So the movie for this is coming out (or is it out already? Living abroad leaves me no sense of pop cultural happenings) and I thought I should finally read the copy that has been sitting in my book shelf for the last year and a half. I finished this back in March, so my memory of the book's details is a bit hazy, and my retelling of it may not be wholly accurate, but I'm gonna try my best.
I love zombie movies -- I think they are fun and weirdly campy in its horror, and the statement zombie movies are often trying to make is always so hit-you-over-the-head obvious that I enjoy the effort put into trying to diversify the message. But I've never read a zombie book. And World War Z is a pretty awesome beginning, I'd say, to changing the way I can appreciate how the zombie genre has evolved.
It's essentially a series of oral accounts, put together by a government chronicler, to map out the zombie war that ate the Earth raw for about 10 years. It begins with how the zombie pandemic may have started -- in China, of course -- through the eyes of a Chinese doctor who saw how a young patient had been transformed after he was bitten and had to be tied down with rope to prevent him from hurting others. And then Brooks' chronicler goes into accounts of how it could have spread -- first by the Chinese government's refusal to tell other governments about the zombie pandemic, and then with the governments' ineptitude to secure its borders to the flood of fleeing non-bitten, and sometimes already-bitten humans. There was also an organ trade that could have spread the pandemic further. Scientists' recommendations on how to contain the infestation are ignored, making the problem worse.
From the account of the female war pilot who crash-landed in an area filled with zombies, to the account of the rich Hollywood-type who said he had built his mansion-fortress up to keep in the rich and famous and allow the poor to die outside; to the Japanese youth, who lived in his own world plugged into the cybers, unaware that the apocalypse was upon him until it was literally upon him -- the richness in details about the ineptitude of governments, the stringent viewpoints of the military in dealing with an unknown and indefatigable enemy -- this book made me wonder how our global leaders would ever be able to deal with a real pandemic should something to this scale ever occur.
I do wish I had written this review sooner so that I could do the book more justice. The truth is that I started reading it with the thought that it was going to be fun and amusing, like a zombie movie. And yes, it was, but midway through it, the clarity that Brooks imbued in his narrative account just brought to stark light how real this all could be, and I just got more horrified as it progressed. World War Z should be read, not as fiction, but as a parable.