World War Z

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World War Z  
The cover of World War Z
Author Max Brooks
Country United States
Genre(s) Horror, post-apocalyptic fiction
Publisher Crown
Publication date September 12, 2006
Media type print (hardcover and paperback), e-book, audiobook
Pages 352 pp
ISBN 0307346609
Preceded by The Zombie Survival Guide (2003)

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (abbreviated WWZ) is a 2006 horror, post-apocalyptic novel by Max Brooks. World War Z is follow-up to his previous book, The Zombie Survival Guide (2003). Rather than a grand overview or a single perspective, World War Z is a collection of individual accounts in the form of interviews of the characters by the author. Brooks plays the role of an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commission who published the novel a decade after the Zombie War in this fictional future after the United Nations left out much of his work from the official report, as it chose to focus on the facts and figures of the war rather than the human aspects he included. The novel charts a decade-long war against zombies from the view point of many different people and nationalities. In addition, the personal accounts describe the changing religious, geo-political, and environmental aftermath of the Zombie War.

World War Z was inspired by the The Good War, an oral history of World War II, and George Romero, the famous zombie film director. Brooks used World War Z to provide social commentary on topics such as government ineptitude and American isolationism, while also covering the themes of survivalism and uncertainty. Critics have praised the novel for reinventing the zombie genre and the audiobook version, complete with a full cast, won a Audie Award in 2007. A film based upon the book is in development, being produced by Plan B Entertainment, directed by Marc Forster and screenplay written by J. Michael Straczynski.


[edit] Development

Brooks has stated that World War Z follows the "laws" set up in The Zombie Survival Guide, and that the guide may exist in the world of the novel as a precursor to the Zombie War of the title.[1] The zombies of the The Zombie Survival Guide are undead humans reanimated by an incurable virus, Solanum. They are devoid of any intelligence and are motivated only to devour human flesh. The most effective way to destroy them is to shoot them in the head. Though just as strong as humans, they are slow moving and do not tire. Zombies usually announce their presence by moaning.[2]

Brooks said he was motivated to write World War Z by his fear of zombies.[1] Brooks commented on the large amount of research that went into World War Z to make the novel as realistic as possible:

Everything in World War Z (as in The Zombie Survival Guide) is based in reality... well, except the zombies. But seriously, everything else in the book is either taken from reality or 100% real. The technology, politics, economics, culture, military tactics... it was a LOT of homework.[3]

Brooks stated he used several reference books and also had the help of various friends who were experts in several fields when writing the novel.[3]

[edit] Plot summary

Battle of Yonkers art that won an official World War Z contest, and is printed in the paperback edition of the book.

Although the zombie pandemic's true origins are unknown, it appears to begin in China. The Chinese government attempts to contain the infection and concocts a crisis involving Taiwan in order to mask the true purpose of the increased military activity. Infected refugees and black market organs spread the infection to other countries, and an outbreak in Cape Town, South Africa finally brings the plague, then known as "African rabies", to the attention of the world.

As the infection spreads, only a few countries, Israel among them, take steps to initiate nationwide quarantine programs. The United States, sapped of political will by several "brushfire wars" and lulled into a false sense of security by an ineffective and fraudulently marketed vaccine called "Phalanx", does little to prepare for the pandemic. Eventually, the world realizes the true nature of pandemic, beginning a period known as the "Great Panic". The United States Army sends a task force to Yonkers, New York, in a high-profile military campaign intended to restore American morale, but due to reliance on ineffective Cold War-era tactics, and advanced technology that is ineffective against zombies, the force is routed. Other countries suffer similarly disastrous defeats against their own infections.

More countries succumb to the zombie plague and human civilization teeters on the brink of collapse. All of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains falls to the zombies. In an attempt to halt the flow of infected refugees from India, Iran destroys several key bridges within Pakistan, leading to a nuclear war between the two countries. Japan is forced to evacuate its remaining population to South Korea, Kamchatka, and other areas. Meanwhile, millions of refugees attempt to live on the oceans in massive armadas of ships, and many people in North America flee to the wilds of Northern Canada, but are unprepared to survive in the harsh climate and millions die.

