Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

World War Z

WWZWorld War Z by Max Brooks

—–

I remember reading a review of this book, learning that it was written by the son of Mel Brooks, and thought that this would be an amusing look at a tired horror cliche.  I figured there would be some satire, some witty dialog, and a few oddball characters amid an otherwise serious story, and that it would be something original, refreshing, and new.

Well … sort of.

World War Z is original, refreshing, and new, but there’s not much of anything funny in this book.  It’s brilliantly conceived, and brilliantly executed, but there’s nothing here that will make you laugh.  In fact, it was so far afield of what I expected from the son of Mel that I started to doubt that there was any relation between the two entertainers.  But, sure enough, there was.

The odd thing about this book is that it’s practically plot-less.  The book is considered an oral history of the Zombie War, and this history is told through interviews with some of the more notable survivors of the war.  Brooks teases us with little snippets of information through references to other events in the war, but never fully explains it.  You never doubt what he means with the reference, though; he suggests enough through the narrative to give a full understanding of the significance of the reference.  It’s such a subtle technique that I’m surprised that I don’t see this sort of thing used more in fiction.  It’s a gentle way of suggesting drastic events to the reader without having to bash him over the head with the meaning.

To me, this is a unique book.   Though I doubt this sort of epistolary format is anything new, it’s the first time I’ve read a book structured in this way, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The structure and format of the novel leaves it a tad dry, since it’s written as if to be a non-fictional account of a tragic event, but the dryness isn’t a bad thing here.  If nothing else, it gives the book a touch of authenticity.

A friend of mine told me that one of the things he enjoyed about the book was the realistic depiction of how a world would react to an epidemic.  I have to agree.  In fact, there were some portions of the story, in line with this theme, that would never have occurred to me without him bringing it in to the story.  He addresses cultural responses to the issue, the psychological response, the tactical response to the threat, and the natural progression of the war in tandem with all these responses.  It’s about as realistic a depiction of a war against the zombies that anyone will probably encounter, and I stagger to think of all the research that this book required.

World War Z is an outstanding book, well-written and well-developed.   I’m pleased to say that this book is one of those rare occasions when all the hype is justified.

Advertisements

July 25, 2007 - Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews

1 Comment »

  1. This is both a criticism of WWZ and praise: Brooks lifts the style whole cloth from Studs Terkel and his nonfiction “documentary” books, one of which he won the Pulitzer for. (Terkel’s mentioned in the acknowledgements.) As you say, it makes the material a bit more dry than it would otherwise be, but makes it that much more “authentic”.

    I’ve only read two, but they’re both good:

    The Good War (an oral history of WW2, and the one he won the Pulitzer for… he talks to people from all walks of life, from ALL the major powers involved)

    Hard Times (an oral history of the Depression… so dry as to be even boring in places, but you feel like you’ve lived it — it’s that immediate)

    For zombie lit, WWZ gets a solid B+, but the A goes to the “Walking Dead” series of graphic novels.

    Comment by bri (bbenston) | July 31, 2007 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: