World War Z, Max Brooks


My teeth grated together in horror as soon as I listened to this: “World War Zee by Max Brooks!” intoned the narrator. “Zee”? “Zee“?! No!! World War Zed!

Despite that, this was a brilliant book to listen to as an audiobook: it is formed from interviews with various survivors of the war against the undead. Z for zombies. Because of the episodic nature of the narrative, it was perfect to listen to one or two interviews on the way to or from work.

And some of the voice acting here was brilliant: more dramatisation perhaps than audiobook. The feral child who recalled the ragged (stertorous perhaps, stealing Bram Stoker’s word) breathing of the zombies as they attacked her family was particularly effective. As was the pilot who was shot down. And the family forced to trade goods for human meat when their daughter is ill, seen through the eyes of her older sister.

The problem is that the stories and accounts are all – more or less – effective. But fairly repetitive.

I missed having continuity. When I had invested in the characters for a while, I wanted to know how they dealt with the later parts of the war.

Episodic narratives: excellent for audiobooks listened to in the car; poor for allowing investment in characters.

I am wondering whether it is possible to create a spoiler here. Zombies rise in China. That’s chapter one. The blurb would tell anyone that. Not a spoiler. Through a combination of idiocy, greed and corruption, the virus spreads across the world through human migration, organ and people trafficking. World War Z? No spoiler there! Zombies eat lots of people. The army is ill prepared (who would be?) and fail spectacularly to protect the world. People fight back. America saves the world.


America saves the world.

The US President makes a speech. And everything gets better.

Imagine Abraham Lincoln crossed with Bill Pullman in Independence Day.

It is terribly Americocentric. Yankiecentric. There are many other countries and nationalities interviewed but they are all sidelined by the U S of A. China originated the virus. Russia is corrupt and dishonest. England is romanticised to Disneyesque proportions: Her Majesty refused to leave London and inspired us the populace. God bless her!

I was heading towards the four / five star area with this book when I began listening to it. But I think in retrospect that was due to the quality of the voice acting and the coincidence of the narrative structure with my listening habits. On reflection, if I were asked to rate it out of five, I’d maybe say 3.5 stars.

5 thoughts on “World War Z, Max Brooks”

  1. […] The book is your standard zombie-fare: for unknown reasons, the dead rise and kill and convert much of humanity before the human race makes a stand. What I enjoyed about it – and what was taken out of the film – was the multitude of voices and stories which took an unmanageably large global narrative and reduced it down to domestic individual stories. My original blog, follow the link. […]


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