Review: World War Z

This post is more than 2 years old.

One of the books that came up at the SciFi BOF back at CFUNITED was World War Z. The book is written as if it were non-fiction. It is a collection of numerous interviews from folks who have survived a zombie war. It's ten years past the end of the major fighting (although a few pockets of zombies still exist) but in general the view point is of a world that has survived the worst of it.

Consider a normal zombie film. The hero wakes up, sees that something is seriously wrong, runs to some safe haven (like a mall), meets a few other survivors, one of which who will do something dumb and force them to flee, and that's it.

When I watch a film like this (or really, any 'end of the world' type film), I know the geek in me starts going crazy. If the film centers in on one city, I wonder what's going on in some other city. If the film takes place over a few days, I wonder what the world likes 5, 10, etc years from then. Obviously most films and books will focus on one sort of characters, but what makes WWZ so amazing is that you get an incredible range of view points.

The book is roughly separated into stories from various parts of the war. From when things begin to go crazy, to the panic, the fighting, and the aftermath. You get views from everyone, and I mean everyone. From Asia to Russia to England to America (and they even mention Lafayette, LA!).

The book begins by saying it is an emotional view of the history, but really, for a geek, it's has an amazing amount of resources about what was going on. Some of the cooler aspects include a detailed look into how the military dealt, and adapted, to the zombie threat as well as how the government helped rebuild the country with a dramatically reduced work force.

So while I'm focusing on the geek aspect of the book - the emotional part works well. There is one interview - it involves a girl who lost her parents - and I don't want to say much more as it will ruin it - but it is easily one of the most creepy things I've read in my life. What happens at sea is also pretty darn scary as well. I know there are plans to turn this into a movie - and if they do - I hope they focus on the people and not some giant CGI-fest. If they could pull off the horror of the stories with good actors it could be a heck of a lot more creepy than Dawn of the Dead. I should say though - as I've gotten older I've really begun to get turned off by gore. Frankly I appreciate a movie that can do more with less. I know Blair Witch Project was way over-hyped, but it scared the you know what out of me without ever showing the big bad monster.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book so much I put down my current novel and finished the whole thing in about 2 days. Because of the nature of the book, a collection of interviews, it reads very fast and makes a great bathroom book. I'd definitely recommend it!

Raymond Camden's Picture

About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

Lafayette, LA

Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Mark Drew posted on 7/6/2008 at 8:01 PM

Ray, glad you enjoyed the book as much as I have.. (I have re-read it like 3 times now)!

there is an audio book of it with some awesome actors (you can get some podcasts here: feed:// .,.. including if I remember right, Henry Rollins

I hope they dont kill the book by making a movie that is not worth its salt!

Comment 2 by James Edmunds posted on 7/7/2008 at 12:39 AM

I read this last year and thought it was a real cut above the usual zombie fare... sort of a fictional Studs Terkel "The Good War." I fear for it becoming a Hollywood movie, though, and losing the wonderful quality of the writing, as happened with "The Children of Men."

Comment 3 by Jim Priest posted on 7/7/2008 at 1:13 AM

This sounds good. Speaking of books - ABC has the "Lost Book Club" featuring books read or seen on Lost.

Comment 4 by Raymond Camden posted on 7/7/2008 at 5:07 AM

@James: I thought CoM was a wonderful movie. Was the book really that much better?

Comment 5 by Brian Kotek posted on 7/7/2008 at 5:34 AM

I had blogged about this back when I read it, and share Ray's praise. This book is just damn good.

Comment 6 by Brian Kotek posted on 7/7/2008 at 5:41 AM

Also a quick note, if you want to see a movie that explores similar themes but on a much smaller scale, check out last year's film version of "The Mist", which was very well done.

Comment 7 by PaulH posted on 7/7/2008 at 6:30 AM

have you seen fido? similar story line (world after the zombie wars), zombies domesticated, kind of stuck in 1950s "domestic bliss" way-of-life. freaking funny. stars carrie-anne moss, billy connolly (as fido) & tim blake nelson.

Comment 8 by Raymond Camden posted on 7/7/2008 at 6:35 AM

@Brian: Not exactly sure I see the connection, but yea, the Mist kicked butt, and even Stephan King said the ending in the movie was better than the book (and I agree).

@PaulH: Heard of it - but haven't seen it yet.

Comment 9 by Mark Drew posted on 7/7/2008 at 5:24 PM

Max Brooks wrote "the zombie survival guide" previously which is also awesome (different, but awesome!) with a whole bunch of "sightings" section which is a bit like WWZ

On a related topic, I watched Zombie Strippers this weekend, hilarious B-movie action... check out the trailer on Apple :

Comment 10 by James Edmunds posted on 7/8/2008 at 5:55 AM

Ray, CoM the movie was pretty darn good, but it didn't have that fine-tuned sensibility of the book. It sort of took off in the dystopian fighting bands of marauders direction, I suppose for more Hollywood pop and sizzle, and left the voice of the book behind. I really recommend the book highly... or have you already read it?

Comment 11 by Raymond Camden posted on 7/8/2008 at 6:27 AM

Nope, but I can put it on my list. :)