This one’s been a favorite of mine since around the time it was released, long before I started blogging, and it’s one of those very weighty masterworks that’s always felt too big to revisit and dissect with the necessary care and reverence, but it seems only right to record and post a full review before the movie is released and changes the world’s perspective on the book forever.
World War Z is, as the cover announces, a historical account of a world-wide zombie war, compiled after the fact. It is told in a series of varied first person accounts, with an introduction and occasional prompts by the researcher, detailing everything from patient zero to the following reconstruction.
By the nature of the format, if you’re looking for a tight, linear storyline with a protagonist to bond with and root for, this isn’t it. Few interviewees come up more than once, and after his passionate introduction, the researcher keeps a deliberate, professionally discreet distance. Nothing is safe to become attached to.
Somehow, attachment still manages to be inevitable. The characters are memorable even for their solitary chapters in the spotlight, and even without the continuation of individual characters’ stories to anticipate, the arc of humanity’s survival and the pure quality of the vignettes keep the pages turning.
All the advantages of the format are used to full effect. The story is every bit as global as it should be, the voices are incredibly diverse and distinct, and the research and analysis put into the zombie war scenario are absolutely breathtaking. The whole work is played absolutely straight as a history book, all the way down to the in-universe review blurbs on the back, and the writing carries all the weight and authority such a book would have in reality.
It’s a zombie book that takes itself more seriously than any other and manages to live up to its own lofty standard, one of the few books about which I’ll say, without a single snide qualifier, “There’s nothing else like it.”