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Old 10-02-2009, 07:08 AM
Scored: 10
Views: 7,173
Default World War Z (novel)

Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: October 2, 2009

Released by: Crown
Release date: 9/12/2006
MSRP: Various
Hardcover, Softcover, e-book, audiobook (abridged & unabridged)

The written word has been ignored for too long here at Horror Digital. Minus a few comic book reviews, this site really hasn't reviewed much in written form. That's to be expected given that we focus on viewable media, but with our name change, what we review is certainly open to interpretation. I mean, an e-book is digital, as is an MP3 had I gone the audiobook route. Regardless, for World War Z I read the actual book - paper and all - and thought the time for a book report was long overdue.

I grew up in the late 80s and Stephen King was the name of the game if you were a horror nut like me. Even as I entered into adulthood and branched out to other authors, I often found myself retreating back to the familiar ground of King. I get his writing - it is modern day, albeit crude, and he writes characters like no other. But now, after years of reading King and often even rereading King, I once again decided I needed to branch out. My brother recommended Koontz and I have read a few of his books. I enjoyed them, but none enough where I felt compelled to review them. It wasn't until I was browsing the literature section of our own forum here that I stumbled across someone that read and recommended World War Z by Mel Brooks. Interesting title, so off to Amazon I went to read up on it. While the book had great reader recommendations, I was a bit turned off by the how the book was written - interviews with survivors of the war that retell their stories of the zombie apocalypse. I forgot about the book for a while and continued to read, or listen - I'm a big audiobook guy - to other novels. Several months pass by and World War Z is still kicking around in my head. I bring my two boys down to the local library during a vacation week of mine and I decided to bite the bullet and checkout World War Z - the large print edition as these eyes of mine aren't what they used to be, but are just good enough to pass the eye exam.

I am very much a person that judges books and movies by their cover. If it doesn't sound / look good to me, I often skip by it without a second thought. It matters not what friends, family, or even the countless horror experts in our forums recommend; I simply do not have the desire and therefore skip past whatever is being recommended. It often isn't until I get an inkling to see or read something that I finally break down and watch / read it. I truly hate this about myself because it's why I missed seeing Donnie Darko in the theater, which turned out to be a movie I loved. I've gotten better about this but still tend to gloss by things I don't like the looks off. Watchmen is another I skipped over in the theater and reluctantly rented on blu-ray only to discover I loved it. Someday I will learn.

Lets take a look at the World War Z novel. Was my initial turnoff correct? Or am I here to claim ignorance once again?

The Story

World War Z isn't a typical novel in the sense that it has central characters that the story focuses around. I suppose if there are central characters it is the entire human race, or the army of undead walking the earth. Instead the book is made up for a series of interviews with survivors of the zombie holocaust that retell their stories. There are dozens upon dozens of interviews but they do guide you through the beginning, middle, and end of the zombie invasion. It took me a bit to buy into this idea since I often tend to love the characters in various novels - they are always what suck me into the story. Even though it did take me a while to get sucked into World War Z, once I was, there was no turning back - I was hooked.

The beginning tells the story of the early encounters of the dead rising and the "Great Panic" that ensued. This "Great Panic" is full of tragic and incredibly detailed stories from survivors. Think about the limitations a movie has with its 90, 120, or even 180 minute runtime. A movie simply cannot complete with the level of detail found in a novel. Every reader knows this. The written form has its limits - books can only be so long - but several hundred pages can give you a lot of detail. World War Z doesn't need that many pages to blow you away with detail; it does just fine with 350. Just think if the actual dead started to rise across the planet tomorrow. How many individual stories would there be? Imagine the fall of humanity as you know it today, not just from the zombie attacks, but the collapse of society itself. How many of us would survive when the lights and heat go out, the food stops being delivered to markets, and the water stops flowing? Cities would be overwhelmed not just from zombie mayhem but from the mass hysteria of the general public. Even as people begin to flee cities they are faced with looting, starvation, rape and murder from fellow humans - this on top of dealing with hordes of zombies roaming about. All of this is explored in World War Z.

