Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cannonball Read 2 #10: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

When I got this book, knowing it was written by Mel Brooks's son Max, I expected it to be funny. I started reading, and by the time I realized it was not going to be funny, I was already hooked.

The story of World War Z is written 10 years after "The Zombie War," and the character of the author (separate from the actual author) is travelling around the world gathering first-hand experiences from the war's survivors. He interviews people from all walks of life--doctors, politicians, artists, soldiers, members of the media, and ordinary citizens--about what happened to them and how they survived having the dead rise up to devour the living. He begins with a doctor who sees what may have been "patient zero" in China, then continues around the world, tracking the rising plague and the reactions of the world leaders, the "Great Panic" which occurred once the problem became to large to ignore, suppress, or cover up, through the first battles of the "war," and ending with the reconstruction phase as well as predictions for the future.

Max Brooks has done a stellar job with this book--it reads exactly like a non-fiction work, right down to the footnotes regarding films, books, political actions, and technology...despite the fact that none of those things really existed. His characters seem very real, and the actions of both regular people and governments all seem disturbingly plausible. Not all of his characters are great people--one is a doctor who performed black-market organ transplants, one is a businessman who made his fortune on a false "vaccine," one is a cold-blooded mercenary--but each has his or her own viewpoint and opinion to share. The book is incredibly detailed and realistic--after reading alone in the house one afternoon, I strongly expected to walk outside and see the after-effects of the zombie war.

This book is fantastic, but when I heard it had been optioned for a film, I was very disappointed. Hollywood is bound to screw it up because I doubt they actually understand it. Their first inclination will likely be to hand it to someone like Michael Bay and make a 2.5 hour action film out of it. Unfortunately, the Romero treatment--although fantastic in its place--will be exactly the wrong way to go about this. What it really needs to to be given to Ken Burns and made into a mini series (perhaps by Syfy...who despite their stupid name have done several things recently--namely Tinman and Alice--which have been very well done) along the lines of his "Civil War" series. The book is written not as a film but as a documentary, and that's how it would be better presented. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, I highly recommend this book to everyone. It may be a bit gory for those with delicate constitutions, but it's so worth it.

1 comment:

Jen K said...

I thought this book was great - I also really enjoyed how he made it seem incredibly realistic and considered the politics involved because as you said, his portrayal seemed very plausible.
I noticed a few other people weren't that impressed by the novel so I'm glad you enjoyed it as well.