Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book Review: World War Z

I promised my husband a long time ago that I would read this (one of his favorite books), and since the movie is due to hit theaters in the next month I decided it was time to fulfill my promise :)

World War Z : An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks is exactly what the title describes. The book tells the story of a war with the living dead in modern times. The story is told 12 years after peace was declared as a collection of interviews with people who lived through specific insidents at each stage of the war. The interviews are all in chronological order and begin with the outbreak and show how it travels from rural China to Europe and around the rest of the world. The book is sectioned off by stages as well, starting with the outbreak and then showing how the world dealt with it.

Let me just get one thing clear - I am not a "zombie person." I've never been into horror stories of any kind,  and I had never really cared one way or another about the whole zombie craze that has swept the nation since The Walking Dead came out. I do watch The Walking Dead like most other Americans, but to be honest I never would have started watching it at all had my husband not been so excited about it. That said, I really did enjoy this book - so much so that I read it all within a 2 day period. I just couldn't put it down! For me, the whole zombie aspect of this book is just a side note. The real guts of the story is how the world dealt with a war against an enemy they had no idea how to beat and never could have seen coming. It tells which countries were hit the hardest and why - usually having to do with their government either keeping the people completely in the dark about it or just denying it was even a problem until it was too late. It also tells which countries were the best prepared and not just survived but thrived - several of which will surprise you.

The thing I like best about this book is that it seems incredibly well researched. The interviews are from all over the world and reflect the different cultures extremely well. Each country's response to the problem is based off their political set up and really seem reasonable. Everything just makes sense which makes it very believeable. It also addresses our modern mindset and the problems we face when our technology cannot be accessed. One of my favorite interviews is with the man who heads up the US's new work placement program. In LA alone, 80% of the survivors had superfluous jobs before the incident and have to be taught how to do what they see as demeaning jobs, like being a janitor or a farmer, by the very people they used to employ to do those unwanted tasks for them. Executives are not much use in an "end of the world" scenario and the immigrants who grew up in other countries become our assets - love the irony, but also the believability.
Most people in the US would have no idea how to rely on themselves if they ever needed to without the internet and grocery stores. This leads to one of my favorite excerpts:
"It is my fault, and the fault of everyone of my generation. I wonder what the future generations will say about us. My grandparents suffered through the Depression, World War II, then came home to build the greatest middle class in human history. Lord knows they weren't perfect, but they sure came closest to the American dream. Then my parents' generation came along and f***ed it all up - the baby boomers, the "me" generation. And then you got us. Yeah, we stopped the Zombie menace, but we're the ones who let it become a menace in the first place. At least we're cleaning up our own mess, and maybe that's the best epitaph to hope for. 'Generation Z, they cleaned up their own mess.'"
I know - I always pick weird quotes to share from books, lol. This one really sums up the overall feeling of the end. Yeah, they eventually get things under control, but it should never have gotten as bad as it did. How often can we say that about things that go on now? We get so consumed by the daily grind of whatever job and responsibilities we have to do that we don't stop and look around and fix things before they are so big we have to call for help. We are too self absorbed as a people. Sure, the dead rising up and eating us en masse is an incredibly unlikely scenario, but if not that there will be something else to teach our generation this lesson.

I love how Max Brooks was able to really hit the nail on the head at how unprepared we are as a people, particularly the US. If there was ever a book that makes you want to be more self sufficient and ready for disaster, this is it.

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