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World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War [Paperback]

Max Brooks
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In the wake of the great zombie war, Brooks's fictional alter ego travels around the world to ask tough questions of individuals and leaders about their experience and actions before, during and after the undead menace decimated the human population. Brooks remarkably identifies and articulates the nuances and unconsidered realities of what a zombie war would look like. This intriguing "oral history" stands apart from his previous zombie-related book, The Zombie Survival Guide, as Brooks uses the postwar culture here to provide political and social commentary on a wide range of real-life individuals and institutions. An all-star cast including Alan Alda, Mark Hamill, Jürgen Prochnow, Henry Rollins, John Turturro, Rob and Carl Reiner, and many others deliver their parts with such fervor and intensity that listeners cannot help but empathize with these characters. Max Brooks acts as the interviewer, providing an inquisitive but stagnant demeanor. The abridgment keeps the story tight but struggles with the interviewer's narration during interviews. When Brooks interrupts characters to indicate that the person rolled his eyes or appeared apprehensive, his comments are often moot because the performers are already portraying such body language with their tone.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

"The Crisis" nearly wiped out humanity. Brooks (son of Mel Brooks and author of The Zombie Survival Guide, 2003) has taken it upon himself to document the "first hand" experiences and testimonies of those lucky to survive 10 years after the fictitious zombie war. Like a horror fan's version of Studs Terkel's The Good War (1984), the "historical account" format gives Brooks room to explore the zombie plague from numerous different views and characters. In a deadpan voice, Brooks exhaustively details zombie incidents from isolated attacks to full-scale military combat: "what if the enemy can't be shocked and awed? Not just won't, but biologically can't!" With the exception of a weak BAT-21 story in the second act, the "interviews" and personal accounts capture the universal fear of the collapse of society--a living nightmare in which anyone can become a mindless, insatiable predator at a moment's notice. Alas, Brad Pitt's production company has purchased the film rights to the book--while it does have a chronological element, it's more similar to a collection of short stories: it would make for an excellent 24-style TV series or an animated serial. Regardless, horror fans won't be disappointed: like George Romero's Dead trilogy, World War Z is another milestone in the zombie mythos. Carlos Orellana
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
USA TODAY BESTSELLER
WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER


“An ‘oral history’ of the global war the evil brain-chewers came within a hair of winning. Zombies are among us—turn on your television if you don’t believe it. But, Brooks reassures us, even today, human fighters are hunting down the leftovers, and we’re winning. [His] iron-jaw narrative is studded with practical advice on what to do when the zombies come, as they surely will. A literate, ironic, strangely tasty treat.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Max Brooks has charted the folly of a disaster response based solely on advanced technologies and brute force in this step-by-step guide to what happened in the Zombie War. He details with extraordinary insight how in the face of institutional missteps and greed, people in unexpected ways achieve unique, creative, and effective strategies to survive and fight back. Brooks’s account of the path to recovery and reconstruction after the war is fascinating, too. World War Z provides us with a starting point, at least, a basic blueprint from which to build a popular understanding of how, when, and why such a disaster came to be, and how small groups and individuals survived.”
—Jeb Weisman, Ph.D.,Director of Strategic Technologies, National Center for Disaster Preparedness

“Possesses more creativity and zip than entire crates of other new fiction titles. Think Mad Max meets The Hot Zone . . . It’s Apocalypse Now, pandemic-style. Creepy but fascinating.”
—USA TODAY

“Prepare to be entranced by this addictively readable oral history of the great war between humans and zombies. . . . Will grab you as tightly as a dead man’s fist. A.”
Entertainment Weekly, EW Pick

“Probably the most topical and literate scare since Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast. . . . This is action-packed social-political satire with a global view.”
Dallas Morning News

“Brooks [is] America’s most prominent maven on the living dead. . . . Chilling. . . . It is gripping reading and a scathing indictment of weak responses to crises real and over-hyped.”
Hartford Courant

“A sober, frequently horrifying and even moving account. . . . Brooks has delivered a full-blown horror novel, laced with sharp social and political observations and loads of macabre, gruesome imagery. . . . The real horror of World War Z comes from the all-too-plausible responses of human beings and governments to the menace.”
Fangoria

“A horror fan’s version of Studs Terkel’s The Good War. . . . Like George Romero’s Dead trilogy, World War Z is another milestone in the zombie mythology.”
Booklist

