World War Z

We welcome back a long-time member of the Writer’s Retreat, Evey, as a blogger here at the Writer’s Retreat.  Here’s her first of what we hope to be many, many posts!

World War Z

I’ve just finished rereading one of my favorite books, World War Z by Max Brooks. I was struck by its interesting story the first time through and this second reading has given me even more appreciation for how thorough his alternate universe is. I admire his ability to shift from tragedy, horror, satire, and yes, even humor as he retells the story of the WWZ.

Subtitled ‘An Oral History of the Zombie War’, our narrator is tasked with chronicling a war mankind fought not against other men, but against the reanimated dead. The UN Postwar Committee sanctioned his writing, granting him access to soldiers, politicians and others from around the globe but in the end was only interested in the facts, casualty counts and battle strategies. Unable to let the ‘human factor’ go unheard, he wrote this book to keep the memories alive. “Because in the end, isn’t the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy?”

The book is a series of interviews, beginning with the doctor in rural China who saw the first cases of the zombie disease. From there our narrator moves to Tibet where ‘shetou’, human smugglers, sneak millions of Chinese refugees across the border to supposed safety, unknowingly allowing the disease to spread.

The histories come from across the globe, Antarctica, Finland, India and Israel as we watch each country react in their individualized ways to the crisis, some effectively, others not so much.

There are stories of heroism, as one Indian military officer sacrifices himself by hand detonating a bomb to bring down a bridge to keep zombies from the civilians on the other side. The tone then switches to irony in Cuba, where with its large military presence; the government manages to easily defeat the zombie menace. And when millions of Americans build themselves makeshift boats and float their way to asylum they are placed in internment camps and forced to work menial jobs that regular Cubans don’t want– yard work and maid service.

My favorite interview involves a female pilot whose plane goes down in a ‘white zone’, territory overrun by zombies. She makes radio contact with a ham-radio operator familiar with the area. ‘Metsfan’, as she calls herself, talks the pilot through a difficult three days and guides her to a place she can be seen and rescued. When asked later how she managed to survive alone the pilot pulls out her radio, which is found broken and rusted. And there are no records of a ham-operator with that call sign either…

As the book progresses the world eventually begins to retake the planet, slowly defeating the ‘Zeke’, (one of the many slang terms for zombies). We see how the countries begin to put themselves back together and how they’ve changed; Russia is now a Holy Empire with the Czar as religious leader, China embraces democracy and America struggles to rebuild and understand that they are all part of the problem, and the solution.

There is a movie starring Brad Pitt out now, it includes small details of these multiple interviews in its story, but twists them around a single hero as he helps find a cure for the plague. I prefer the book’s take on the story of millions of heroes who all had a hand in saving mankind.

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