As we get to the middle the book touches upon the evacuation and collapse of cities - and even countries - around the world, and various government responses to try and exterminate the zombies. They fail due to their attempts to use traditional warfare. This too is explored in the book. What happens if your enemy does not sleep? Or does not care when his fellow zombies are gunned down or injured? Or if you blow their legs off and they simply start crawling towards you? It's not until the armies of the world adapt to their enemy is there signs of hope for a long and slow victory against the zombies.

Towards the end we are given glimmers of hope for humanity. Armies learn to fight and humanity is united in their quest to eradicate every zombie from the face of the earth. When some safety starts to return, people look back at the world as its was prior to the zombie war and wonder if things will ever be the same again. Most appreciate the unification of humanity but wonder if future generations simply return to our old selfish ways, concerned only with ones self and not for their neighbor. There's certainly some political tones to World War Z - the fall of the United States as a financial leader, countless politicians - in all governments - and their inability to cope with the crisis at hand, and even the rise of Cuba of all places. I saw this more as tongue-in-ceek type of writing, but who knows? Maybe there is an underlying political message. All I got out of it was that even with zombies roaming the world, it's still the living and our own selfish ways that were doing the most damage.

While I did miss the central characters to latch onto, World War Z actually manages to defy the odds and create dozens upon dozens of characters - through the interviews and retellings - that you can appreciate. The retellings of peoples' encounters with the zombies in one manner or another are compelling to read and are really what make World War Z so enjoyable. Some of the tales are tragic, some heroic, but nearly all are engrossing. I didn't have one particular favorite but one aspect to World War Z that I absolutely loved, and it's been explored very little by Hollywood (Fulci's Zombie comes to find) is underwater zombies! It's touched upon quite a bit here, even to the point of what the world plans to do to destroy all of the undead walking the ocean floor. I loved reading about people swimming out to ships in various harbors around the world, only to be pulled underwater by zombies. Great stuff!

I'm still not sure if I'll read Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide. It again goes back to that 'judging a book by its cover' mentality of mine. I think he's at least earned the right to get me to pick it up and check it out, so perhaps I will. Given my enjoyment of World War Z, I hope he continues to write in the genre.

We all know that when a novel is successful, Hollywood comes knocking. Such is the case here ; it's already been confirmed and a script is currently being worked on. My only hope is that they at least try to spread this out into a trilogy so they can at least have a hope of touching upon all the details found in the book. Otherwise I think we are destined for another Battlefield Earth.

Final Thoughts

A must read for all zombie fans! The audio book was just released for World War Z so really there's no excuse not to read it. Pop it onto your Ipod and go for a walk, or go old school and curl up on the couch with the novel itself. Whatever you do, don't let World War Z pass you by. Highly recommended!


Story - A



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Old 10-02-2009, 03:45 PM
I love this book and I've been meaning to put the audio book on my phone for a long time. I think my favorite story was the one of the female pilot that went down in the zombie infested swamp. I really dug that one in particular.

I need to read it again, it's been awhile. What's even greater is it's written by Mel Brooks' son.
Old 10-02-2009, 06:12 PM
Awesome - There are a TON of great horror books out there, good to see a review show up here - nice! A while back I went through and read a bunch of source material for horror films for my old review site so I could compare/contrast. Wouldn't mind seeing more book reviews on this site...
Old 10-02-2009, 09:02 PM
Hmmm, sounds interesting.
tHaT dAmN dOcToR iS tRyInG tO sTaRvE mE tO dEaTh!
Old 10-02-2009, 09:25 PM
Johnny Hallyday forever
It is a great thoughtful read. Great review too.
"Only on Horrordvds.com could a well intentioned get well thread turn into an infomercial about the propensity for testicular perspiration".
Old 10-03-2009, 10:47 AM
Be sure to check out Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide as well. A lot of fun to be had with that one.

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