Home » Books » (Book Review) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

(Book Review) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

I read this back in first year and I’ve wanted to reread it for quite a while. This summer I finally got the chance.

World War Z remains a particularly impressive novel. It seamlessly weaves together survival stories from all over the globe into a single, coherent narrative chronicling everything form the initial outbreak to the how humanity came to win the war and this structure gives it great scope for diversity in the stories.

Realism is the best thing World War Z has going for it. Everything from politics and history to religion and culture factors into how states respond to the crisis- the most ready example is the Israeli civil war which erupts after the government decided to abandon Jerusalem. The inclusion of certain world leaders adds another dimension of realism to the story. For example, Nelson Mandela (though he’s not mentioned by name) gives moral authority and credibility to the military plan which saves the human race but sacrifices millions of lives in the process. This realism is, in my opinion, the great triumph of World War Z and why it stands out as such a particularly impressive zombie story. However, the inclusion of other, less permanent or renowned world figures e.g. the U.S. President and Vice President, who are heavily implied to be real-life politicians Colin Powell and Howard Dean respectively, serves to severely date the book. But to be fair to the book there was a very interesting dynamic between those particular characters which I did really enjoy.

A few other problems were more noticeable this time round. Though the zombie war was global the novel it’s still quite US-centric, which is always a bit frustrating. And a couple of the stories just aren’t as well thought-out or believable as the others e.g. one set in Japan follows a kid who’s apparently so obsessed with his computer that he doesn’t notice the city outside his window going up in flames – or even the fact that his parents have been missing for days! This section read like a “kids these days” lecture with added zombies.

However, most of the stories are very well thought-out and exciting, and a few of my personal favourite stories deserve honourable mentions. One involves a pilot who has to punch-out of her plane in the middle of a vast infected zone. Another is the story of the Indian General Raj-Singh who is a legendary figure throughout the book. There’s also a particularly interesting story of how dogs were used by the military when it came time to fight-back. And finally there’s the story about how the people of Paris thought they could escape the infection by fleeing into the Catacombs (three guesses how that turned out for them).

Tl;dr It’s a great book and the most realistic zombie story I’ve ever come across. Read it if you haven’t yet. And if you have, let me know in the comments which your favourite stories were.

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