In your life, if you’re the reading sort, you will come across the books that will open your eyes to the world around you. Now, maybe they’ll be the ‘classics’, or perhaps something that is more modern, but over the years you will read books that will, in some way, change you. That’s powerful. Really powerful. Now, I definitely have books that have had that effect on me. Books that just blew me away in some way. I can happily say, I am adding a new one to that list – World War Z. And it’s interesting because this is a rare book that the writer part of me is adding more than the every day me is adding. I add World War Z to the list because it is simply one of the most fascinating novels I have ever read. Hands down.
Set in the rebuilding era after the world has fast its first ‘World War Z’, or first full global zombie outbreak, World War Z is a series of stories told to the ‘author’ in interview style about people’s different experiences before, during, and after the war. The book is presented as a historical document to show how this war changed not only the world but the humans that live on it. Featuring stories that range from the intimate, to the cold and calculating, and all have a dark poignancy that make them unforgettable. From a man telling his story of protecting the rich and famous from the dead in a compound to the story of a submarine captain’s abandonment of country and post to save his family and crew, these are stories that could come from any time, and any war. Put together, this book tells the haunting story of a war that was almost lost, and the humanity that was lost in the process of finding victory. This is the story of the end of the world and the life that exists beyond it.
In writing World War Z, author Max Brooks took what we genre fans have thought of when it came to the living dead and made it global and in so doing he took it deadly serious. There is humor here, very black humor, but the story is always about the people. What makes this such a shocking book for me is the level of detail Brooks went to in telling his story. He gets into tactical and technological issues of the war and treated this as if he were writing a historical text. Not once does Brooks treat this as a ‘horror book’ or simply resort to telling your standard horror story. This is, through and through, a telling of the most horrific war the earth had ever seen. And the terror comes from the people telling the stories, people who have seen humanity fail and have seen and fought walking nightmares. The most shocking moments are also the ones that come from the humans themselves and the horror that they create as civilization crumbles. This is not to say that the living dead are background players though. Far from it. In writing this and The Zombie Survival Guide Brooks has created his own zombie mythos and has made them a sort of horrible force of nature. They are never super powered or fast but they are ever persistent and ever present, waiting to take their prey. And if stories of outposts surrounded by a million zombies and fighting them off to survive until help comes doesn’t chill your blood then I don’t know what will.
One of the special and wonderful things we don’t seem to get enough of in horror is the epic story, the story that has a scope and scale that is as good as it is ambitious but this is a rare treat in that case. Beautifully written and conceived, the story is always the king here, and the book never becomes a sermon on morality or politics but merely reflects that things that we have been seeing for decades.
I cannot recommend World War Z enough to fans of horror literature and to fans of good stories in general. It’s rare that you get a book that lives up to the hype that precedes it but this does in every sense. I had resisted reading the book for so long and feel like a fool for it. Truly, one of the most important modern horror stories out, and a game changer when it comes to the zombie subgenre. A quick, brilliant read that will leave you cold for a lot of dark nights.