Note: This Review is part of the contest 2011 Spooktacular October Paranormal Reading Challenge. For details or more reviews, please visit Sweetmarie Spooktacular October Paranormal
World War Z by Max Brooks is an iconic book. Not only it single-handily brought new life to the Zombie Genre and became a classic, but the book made zombies so cool and appealing that it kick-started the whole Zombie trend that has been sweeping the literary horror genre for years. I mean, even Stephen King cut a slice of dead meat pie with his book Cell.
For ages Zombies had been monsters for short stories and second rate movies; not since George Romero's mythic movies had the undead been so alive in our psyche. There were no novels solely dedicated to them and they were considered by most like truly dead myths, until in real Zombie-esque style Max Brooks came about and made them walk again.
These days Zombies are hot and everyone who is in the business of writing or selling horror books knows it. We, and them, owe it all to this amazing book. Rumor has it, Brad Pitt will play the lead in the movie version of the book that's in production this very moment.
Okay, back to the book.
It's written like a non-fiction story, very matter of fact, and even scarier because of that. The story starts ten years after the Zombie World War almost annihilated the human race. For twelve years every breathing being on the planet fought an all out war with an enemy that isn't organized, doesn't sleep, doesn't need to eat, and, technically, can't die; where everyone human that got killed in action, raised to fight against you. Three quarters of the world population died as a result of it, the planet got thrashed, and whole ecosystems went the same way Dinos did. Add to that the nuclear winter and you've got the scariest setting ever.
We never get to know the name of the author, all we know is he was in charge of writing a report for the United Nation's Postwar Commission but when he delivered it, the Commission Chair asked him to edit said report because it was all "too intimate", with "too many opinions". He had to prune his report and eliminate, as much as possible, the influence of the human factor. The author is appalled, considering it was precisely the human factor what allowed the catastrophe to occur, so he decides to write a memoir of the war with every interview he did.
The story is divided in three big sections: the first relating how it started and disseminated; the second talking about the moment of no return, when civility went out the window and panic followed suit; and the third telling how is it that the war was finally 'won'. It is redacted as a series of interviews with mostly military personal and a few first person encounters with people critical in either the creation of the problem, or its solution.
Now, allow me to say I haven't slept a decent night in three days and the fact that my husband was out of town didn't help matters. Every noise sent me into tachycardia and I kept dreaming about zombies trying to take my kids away. Seriously.
Even though the stories related to you are not always frightening, the atmosphere is very strong and gets under your skin. Because of its style, it's very easy to read and, to add credibility to it, Brooks used military terms or words in other languages when needed, using footnotes to clarify the meanings to the 'civil readers'. Brilliant.
Over all, it totally deserves the status it has gained and is now among my all-time favorites. If I had to say one bad thing about it, though, it would be that the winding down of the story is a bit slow. After it is explained how the war can be won (remember, we already know we won), the book visits a few of the most important battles fought to make it happen and it gets a bit repetitive. However, one chapter later you have utter brilliance in "Total War" (chapter 10) and you wish the book had two hundred more pages.
If you like horror, post-apocaliptic stories, zombies, or if you simply want to be part of contemporary history, you HAVE to read this book.