“Brooks commits to detail in a way that makes his nightmare world creepily plausible. . . . Far more affecting than anything involving zombies really has any right to be. . . . The book . . . opens in blood and guts, turns the world into an oversized version of hell, then ends with and affirmation of humanity’s ability to survive the worst the world has to offer. It feels like the right book for the right times, and that’s the eeriest detail of all.”
A.V. Club, The Onion

“The best science fiction has traditionally been steeped in social commentary. World War Z continues that legacy. . . . We haven’t been this excited about a book without pictures since–well, since ever.”
Metro

“Each story locks together perfectly to create a wonderful, giddy suspense. Brooks also has the political savvy to take advantage of any paranoia a modern reader might feel. . . . The perfect book for all us zombie junkies.”
Paste

“This infectious and compelling book will have nervous readers watching the streets for zombies. Recommended.”
Library Journal

About the Author

 "The Stud Terkel of zombie journalism," MAX BROOKS is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Zombie Survival Guide and The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks. formed the core of the world’s civilian survival manuals during the Zombie War.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

WARNINGS GREATER CHONGQING, THE UNITED FEDERATION OF CHINA [At its prewar height, this region boasted a population of over thirty-five million people. Now, there are barely fifty thousand. Reconstruction funds have been slow to arrive in this part of the country, the government choosing to concentrate on the more densely populated coast. There is no central power grid, no running water besides the Yangtze River. But the streets are clear of rubble and the local "security council" has prevented any postwar outbreaks. The chairman of that council is Kwang Jingshu, a medical doctor who, despite his advanced age and wartime injuries, still manages to make house calls to all his patients.] The first outbreak I saw was in a remote village that officially had no name. The residents called it "New Dachang," but this was more out of nostalgia than anything else. Their former home, "Old Dachang," had stood since the period of the Three Kingdoms, with farms and houses and even trees said to be centuries old. When the Three Gorges Dam was completed, and reservoir waters began to rise, much of Dachang had been disassembled, brick by brick, then rebuilt on higher ground. This New Dachang, however, was not a town anymore, but a "national historic museum." It must have been a heartbreaking irony for those poor peasants, to see their town saved but then only being able to visit it as a tourist. Maybe that is why some of them chose to name their newly constructed hamlet "New Dachang" to preserve some connection to their heritage, even if it was only in name. I personally didn't know that this other New Dachang existed, so you can imagine how confused I was when the call came in. The hospital was quiet; it had been a slow night, even for the increasing number of drunk-driving accidents. Motorcycles were becoming very popular. We used to say that your Harley-Davidsons killed more young Chinese than all the GIs in the Korean War. That's why I was so grateful for a quiet shift. I was tired, my back and feet ached. I was on my way out to smoke a cigarette and watch the dawn when I heard my name being paged. The receptionist that night was new and couldn't quite understand the dialect. There had been an accident, or an illness. It was an emergency, that part was obvious, and could we please send help at once. What could I say? The younger doctors, the kids who think medicine is just a way to pad their bank accounts, they certainly weren't going to go help some "nongmin" just for the sake of helping. I guess I'm still an old revolutionary at heart. "Our duty is to hold ourselves responsible to the people." Those words still mean something to me . . . and I tried to remember that as my Deer bounced and banged over dirt roads the government had promised but never quite gotten around to paving. I had a devil of a time finding the place. Officially, it didn't exist and therefore wasn't on any map. I became lost several times and had to ask directions from locals who kept thinking I meant the museum town. I was in an impatient mood by the time I reached the small collection of hilltop homes. I remember thinking, This had better be damned serious. Once I saw their faces, I regretted my wish. There were seven of them, all on cots, all barely conscious. The villagers had moved them into their new communal meeting hall. The walls and floor were bare cement. The air was cold and damp. Of course they're sick, I thought. I asked the villagers who had been taking care of these people. They said no one, it wasn't "safe." I noticed that the door had been locked from the outside. The villagers were clearly terrified. They cringed and whispered; some kept their distance and prayed. Their behavior made me angry, not at them, you understand, not as individuals, but what they represented about our country. After centuries of foreign oppression, exploitation, and humiliation, we were finally reclaiming our rightful place as humanity's middle kingdom. We were the world's richest