The turning point of the war comes in South Africa, where the government adopts a plan drafted by an ex-apartheid government official named Paul Redeker. Redeker's plan calls for the government to establish small "safe zones", ideally to be protected by natural barriers such as mountain ranges or river valleys, within which the infection could be eradicated. Large groups of refugees are to be kept alive outside the safe zones for the purpose of distracting the hordes of undead and allowing those within the safe zones time to regroup. Although Redeker and his plan are criticized as heartless, various governments worldwide quickly adopt this "Redeker Plan", and the nations of the world begin a determined effort to wipe out the undead plague.

The United States, after relocating the capital to Hawaii and establishing the area west of the Rocky Mountains as its safe zone, restructures its economy for complete wartime production. The United States elects a coalition government, with a President and Vice President from opposing political parties. In the eastern United States, several quarantine zones attempt to maintain their barricades with minimal resupply drops and limited help. The militaries of several nations adopt tactics and technologies from previous wars that had become more effective against the zombies than modern weapons. Eventually, after a conference in Honolulu, the remaining nations of the world agree to go on the offensive and reclaim their territories from the undead.

Ten years after the "official" end of the worldwide zombie war, millions of undead are still active and the geopolitical landscape of the Earth has been completely altered. A democratic Cuba has become the world's most thriving economy and international banking capital. Russia underwent a religious revolution and is now an aggressively expansionist theocracy. Tibet achieved independence and its capital, Lhasa, is the world's largest city. China has become a democracy but has been vastly depopulated. The United Nations also fields a large military constantly engaged in eliminating the remaining undead.

In colder areas of the globe, outbreaks occur every spring, when frozen zombies thaw and find their way to human populations. Large swarms still roam the ocean floor and occasionally emerge onto dry land. Several regions, most notably Iceland, are still completely overrun. Major overall effects of the war are a drastic reduction in the human population of the Earth and the devastation of many natural environments and species, as much by desperate humans as by marauding zombies.

[edit] Themes

[edit] Social commentary

Reviewers have noted that Brooks has used World War Z as a platform to criticize government ineptitude, corporate corruption and general human short-sightedness.[4][5] In one interview in the book a Palestinian youth in Kuwait refuses to believe that the dead are rising, fearing it to be a trick by Israel. Meanwhile, many American characters in the novel blame the United States' inability to counter the zombie threat on low American confidence in the government due to the conflicts in the Middle East.[6] Brooks also shows his particular dislike of government bureaucracy. One character in the novel tries to justify lying about the zombie outbreak to avoid widespread panic while at the same time failing to come up with any particular solution for fear of arousing public ire.[7][8] Alder Utter, a reviewer for The Eagle, saw similarities between the government's response in the novel and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: "Early warnings are missed, crucial reports go unheeded, profiteers make millions selling placebos, the army equips itself with tools perfect for the last war they fought and populations ignore the extent of threat until it is staring them in the face — this is, surprisingly, a post-Katrina zombie tale."[9] Brooks also stated that isolationism was one of America's national flaws:

I love my country enough to admit that one of our national flaws is isolationism. I wanted to combat that in World War Z and maybe give my fellow Americans a window into the political and cultural workings of other nations. Yes, in World War Z some nations come out as winners and some as losers, but isn't that the case in real life as well? I wanted to base my stories on the historical actions of the countries in question, and if it offends some individuals, then maybe they should reexamine their own nation's history.[1]

[edit] Survivalism

Survivalism and disaster preparedness is another theme in the novel. Several interviews throughout the novel, especially those set in the United States, focus on fictional policy changes to train the surviving Americans to rebuild the country and fight the zombies.[6] Throughout the novel, Brooks uses his characters to point out both the physical and mental requirements to survive a disaster.[8] In an interview Brooks himself described the large amount of research he had to do to discover the best way to fight a worldwide zombie outbreak. He also pointed out that Americans like the zombie genre because they are a nation of individualists who believe that they can survive anything with the right tools and talent.[3]

[edit] Uncertainty

Brooks feels that the theme of uncertainty resonates in the entire zombie genre. He believes that zombies allow people to deal with their own anxiety about the end of the world.[10] Brooks has expressed a deep fear of zombies:

They scare me more than any other fictional creature out there because they break all the rules. Werewolves and vampires and giant sharks, you have to go look for them. My attitude is if you go looking for them, no sympathy. But zombies come to you. Zombies don't act like a predator; they act like a virus, and that is the core of my terror. A predator is intelligent by nature, and knows not to overhunt its feeding ground. A virus will just continue to spread, infect and consume, no matter what happens. It's the mindlessness behind it.[11]

In a July 2006 interview, Brooks declared "at this point we’re pretty much living in an irrational time", full of human suffering and lacking reason or logic.[12] When asked in a subsequent interview about how he would compare Islamic terrorists with zombies, Brooks said:

The lack of rational thought has always scared me when it came to zombies, the idea that there is no middle ground, no room for negotiation. That has always terrified me. Of course that applies to terrorists, but it can also apply to a hurricane, or flu pandemic, or the potential earthquake that I grew up with living in L.A. Any kind of mindless extremism scares me, and we're living in some pretty extreme times.[3]

[edit] Literary significance and reception

Reviews for the novel have been generally positive. Les Chappell of The Daily Cardinal, while characterizing the plot of the novel as similar to those of most zombie films, commented that the book felt "real" and declared it to be the "definitive undead novel" that reinvented the genre.[7] Steven H Silver identified Brooks' decision to focus on the entire world instead of just the United States as the greatest strength of the novel. He also commented favourably on Brooks' ability to create a coherent world that makes the reader appreciate the work that would need to be done to combat a worldwide zombie outbreak. Silver's only complaint was with "Good-Byes" – the final chapter of the book – in which characters get a chance to give a final closing statement. Silver felt that it was not always apparent who the sundry, undifferentiated characters were.[13]

Gilbert Cruz of Entertainment Weekly gave the novel an "A" rating, commenting that the novel shared with great zombie stories the use of a central metaphor, describing it as "an addictively readable oral history."[8] The Eagle described the book as being "unlike any other zombie tale" and "sufficiently terrifying for most readers, and not always in a blood-and-guts way, either."[9] Keith Phipps of The A.V. Club stated that the format of the novel makes it difficult for it to develop momentum, but found the novel's individual episodes gripping.[4] In his review for Time Out Chicago, Pete Coco declared that "[b]ending horror to the form of alternative history would have been novel in and of itself. Doing so in the mode of Studs Terkel might constitute brilliance."[14]

Ron Currie Jr. named World War Z as one of his favorite apocalyptic novels and praised Brooks for being able to illustrate "the tacit agreement between writer and reader that is essential to the success of stories about the end of the world ... [both] agree to pretend that this is not fiction, that in fact the horrific tales of a war between humans and zombies are based in reality".[5] Patrick Daily of the Chicago Reader considered the novel to have transcended the "silliness" of The Zombie Survival Guide by "touching on deeper, more somber aspects of the human condition".[15] Drew Taylor of the Fairfield County Weekly credits World War Z with making zombies more popular in mainstream society.[16]

A reviewer on RPGnet gave the novel 5 out of 5 critical hits,[17] while on the novel received 4.5 out of 5 stars.[18] The hardcover version of World War Z reached number nine on New York Times Best Seller list and spent four weeks on the list. [19][20]

[edit] References to other works

Brooks (right) and George Romero

In a October 2006 interview with, Brooks discussed the cultural influences on the novel. He claimed inspiration from The Good War by Studs Terkel, (an association which was noted by editorial cartoonist Mikhaela Reid).[21] Brooks stated: "It's an oral history of World War II. I read when I was a teenager and it's sat with me ever since. When I sat down to write World War Z, I wanted it to be in the vein of an oral history."[1] Brooks also cited renowned zombie film director George Romero as an influence, but criticised John Russo's The Return of the Living Dead films: "They cheapen zombies, make them silly and campy. They've done for the living dead what the old Batman TV show did for The Dark Knight."[1] Brooks acknowledged making several references to popular culture in the novel, including one to alien robot franchise Transformers, but declined to identify the others so that readers could discover them independently.[1]

[edit] Audiobook

An abridged audiobook was published in 2007 by Random House, directed by John McElroy, produced by Dan Zitt, with sound editing by Charles De Montebello. The book is read by author Max Brooks, but includes many other actors taking on the roles of the many individual characters who are interviewed in the novel. Brooks, thanks to his first career doing voice-over work and cartoons, was able to recommend a large number of the cast members.[11]

