World War Z
Brooks, M. (2006). World War Z. Duckworth
[Genre: Post-apocalyptic, horror]
So . . . . Zombies are about as far out of my reading comfort zone as it is possible to get. Anything that can vaguely be classified as horror, high-fantasy or paranormal usually has me going NOPE NOPE NOPE. I'm not even sure why I picked this one up. I'd heard good (even very good things), but that wouldn't usually be enough. In the end, I blame a kindle sale.
World War Z is narrated by a UN worker, who was tasked with travelling the world to document the experiences of survivors of a ten year 'zombie' (the 'zombie' epidemic being an unknown virus that makes the brain a self-sufficient organ, removing any trace of the human that once occupied the body and inducing cannibalistic instincts) war which occurs not far from the present point in history - it is implied that the UK still has the same queen and that the Vietnam war is within living memory. When his superiors tend towards a fact-and-figures based final UN report, the narrator uses his research to publish his own oral history of the war.
This book is brilliant. Brooks takes a completely unlikely scenario and applies it to current philosophies and geopolitics with such skill that it's almost unbelievable. It's so well done that you forget just how unlikely the scenario really is and the concept of a zombie war becomes somehow. . . scarily plausible. I don't mean that in a 'it could happen' way, but rather 'if it did happen, it could totally play out this way' way. Instead of the usual comments on zombies as a concept, World War Z comments on almost everything else: American isolationism, the rise of the Third World, South Africa and Russia's historical contexts and how it applies to their present day politics, environmentalism, technology addiction, war tactics and so on. It's one of the most amazing treatises on the state of the world today that I've come across in fiction and it's all hiding there under a layer of. . . zombies. To me (though perhaps not to the author, given his previous works), is a pretty awesome statement on the state of the world in itself, and to me, even though this book was WAY WAY out of my comfort zone, added another layer to the whole thing which took it up yet another notch.
4 stars. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. Before I read it, I wouldn't even have recommended it to myself. It certainly hasn't given me any inclination to read the horror genre more often, as I suspect World War Z is a bit of a pull away from the norm. But I'm glad I read this one, I really am.