World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (son of Anne Bancroft and Mel) is a novel that readers are either going to love or hate. Unlike the previews of the movie version, produced and starring Missouri native Brad Pitt which will be released on June 21st, the novel is made up of vignettes of life before, during, and after a war with zombies. Most of the stories have a humorous bent that work as metaphoric parody of the policy and inner workings of governments large and small, capitalist and communist, and everything in between. Also playing a role between the pages is an examination of the human spirit which can either shine or falter when faced with a worldwide catastrophe.
Written in 2006 there are obvious comparisons to the fallibility of the Bush Administration especially when some of the situations in the novel sound very close to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The storyline follows the point of view of a United Nations worker interviewing various individuals from different countries and backgrounds about their experiences for prosperity. The goal is to create a historical document which can pass on not only the cold facts but also give future readers (and possible zombie fighters) the sense of living through World War Z. Clue them in on what was done right and what was done horribly wrong. One of my favorite story themes was how in a post-apocalyptic world folks such as bankers, lawyers, and CEOs who were on top of the pay scale are now useless in terms of work abilities. What the world needs now are farmers, construction workers, dung transporters…thankfully “dung transporter” is something that a former White House Chief of Staff has experience in.
World War Z is a sequel to Brooks’ first book, The Zombie Survival Guide which was released in 2003. Interestingly Plan B, Pitt’s production company has the rights to all of Brooks’ zombie series so if the movie version of World War Z becomes a hit, the nation may see the rise of another movie franchise. With that said, as someone who reviews movies as well as books, I am perplexed as to how this book is going to be translated into a film. As source material, it would have made a lot more sense to make it into a television series than a full length movie considering that the story is told from different points of view. Already Vanity Fair featured a cover story on how the movie may be in trouble. Many shots shown in the preview seem to be a fast moving zombies, which is far from the case in the book. I thought one of Brooks’ most interesting additions to the zombie genre was the idea of zombies on the ocean floor walking around and sometimes attaching themselves to submarines.
I recommend World War Z for anyone who enjoys tales of zombies or clever books satirizing world issues and how they are handled. It is a fast read and a fun novel to discuss afterwards. At this point it appears to be the sort of book that is very different from its movie version.