[edit] Cast

[edit] Critical reception and recognition

In her review of the audiobook for Strange Horizons, Siobhan Carroll called the story "gripping" and found the listening experience evocative of Orson Welles’s famous narration of The War of the Worlds. Carroll had mixed opinions on the voice acting, commending it as "solid and understated, mercifully free of “special effects” and "scenery chewing" overall, but lamenting what she perceived as undue cheeriness on the part of Max Brooks and inauthenticity in the Chinese accent of Steve Park.[6] Publishers Weekly also criticized Brook's narration, but found that the rest of the "all-star cast ... deliver their parts with such fervor and intensity that listeners cannot help but empathize with these characters".[23] In an article in Slate concerning the mistakes producers make on publishing audiobooks, Nate DiMeo used World War Z as an example of dramatizations whose full casts contributed to making them "great listens", and described the book as a "smarter-than-it-has-any-right-to-be zombie novel."[24] The World War Z audiobook won the 2007 Audie Award for Multi-Voiced Performance and was nominated for Audiobook of the Year.[25][26]

[edit] Film adaptation

After a bidding war with Leonardo Di Caprio production company Appian Way, Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment secured the screen rights to the novel in 2007.[27] The screenplay was written by Babylon 5 and Rising Stars creator J. Michael Straczynski, who identified the challenge in adapting the work as "creating a main character out of a book that reads as a UN Report on the zombie wars".[28] Marc Forster signed on to direct on November 13, 2008, and described the film as reminiscent of 1970s conspiracy thrillers like All the President's Men.[29] Straczynski, however, identified 2002 spy film The Bourne Identity as the closest to the adaptation, and commented that the film will have a large international scope while maintaining the book's emphasis on politics. Straczynski also voiced the project's hope to begin production by the beginning of 2009.[30] Forster, however, told IGN on March 6, 2009 that the script was still in development and he was not sure if World War Z would be his next film,[31] though on March 20, 2009 there were rumors that production offices were set up and the film was in early pre-production.[32]

When asked whether he would have anything to do with the film, Brooks stated that he had "zero control", but admitted that he would love to see Brad Pitt have a role in the movie,[1] and expressed his approval for the choice of Straczynski as screenwriter.[33][34] In an interview with Fangoria, Brooks said, "I can’t give it away, but Straczynski found a way to tie it all together. The last draft I read was amazing."[35]

The script was leaked onto the internet in 2008. Ain't It Cool News reviewed the script on March 27, 2008, and said "[t]his isn’t just a good adaptation of a difficult’s a genre-defining piece of work that could well see us all arguing about whether or not a zombie movie qualifies as 'Best Picture' material" and also stated the film appears similar to Children of Men in appearance. According to Ain't It Cool News, the film follows Gerry Lane as he travels the post-war world and interviews survivors of the zombie war who are depicted as people "starting to wonder if survival is a victory of any kind." One of the first interviews is with Dr. Tsai who was the first to encounter the zombies.[36] Production designer Daniel LuVisi posted a piece of concept art depicting the Battle of Yonkers on DeviantArt in January 2009.[37]

