A Review of World War Z by Max Brooks



I was told about World War Z from my friend, Mary.  As we are both avid “Walking Dead” fans (the TV show- I haven’t read the graphic novels), Mary thought I would really like World War Z.

Mary was right. (Four for Mary, you go Mary!)

World War Z  is a “historical” account – that is, it takes place after the zombie war/pandemic has already been controlled – or at least to the extent that it can be.  There are multiple characters  all of whom were in a different location during the actual conflict, therefore presenting a unique point of view.

The Good:  This is a well thought out book.  Max Brooks seriously considered all of the possible consequences of the conflict he was creating and applied those that fit with human nature.  As a result, the book strikes the reader as being very, very realistic despite the fact that zombies are running around.  We are never really told  what the cause is, as no one in the book really knows what it was that turned a human in to a zombie – we see the first case, see the doctors and experts try to puzzle it out.  But much like every disease we have ever encountered, we need time to figure it out.  I really appreciated this approach.  It isn’t necessarily unique, but it is perhaps a bit more believable and it kind of inadvertently allows the reader to form their own idea.  I felt like I was slowly becoming an investigator myself, looking for clues in the text.

The way Brooks had people react to the crisis was spot on.  He also covered how all of the nations responded, something that is all too often left out of zombie novels.  There is both a microscopic view and a macroscopic view – he includes the fullest picture.  There is also a portion on celebrities and their response to the crisis; Brooks hit the nail on the head there.  That section is wonderful because I could so easily see it happening in reality.

Brooks covers all of his bases.  He shows how the conflict affects governments, economies, societies, cultures, and the day-to-day interactions of people.  He covers the globe – it’s a world war after all.

There’s also some pretty cool chapters that explore the psychological impact that any war would have, but especially one of this nature.  There’s an awesome line where a character states that this war was particularly difficult because they were fighting a what as opposed to a who.  Most wars are demoralizing, and often the side that is more demoralized loses the fight.  History confirms this.  Here, there was no way to demoralize the zombies, no strategy that could make them want to stop fighting.  They act on pure instinct alone.

The best part, in my opinion, was the outcome of the zombie pandemic and how the power of the world shifted.  Just like World War I and World War II, the countries that were once so dominant are instead licking their wounds.  World War Z is no different in the fact that it mixed things up – and in an entirely believable, although surprising, way.

The Bad: I suppose the fact that there is not really any explanation as to how the zombies came in to being could also be a negative for some readers.  Like I said, I was constantly searching, hoping that if I looked hard enough maybe I would find the answer.  I didn’t, but at the end I was so satisfied with the story I received that I didn’t mind the missing cause.  For people who need this degree of detail, it could be frustrating.   

The Verdict:  Don’t read: If you super hate zombies, it might be best to steer clear of this one as it is literally only about zombies.  Seriously.  There are no side stories – no romantic affairs, no drama that is totally unrelated to the brain hungry, decaying bodies running around.  This is of course because the novel is supposed to be a collection of interviews, a historical document.

Read:  I encourage you to read this even if you are just kind of ‘meh’ about the zombie genre just because this particular novel is so well written and so well done.  If you super love zombies, you are going to love this book and you probably should read it soon before the movie comes out.  Because that’s truly the best way.

Written by Rachel B.

Rachel is a co-creator and writer at Definitely Not for the Birds (DNFB). She recently graduated with a degree in English. Presently, she writes, reads, and then reads and writes some more, with a giant and ever-present mug of green tea in her hand. Follow Rachel @rrbindl and DNFB @not4birds