Thursday, May 12, 2011

World War Z by Max Brooks

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie WarWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't believe I'm reading a zombie book. It's all Calico Reaction's fault.

Wow, I really don't know what to say about this book.

It's a good book, but it's so different from what I usually read that I feel like I don't have any context for commenting on it.

I'll say up front that I am not a zombie person. They just don't appeal to me. So you won't get me to watch zombie movies (although I have seen 28 Days or whatever the first one was called) and you generally won't get me to read zombie books.

The two I have tried (and liked) were this one and Mira Grant's Feed. And both, I have felt count as zombie books for people who don't like zombies. In both, the focus is not on blood, guts and gore and killing as many zombies as you can, but one what effect a zombie plague has on people and society and how people adapt and change to meet this new challenge. They are about science and psychology more than gore. This is something I find I do like.

In World War Z, this is in fact quite a bit of zombie killing, but by structuring the narrative as Brooks has done - make it a transcription of first hand reports after the fact - adds a distance that allows me to take on the facts without having to be traumatized by the gory details. The book almost reads as non-fiction (which I assume was the author's intention) but with a touch of the personal.

I really enjoy the scientific puzzle of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic books and this book gave me that. I never did find out what caused the virus, but I got to see how it developed, how it was dealt with and even a touch of the effect it has had on people a decade later.

That really did work for me.

I can't say that I "loved" this book in a "rave and squee about it" kind of way, but I certainly didn't dislike it either. That implies my reaction of sort of "meh" but it wasn't that either. This was a very satisfying book for me, even if I'm usually a character reader and this book was lacking in characterisation.

As I said at the beginning, it's a very different style of book from my usual as I find it hard to vocalise my reaction.

Satisfying sounds like damning it with faint praise, which isn't what I mean to do at all. I recommend the book, and while I can easily describe its basic ideas and conceits, I don't know how to describe my reaction to it. So go and try it for yourself. I do think it's worth it.

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