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Exclusive Interview: Max Brooks on World War Z". Eat My Brains!. October 20, 2006. Retrieved on April 26, 2008. 
  2. ^ "'The Zombie Survival Guide' With Max Brooks". Interview. Washington Post. October 30, 2003. Retrieved on 2009-04-14. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Zombie Wars". Washington Post. October 6, 2006. Retrieved on September 19, 2008. 
  4. ^ a b Phipps, Keith (October 25, 2006). "World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved on September 19, 2008. 
  5. ^ a b Currie, Ron (September 5, 2008). "The End of the World as We Know it". Untitled Books. Retrieved on September 21, 2008. 
  6. ^ a b c Carroll, Siobhan (October 31, 2006). "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks". Strange Horizons. Retrieved on September 19, 2008. 
  7. ^ a b Chappell, Les (February 4, 2007). "Brooks redefines the zombie genre in WWZ". The Daily Cardinal. Retrieved on September 19, 2008. 
  8. ^ a b c Cruz, Gilber (September 15, 2006). "Book Review World War Z". Entertainment Weekly.,,1535157,00.html. Retrieved on September 19, 2008. 
  9. ^ a b Utter, Alden (October 2, 2006). "Brooks puts brains in print for zombie fanatics". The Eagle. Retrieved on September 9, 2008. 
  10. ^ Cripps, Charlotte (November 1, 2006). "Preview: Max Brooks' Festival Of The (Living) Dead! Barbican, London". The Independent. Retrieved on September 19, 2008. 
  11. ^ a b Lance Eaton (October 2, 2006). "Zombies Spreading like a Virus: PW Talks with Max Brooks". Interview. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-01-15. 
  12. ^ Donahue, Dick (August 7, 2006). "Three Answers: Max Brooks". Interview. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-01-15. 
  13. ^ Silver, Steven H. (2006). "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War Review". SF Site. Retrieved on September 19, 2008. 
  14. ^ Coco, Pete (October 11, 2008). "Review: World War Z". Time Out Chicago. Retrieved on September 19, 2008. 
  15. ^ Daily, Patrick. "Max Brooks". Chicago Reader. Retrieved on October 28, 2008. 
  16. ^ Taylor, Drew (October 28, 2008). "The Hunt for Real October". Fairfield Count Weekly. Retrieved on October 30, 2008. 
  17. ^ "Review of World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War". RGPnet. Retrieved on September 19, 2008. 
  18. ^ Houle, Brian. "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks". Retrieved on September 19, 2008. 
  19. ^ "Best Sellers: October 15, 2006". The New York Times. October 15, 2006. Retrieved on October 2, 2008. 
  20. ^ "Title Profile: World War Z". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved on January 15, 2009. 
  21. ^ "20 questions with...Mikhaela Reid". In These Times. Retrieved on 2009-03-05. 
  22. ^ front cover of five-disk CD packaging, ISBN 978-0-7393-6640-0
  23. ^ "Audio Reviews: Week of 10/2/2006". Book review. Publishers Weekly. October 2, 2006. Retrieved on 2009-01-15. 
  24. ^ DiMeo, Nate (September 18, 2008). "Read Me a Story, Brad Pitt". Slate. Retrieved on September 20, 2008. 
  25. ^ "Audie Award press release". Audio Publishers Association. 2007. Retrieved on November 12, 2007. 
  26. ^ "Audies Gala 2007 Winners and nominees". Audio Publishers Association. Retrieved on April 14, 2009. 
  27. ^ LaPorte, Nicole; Michael Fleming (2006). "Par, Plan B raise 'Zombie'". Variety. Retrieved on November 12, 2007. 
  28. ^ Amaya, Erik (November 19, 2008). "J. Michael Straczynski: Origin of a Writer". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved on November 20, 2008. 
  29. ^ Fleming, Michael; Tatiana Siegel (November 13, 2008). "Forster joins in Paramount's 'War'". Variety. Retrieved on November 14, 2008. 
  30. ^ Marshall, Rick (December 3, 2008). "J. Michael Straczynski On ‘World War Z’: ‘The Scale Of What We’re Doing Here Is Phenomenal’". MTV Movie Blog. Retrieved on December 3, 2008. 
  31. ^ Orlando Parfitt (March 6, 2009). "World War Z Update". IGN. Retrieved on 2009-04-15. 
  32. ^ Ryan Rotten (March 20, 2009). "The Undead Rule at Paramount". Retrieved on 2009-04-15. 
  33. ^ Ullrich, Chris (June 29, 2008). "WWC Interview: 'World War Z' Writer Max Brooks". Comic Mix. Retrieved on September 19, 2008. 
  34. ^ "Max Brooks Talks World War Z Flick". FilmBuff Newsreel. June 1, 2008. Retrieved on September 19, 2008. 
  35. ^ Timpone, Tony (November 19, 2008). "Max Brooks talks WORLD WAR Z movie". Fangoria. Retrieved on November 21, 2008. 
  36. ^ Moriarty (March 27, 2008). "Moriarty’s One Thing I Love Today! JMS’s WORLD WAR Z Script!". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved on 2009-04-23. 
  37. ^ Woerner, Meredith (January 27, 2009). "World War Z Concept Art Rocks The Battle Of Yonkers". Retrieved on April 14, 2009. 

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