Max Brooks’ best-selling novel “World War Z” describes to its reader the lead-up, duration and aftermath of the world’s first international zombie uprising. Although the subject matter may sound trite to some, the book is truly a triumph, not only within its genre but of fictional literature as a whole.
I’ll admit, when I first began reading it, I expected a straightforward thriller; and initially, this seems to be what Brooks is offering as the book opens in a small, run-down village where one of the first cases of infection is encountered. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the story Brooks aims to tell is not simply of the survival of a handful of desperate suburbanites trapped within the zombie uprising, but of the survival of humanity itself.
Told through multiple perspectives, Brooks goes on to detail how the infections began to pop up across the globe and how the various nations of the world dealt with their own crises. I’ll refrain from spoiling anything here, but suffice it to say that the reactions, while varied, all end up being disproportionate to the threat the undead pose. And why wouldn’t they be? How would you react if accounts of cannibalistic corpses suddenly started popping up in remote corners of the world?
As the world spirals into chaos, Brooks’ really comes into his own, giving not only unsettlingly real descriptions of undead violence, but also going into great depth as to the human reactions as society is torn apart and people are forced to band together or be obliterated. That isn’t to say that everyone suddenly puts aside their differences and works toward the defeat of their common enemy; no, Brooks’ story isn’t as one-dimensional as all that. Through the eyes of his varied protagonists we see all of humanity’s hideousness as well as its beauty, as is most horrifyingly illustrated when several families bring their young to a church and, upon realizing that the fast-enclosing horde will allow them no salvation, begin suffocating them. The horror and beauty of mankind during the zombie apocalypse takes place over the course of several years, and as such many scenes similar to this can be found throughout.
As I would hate to reveal even one more detail of Brooks’ masterpiece of zombie fiction, I will end this review here, giving World War Z an unprecedented five out of five stars. Whether you’re a fan of the genre or simply looking for pitch-perfect storytelling, I can almost guarantee Brooks’ heartbreaking, elating, horrifying and most of all believable descriptions of not only the horrors that beset humanity but of humanity itself will leave you clamoring for more.
I cannot emphasize this enough, so I will say it once more: do yourself a favor. Go pick up World War Z. Thanks for reading.