Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review: World War Z

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I read this book for the first time way back when it first came out in 2006. It was sitting on the "new" shelf at Barnes & Nobles and it caught my eye, which is usually how I shop for books.

The book was labeled as "satire" but the back cover made the book seem right up my alley, so I bought it.

I read this entire book in one day. I know many people who review literature say that....but in this case...I really mean it. I read it cover-to-cover in one work day.

It has now become a major movie that millions have seen. I imagine a lot of people went out and saw this movie and then bought the novel.

Here is a brief description of the novel taken from Amazon

The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, “By excluding the human factor, aren’t we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn’t the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as ‘the living dead’?”

What I like about this book
I pretty much liked everything about this book. Probably the thing that stands out is, despite devoting only a few pages to each "survivor", he develops characters extremely well. Now, it helps that he uses wide ranging nationalities and races, but even in the cases of Americans, he diversifies them so that each account is very different and unique while still maintaining a common theme. This is a unique writing style that makes it very hard to skip anything because of monotony. You have to slow down and reread many sections so that you can understand the difference between the characters and their particular situation.

Fundamentally, the thing I most liked was the thought provoking that this book caused in me. While I have always liked literature and movies in this particular genre, this is the first time that I started to question myself. Much of that is derived from the above point and comparing myself to these people he describes. Would I be "Ready"? Would I understand when the "end" started? Would I have the sense enough to make a move? And, the thought that I really learned from this book: Would I make a move BEFORE everyone else?

A large difference between this novel and other similar works is the additional humanity of "survival of a family" rather than "survival of yourself." It's one of the first works that has stressed how infinitely more difficult it is to prepare yourself AND your family instead of thinking only of yourself.

This novel paints a terrific picture of how the average person doesn't have the wherewithal to know when there is a serious problem, doesn't have the guts to trust their instincts, doesn't the most basic of skills to survive, and doesn't know how far to take things in the worst of situations.

What I don't like about this movie
There isn't anything I dislike about the book itself. What I don't like about it was that it was turned into a watered down movie that, while entertaining, really had ZERO to do with the book. It would have been a perfect opportunity to educate people who generally don't read. Now, I realize that people didn't go see this movie to be educated but to be entertained. But as someone who read the book years ago, this movie came off as a a simple attempt to make a few dollars off of a brand name. The movie could have easily been called anything else and no one would have had any idea that it was derived from this novel.

Why You should buy this book
While it is wildly entertaining, it is also incredibly empowering. It may not give you any additional tools to survive a catastrophe, but it may cause you to realize just how unprepared you are for one, which is infinitely more important. Even as a person who has grown up camping, hunting, fishing, and even prepping, this work still provoked me to reexamine myself. Particularly, that survival isn't just fending for myself, it's fending for my whole family and how that dynamic situations is much harder and much more important.

This book is entertaining and thought provoking while also being very easy to read. I give it 4.5 Stars.