. The book lost steam for me about 3/4 of the way through, because by that point most of the interviews seemed to be with people connected to military operations throughout the world. Whereas the chapters I liked best were the more personal tales about what happened to specific communities and/or individuals. There were also a few references to a widely used "vaccine" that claimed to protect people from getting infected, and I found those parts fascinating (once again, because I believe we would in fact see false hope peddled extensively were our race ever facing extinction).

I found myself wishing that there were fewer interviewees and more time spent on certain characters so that I could feel a deeper sense of connection to them. The end of the book includes "last words" from many of the interviewees, and I swear I couldn't keep any of them straight or recall any of their stories from before. They'd all run together in my mind.

World War Z is being adapted for the big screen, with Brad Pitt attached to star. From what I've read they're making up a character for him -- or perhaps he's going to be the narrator (the interviewer). Brooks has been quoted as saying that the screenwriter found a way to tie all of the disparate accounts together (because remember, there are no true "recurring characters," per se). The film has a HUGE budget of $125 million, so fans are expecting really big things, and I'm personally excited to see how it turns out.

Hmm, I'm not quite THIS prepared...For those of you wondering if the book is gory, I can assure you that it's not at all. I don't like horror novels and get queasy VERY easily, and there was nothing in World War Z that freaked me out in that way. The aforementioned Under the Dome disturbed me much more, because there was sickening human-on-human violence. With zombie-against-human violence it hits a little less close to home (for now), because it's not anything I could actually picture happening, like, tomorrow. Plus, Brooks doesn't ever get down and dirty with nauseating details. Weapon and military tactic details? Yes. Gross-out blood and guts details? No.

I would recommend World War Z to any guy who likes to read. It's definitely more of a "dude book," for lack of a better term. If you're of the female persuasion and, like me, are kind of obsessed with apocalyptic scenarios and how the world might respond in the face of a global threat, I would also recommend it. The parts that wowed me definitely outweighed the sections that dragged. And let's face it, who doesn't need to know more about what it might take to survive the coming zombie apocalypse?!?

If you've read it, let me know what YOU thought!

- e


Sherylm said...

Well, since this seems to be zombies galore week, you'll enjoy this short article about the science behind zombies:
written by a doctor who is the author of a new book about them :-)
I loved the Jo connection and the dedications by the author, too, even if I am not a zombie fan:-)

Alex Yates said...

for those who don't have time to read to properly prepare for a zombie attack.

Zombies in Plain English

Erika (aka "e") said...

Sherlym - Yes, actually the article I linked to at the end of the post was derived from the one you included -- so I had in fact read that one. Pretty crazy stuff. Zombies are definitely all the rage. : )

Alex - I checked out that link -- loved it! Thanks for sharing... now I am TOTALLY prepared no matter what happens.

- e