World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War - Max Brooks The thing that sets this zombie stories apart from the others I've experienced is right there in the title: WORLD War Z. So many other zombie stories are America-centric and work on the vague notion that the epidemic is occurring elsewhere in the world, but there is no interaction with anyone but the small pocket of main characters within the United States. Isolation is a huge part of those stories, which ups the tension and emotion, but it always bothers me that a global apocalypse seems to immediately reduce the world to a handful of people right from the start.

In this case, it starts with a handful of people in China, a small village identified as ground zero, the source of the epidemic, then moves throughout the world as the author interviews various survivors of the horrific events. Brooks has already compiled enough information for an official report on the events, but because of all the information he learned doing so, he is compelled to write a more human report. This is another difference about the book that appeals to me: few of the survivor stories are coming from the "regular" people. A lot of the stories come from people responsible for some of the major decisions and events that took place in the war. It is interesting to note how many interviews take place within various types of institutions, or comment on the breakdowns of the people in power after they are forced to make decisions that amount to the sacrifice of thousands of innocent human lives to contain and ultimately destroy the undead.

The nature of the recounts does not allow for a lot of emotional attachment to any of the characters and the emotions of the characters themselves has to be extrapolated by the reader based on the stories they tell. Ironically, my favourite story was the one of Paul Redeker. An apparently emotionless man who turned the tides of the epidemic in Africa through the implementation of a controversial plan.

I also really liked that this wasn't just about fighting the zombies. It was a surprisingly in depth look at the various government and military institutions around the world. Their reactions to the event are very realistic and remained so throughout. And in the end, no one country could claim any kind of victory. There is also a lot of emphasis on the guilt that comes with "just following orders."

Because the book occurs after the events, there is no sense of immediate danger. This might not work for some readers, and evidently, it doesn't work for the upcoming movie, which clearly pits Brad Pitt against the zombies. I also notice that the zombies are more like freaky carpenter ants in the trailer, speedily climbing over each other to swarm their targets. There is a small moment in the book that describes the zombies as a "swarm," which I suspect is what inspired the movie interpretation of their movement habits, but otherwise, the book maintains the shambling corpse that is zombie flick standard.

My book club is reading this book because of the upcoming movie. We're curious to see how far it strays from the source material, as the trailer already seems to depict. I'll check back later with my report!

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