Friday, October 26, 2012

World War Z

To be honest, I wouldn't call myself a lover of zombie fiction. But I'm not a hater either. I've actually wanted to write my own zombie book one day but it would always be complicated by, no pun intended, a dead end.

For me I'm not attracted to the gore or disgust factor. When I read something, I want it to engage me. I want my curiosity to go into overload. I've always been drawn to a certain genre which I think zombies fall under: Survival Horror.

From the Resident Evil Series by S.D. Perry, I found that zombies became a backdrop, more of an underlying danger. The series focuses mainly on shooter, puzzle solving and object collecting. Every once and a while you get hit with hordes of flesh-eaters busting through a window or completely coming out of nowhere. The focus was mainly being trapped in a building with the threat of zombies hanging over the characters heads.

Those books were good for a while. Not groundbreaking but they reminded me of the games.

Then I stumbled across this one called The Zombie Survival Handbook by Max Brooks. I got a kick out of it. I thought it was supposed to be funny. I combed through a hundred or so pages and laughed occasionally but what really surprised me was how serious this author had taken it. The guide was reading like an actual survival guide, each piece of instruction told with the utmost meticulous care. It kind of creeped me out that it felt so heavily researched, almost as if I were living in an era where the undead once roamed and survival tactics were common place. In the end, I gave the book to a friend, but the tips were tightly tucked away in the corner of my mind.

Then a couple days ago, I decided to rent a copy of World War Z, expecting the same old stuff. What I got was an eye-opener. As the book's subtitle says, the story is meant to be "an oral history of the zombie war" and boy, does it deliver. I can't believe its taken six years to finally pick up this one book.

This book is made popular by the fact that it accomplishes a thorough narrative while still being compelling. In it, a man responsible for writing the United Nations Post War Commission is dismayed by the fact that the government left out a lot of the personal stories. They just wanted to collect the facts. So, in an effort to tell the human side of the zombie war, the man compiles this document of one-on-one personal stories, interviews and narratives. They vary and are rich in detail as well as personal thoughts and struggles.

The war has been over for about a decade but the scars still run deep. Through these characters we found out how life really was in those times. The origin of the infection is documented as well as the social, government, military, economic, and environmental effect of the growing plague.

New weapons and armor had to be invented, governments were scrambling to contain the threat, people had to use their wits to outmaneuver the "zacks" - i.e. what they call the zombies.

This is such a unique take on the genre, focusing on the survivors and have them tell it in their own words. It gives the words weight and paints a lucid picture.

It was more lucid for me because I listened to the six hour audio-book version, which cast people like Mark Hamill, John Turturro, Henry Rollins, Carl and Rob Riener and Alan Alda as some of the survivors.

A film is in the works, naturally, but I'm not going to see it. Film will never compare to that magic that comes between you, your imagination and a really good book.

5/5 stars

No comments: