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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Reading List: World War Z

Brooks, Max. World War Z. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-307-34661-2.
Few would have believed in the early years of the twenty-first century, as people busied themselves with their various concerns and little affairs, while their “leaders” occupied themselves with “crises” such as shortages of petroleum, mountains of bad debt, and ManBearPig, that in rural China a virus had mutated, replicating and spreading among the human population like creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water, slowly at first, with early outbreaks covered up to avoid bad publicity before the Chicom Olympics, soon thereafter to explode into a global contagion that would remake the world, rewrite human history, and sweep away all of the prewar concerns of mankind as trivialities while eliminating forever the infinite complacency humans had of their empire over matter and dominion over nature.

This book is an oral history of the Zombie War, told in the words of those who survived, fought, and ultimately won it. Written just ten years after victory was declared in China, with hotspots around the globe remaining to be cleared, it is a story of how cultures around the globe came to terms with a genuine existential threat, and how people and societies rise to a challenge inconceivable to a prewar mentality. Reading much like Studs Terkel's The Good War, the individual voices, including civilians, soldiers, researchers, and military and political leaders trace how unthinkable circumstances require unthinkable responses, and how ordinary people react under extraordinary stress. The emergence of the Holy Russian Empire, the evacuation and eventual reconquest of Japan, the rise of Cuba to a global financial power, the climactic end of the Second Chinese Revolution, and the enigma of the fate of North Korea are told in the words of eyewitnesses and participants.

Now, folks, this a zombie book, so if you're someone inclined to ask, “How, precisely, does this work?”, or to question the biological feasibility of the dead surviving in the depths of the ocean or freezing in the arctic winter and reanimating come spring, you're going to have trouble with this story. Suspending your disbelief and accepting the basic premise is the price of admission, but if you're willing to pay it, this is an enjoyable, unsettling, and ultimately rewarding read—even inspiring in its own strange way. It is a narrative of an apocalyptic epoch which works, and is about ten times better than Stephen King's The Stand. The author is a recognised global authority on the zombie peril.

(Yes, the first paragraph of these remarks is paraphrased from this; I thought it appropriate.)

Posted at May 8, 2008 16:17