Let’s face it: the undead are popular. A few friends of mine avidly talk about what to do in the event of a real zombie apocalypse. They keep up to date on the latest fictional offerings and compare it to the body of knowledge they’ve already accumulated through “careful study.” That’s what led me to request World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War from my local library. I was not disappointed.
As you might guess, the book isn’t your standard fictional novel. Instead, it’s written in an interview style where the “author” picks the brains (pun intended) of some folks and key players who withstood and overcame the near zombie apocalypse. The interviews are presented in a chronological format with the first set of interviews discussing the initial outbreaks and reactions by those affected, followed by interviews covering what people experienced as the zombie menace built up to full strength, then working its way through humanity turning the tide to where it ended up after “victory” was declared. It’s a fun way to present yet another zombie story, and because he wrote it in an interview format, you’re constantly changing points of view, keeping things fresh and interesting.
One of the things I liked about this fictional book is it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Brooks created some interesting characters, the kinds that would be interviewed if we ever did have and survive a zombie apocalypse and it’s fun to delve into the minds of these characters through the interview process. And while there was definitely research that went into the writing of this book, it’s light on historical facts and technical details so that the characters’ stories are at the forefront. It does play a bit on stereotypes, like how we’d expect Russia or China to react, but that’s also part of what helps one immerse in the book and the story being unfolded.
If you’re looking for a good fiction book to read for relaxation, this is a fine choice. It’s not an endlessly detailed book and while there are some bits that will cause you to stop and think, it’s not a book that beats you over the head with social issues (though he does present plenty of them in a way that exposes some of their absurdity) or has you following closely to try and pick up all the clues to try and figure out who the murderer was. It’s not a serious book by any means, and I found myself laughing out loud at some portions, especially as I considered that’s what I’d expect the person to do in that situation, even if it was obviously the wrong choice.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for details on how to survive a zombie apocalypse this isn’t the book for you. You’re not going to pick up survival techniques or strategies for staying alive, though I’m not sure why you’d actively be looking for such.