World War Z – Book Review

Yesterday I finished reading World War Z, it was our monthly book club pick and it turned out to be a really great choice (book clubs are a great idea but I’ll cover that in another post).

First things first, is it like the film? Short answer: No. Long answer: Not really, the film borrows the premise of the zombies taking over most of the world, but that’s about as far as it goes, in the book there is no “zombie defence” in the form of infecting yourself with a deadly virus and the zombies DO NOT run.

Is it better than the film? Like any good book, yes, but you have to be fair to the film, the way the book is structured doesn’t lend itself to a film adaptation, so they had to make some significant changes.

World War Z is a novel with a very unique style, its written from the point of view of a chronicler collecting the facts of the war after it’s resolution. There is a small introduction in the form of him disagreeing with the government removing the “human factor” from his report, which concludes with his boss telling him to go and write his own book if he wants to get the whole story out there, ergo, World War Z. The rest of the book is a series of interviews and notes about different characters experiences throughout the war, there are about 40 viewpoints in total that stretch to all corners of the globe and he only revisits a few of them more than once.

It tells the story of the infection as it progresses, it starts supposedly somewhere it China but quickly spreads across land borders and eventually globally (one particular transmission method was quite surprising). Countries react differently to the epidemic, ranging from walling themselves off to ignoring it entirely until it is too late, the author does a great job in judging what the responses of various countries would be and there was never a point where I thought “why would they do that”. As the zombies spread humanity panics, but after an extremely cold South Africa (emotionally, not physically, he was probably pretty warm) comes up with a plan they eventually stop it’s spread. Having stopped the zombies the human race is forced to change it’s entire society in order to survive, the old world is very much torn down and everyone has to pull together to survive. The military especially has a tough time of it as thousands of years of accumulated tactical knowledge mean nothing against an army of zombies. Eventually they do go on the offensive but it is a long hard road and even at the time the chronicler is writing there are still zombies being mopped up.

While the lack of any real protagonist may be strange at first, the book is extremely well written and the way it shows you different peoples experiences makes you think not just about the world they are in, but if these kind of people exist in our world. That can be both a good and bad thought by the way, yes there are some stories of people helping each other or some where you feel decisions made were morally justifiable, but there are also some where you stare aghast at the page. These feeling won’t be the same for everyone either, some people might think an act is unforgivable where as another person might think that in the situation that decision was fine, this is another area in which the book excels, making you think, examine yourself and your fellow humans.

I think by the end of this book everyone will have a different impression of the stories told within it, and it is a great book for discussion with your fellow readers, but I think one thing everyone will be able to agree on is that the book is great and a really enjoyable read.

I hope you liked my first book review and it tempted you to give World War Z a try, I hope that I can do more reviews in the future, maybe not for every book, but at least for ones that really stand out.

Until the next story….