Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review : World War Z by Max Brooks

Full title:- World War Z : An Oral History of the Zombie War  (yeah too long to write the whole thing on top at once)

(Originally review posted on Goodreads:- May 5, 2013)

Initially I had thought World War Z was going to be a book I would be surreptitiously adding to
my 'read' list on Goodreads, rating it and moving on to better reads quite unceremoniously.
I had considered not even the remotest possibility of reviewing it, because I assumed this was going to be one of those books one reads for sheer entertainment value and little else. 
But here I am writing one anyway, because I think the author definitely deserves some praise for his powers of imagination, if not for the copious amount of research he must have put in to write this.

If you are looking for your regular dosage of blood, guts and gore or a deliciously disturbing montage of decapitated torsos and severed limbs, I suggest you look elsewhere. Because World War Z is different from your mainstream zombie book.
Sure it contains the appropriate number of grotesque scenarios and morbid imagery, but these are not its highlights.
Here the zombie apocalypse serves merely as a backdrop against which the fragility of the world order is exposed - how an unforeseen human crisis of unimaginably catastrophic proportions can make the painstakingly put-together fabric of our civilization crumble like a house of cards.
Instead of recounting the story of the survival of one particular group of humans, making their way from one safe haven to another, Max Brooks gives us the bird's eye view of the nature of the calamity. 
The story of the human resistance against zombies unfolds from the perspective of not one but numerous survivors all over the world - military and navy men/women, war strategists, politicians, fraudulent businessmen, doctors, film directors, divers, ordinary civilians and so on. But the multiple points of view are compiled together in a single document, by an unnamed UN official to help create a clearer picture of the extent of the tragedy after the war has ended.
So what one finds in this book are minutiae regarding military equipment, weapons specially designed to fight off the living dead, strategies for quarantine and annihilation of infected people, psychological after-effects of surviving the disaster and living through it. Which makes it a lot more interesting and unconventional since the focus is shifted from the mindless violence perpetrated by a bunch of reanimated corpses and placed on human strengths and fallacies, instead. 

So then why did it leave me underwhelmed? 
Because the different accounts start to sound repetitive and the novelty of the mode of narration wears off after you get past the halfway mark. The frequency with which the author bombards the reader with descriptions of tactics employed by military and navy men tires one out after a while. And often, he goes overboard while trying to display his ample knowledge of the socio-political landscape of various nations. The way the book feels like a piece of non-fiction rather than a fictionalized account, also curtails one's enjoyment of the story somewhat.
I would have rated this 4 stars had the book helped me maintain the same level of interest throughout. 
That, however, does not mean it is unreadable. 
If you love your zombies yet cannot put up with mediocre writing and respect an author who cares to thoroughly research the topics he wishes to write on, World War Z is your next prospective read.

3 stars out of 5.

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