World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks, 2006
Published by Duckworth Publishers
First line: “It goes by many names: ‘The Crisis,’ ‘The Dark Years,’ ‘The Walking Plague,’ as well as newer and more ‘hip’ titles such as ‘World War Z’ or ‘Z War One.'”
Book Rx: For a journalistic, “factual” take on the walking undead.
I like zombies.
That is, I’m fascinated by the concept. From The Walking Dead series (back when it was still just a comic), to George Romero’s game-changing Dead movies, to scary shibito in the Siren PS3 games, to the crazy fast hybrids in ’28 Days Later,’ I think there’s just something thrilling about this particular class of monsters. From afar, they even look like us! Hence the competing tensions between complicated emotions: survival, compassion, mercy, grief, hope. The undead can even potentially be a great teaching tool of various values for kids.
Anyway, it’s the zombie’s heyday: now they’re everywhere. The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a special site on zombie preparedness. Singapore has not one, but two zombie runs happening in October (see here and here).
As far as books with the undead go, World War Z is one of my favorites. The book is a collection of interviews across the globe complete with a believable introduction from the book’s anonymous author. He/She traces the Z epidemic from its first victims all the way through to “Good-Byes.” It assumes that the world’s residents have no idea how to kill a zombie, which is impossible in this day and age (shoot the brain and Double Tap!). Some countries were better prepared than others (watch out for Israel vs France).
All sorts of characters are revealed: the opportunists, the crazies, the disbelievers, the good people. The book covers a wide variety of startingly realistic scenarios: dealing with the undead in winter, the most important people a community needs to rebuild after a crisis (unfortunately, bankers don’t feature very highly on the list, heh), what the Queen would do (she chooses to stay behind, aww).
The zombies are great equalizers: all the countries in the world pitch in to combat the threat. The debate of what is “right” or “wrong” on the subject of preserving the human race comes up in the “clear, logical, efficient” solution proffered by one character.
We’re ambassadors of world peace. (Source: seoclerk.com)
What’s interesting is that if you replace the zombie epidemic with a more realistic event (what’s happening in west Africa right now, say, or what would happen if we were past the point-of-no-return in the climate change crisis), the scenarios and people’s reactions to the crisis are not too far-fetched. How prepared is the world for the outbreak of a contagious, fatal disease? Food for thought.
Overall, forget the movie. It barely scratches the surface of what really happened (and gives the rest of the fast-paced action in the book the good ol’ Hollywood gloss). If you’re a fan of the genre, pick up this book and start reading.