This was an excellent novel. In fact, two books that I had requested through my local library came available while I was in the midst of reading this one – both had exceptionally long waiting lists and I needed to get through them both before the return date. Yet, I simply could not stop reading this book. Could. Not. Put. Down.
While the story is about zombies, the focus is on a viral outbreak that causes a world war. It reads like a science fiction war novel, not a horror story. There are plenty of exciting story lines, nail-biting adventures and descriptions of creepy undead, but the undead make up the background for the human stories that occur within the midst of a new-to-the-human-race mortal danger.
The structure is based around the idea that the fictional ‘author’ traveled the world interviewing people and gathering data about the zombies, the battles and the human element. The result is a collection of first-person accounts of a massively destructive biological event that was eventually put down through offensive attacks on millions (billions) of humans-turned-zombies.
The fact that the virus is spread through human negligence (officials refusing to believe data), fear (refugees and panic), criminal activities (illicit organ transplants) and predatory commerce (selling fake cures with FDA approval) is disturbingly logical. Nuclear attacks between countries and civil wars within nations are launched because communications system fail, key individuals are lost and the difficult fact that human nature tends toward both control and revenge (even when human extinction is a potential consequence).
The most frightening thing about this novel is the description of very real human reactions – and we do not come across as a particularly logical, kind or resilient species. In the end, the human race wins the war well enough to return to some semblance of a life, but…well…you’ll have to read the book. Suffice it to say that the zombies are not gone, just under control.
If you saw the movie, then be forewarned – the book describes a very different plot, new selection of characters and a drastically different take on the zombie-as-monster. Hollywood pretty much took the bones of the narrative (UN employee searching for an the source of the zombie plague by traveling around the world and interviewing people) and created a brand new version of the story.
Bottom line – it’s a good book (REALLY good book) and I highly recommend it.
–World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks