Review: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Genre: Fiction
Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Crown (September 12, 2006)
How I got this book: Bought
Links: Amazon Goodreads

Blurb from Goodreads:

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’?”

My rating: 5/5 Stars – Loved it!  It totally rocked my socks off.


World War Z is an unusual, yet compelling read.  If you take out the zombies, you’re left with an intensely well-thought-out alternate history/war memoir, except instead of one protagonist, there are many narrators (not all of them heroes), each telling a piece of the story.  This unconventional style allows Brooks to explore every stage of the Zombie War on a global scale.  How did the infection spread, for example?  What happened in North Korea?  Why was Israel the most well-prepared country?  Which two unexpected countries went nuclear?  Why was taking to the seas not the best plan?  Instead of just one local, individualized account, we get many, showing us how everyone from soldiers to world leaders to average people responded to the threat they faced.

Of course, the biggest question of all is, how did we fight back?  Although there are many sad, depressing parts of the story, you know from the very first page that these interviews take place after the war is over.  You read about the overwhelming hopeless and fear, knowing that humanity ultimately prevails.  But getting to that point is a harrowing, emotional, and highly thought-provoking journey.  As in every war, terrible sacrifices are made, and people are forced to make decisions with far-reaching, unforeseen consequences.  In this case, however, the unique nature of the enemy necessitates a major shift not only in military strategy, but also in the social, political, economic, and psychological foundations of our culture if humanity is to survive.

Overall, World War Z is a fascinating book that I think will appeal to a diverse array of readers, including those interested in military history, international politics, and pandemics.  The world Brooks crafts is frighteningly realistic, and I was constantly impressed with his creativity and thoroughness.  The many different characters’ stories – each told in a distinct voice – kept me glued to the page, making the novel feel personal and intimate despite its wide scope.  In the end, World War Z far exceeded my expectations.  I recommend it without reservation.


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About Lesley

I love big dogs, ravioli, and all things nerdy. Books are my crack.
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2 Responses to Review: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

  1. Pingback: Books to Screen: World War Z movie release day! | Lesley's Reading Heaven

  2. Pingback: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War | Unlimited Books Online

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