and most dynamic superpower, masters of everything from outer space to cyber space. It was the dawn of what the world was finally acknowledging as "The Chinese Century" and yet so many of us still lived like these ignorant peasants, as stagnant and superstitious as the earliest Yangshao savages. I was still lost in my grand, cultural criticism when I knelt to examine the first patient. She was running a high fever, forty degrees centigrade, and she was shivering violently. Barely coherent, she whimpered slightly when I tried to move her limbs. There was a wound in her right forearm, a bite mark. As I examined it more closely, I realized that it wasn't from an animal. The bite radius and teeth marks had to have come from a small, or possibly young, human being. Although I hypothesized this to be the source of the infection, the actual injury was surprisingly clean. I asked the villagers, again, who had been taking care of these people. Again, they told me no one. I knew this could not be true. The human mouth is packed with bacteria, even more so than the most unhygienic dog. If no one had cleaned this woman's wound, why wasn't it throbbing with infection? I examined the six other patients. All showed similar symptoms, all had similar wounds on various parts of their bodies. I asked one man, the most lucid of the group, who or what had inflicted these injuries. He told me it had happened when they had tried to subdue "him." "Who?" I asked. I found "Patient Zero" behind the locked door of an abandoned house across town. He was twelve years old. His wrists and feet were bound with plastic packing twine. Although he'd rubbed off the skin around his bonds, there was no blood. There was also no blood on his other wounds, not on the gouges on his legs or arms, or from the large dry gap where his right big toe had been. He was writhing like an animal; a gag muffled his growls. At first the villagers tried to hold me back. They warned me not to touch him, that he was "cursed." I shrugged them off and reached for my mask and gloves. The boy's skin was as cold and gray as the cement on which he lay. I could find neither his heartbeat nor his pulse. His eyes were wild, wide and sunken back in their sockets. They remained locked on me like a predatory beast. Throughout the examination he was inexplicably hostile, reaching for me with his bound hands and snapping at me through his gag. His movements were so violent I had to call for two of the largest villagers to help me hold him down. Initially they wouldn't budge, cowering in the doorway like baby rabbits. I explained that there was no risk of infection if they used gloves and masks. When they shook their heads, I made it an order, even though I had no lawful authority to do so. That was all it took. The two oxen knelt beside me. One held the boy's feet while the other grasped his hands. I tried to take a blood sample and instead extracted only brown, viscous matter. As I was withdrawing the needle, the boy began another bout of violent struggling. One of my "orderlies," the one responsible for his arms, gave up trying to hold them and thought it might safer if he just braced them against the floor with his knees. But the boy jerked again and I heard his left arm snap. Jagged ends of both radius and ulna bones stabbed through his gray flesh. Although the boy didn't cry out, didn't even seem to notice, it was enough for both assistants to leap back and run from the room. I instinctively retreated several paces myself. I am embarrassed to admit this; I have been a doctor for most of my adult life. I was trained and . . . you could even say "raised" by the People's Liberation Army. I've treated more than my share of combat injuries, faced my own death on more than one occasion, and now I was scared, truly scared, of this frail child. The boy began to twist in my direction, his arm ripped completely free. Flesh and muscle tore from one another until there was nothing except the stump. His now free right arm, still tied to the severed left hand, dragged his body across the floor. I hurried outside, locking the door behind me. I tried to compose myself, control my fear and shame. My voice still cracked as I asked the villagers how the boy had been infected. No one answered. I began to hear banging on the door, the boy's fist pounding weakly against the thin wood. It was all I could do not to jump at the sound. I prayed they would not notice the color draining from my face. I shouted, as much from fear as frustration, that I had to know what happened to this child. A young woman came forward, maybe his mother. You could tell that she had been crying for days; her eyes were dry and deeply red. She admitted that it had happened when the boy and his father were "moon fishing," a term that describes diving for treasure among the sunken ruins of the Three Gorges Reservoir. With more than eleven hundred abandoned villages, towns, and even cities, there was always the hope of recovering something valuable. It was a very common practice in those days, and also very illegal. She explained that they weren't looting, that it was their own village, Old Dachang, and they were just trying to recover some heirlooms from the remaining houses that hadn't been moved. She repeated the point, and I had to interrupt her with promises not to inform the police. She finally explained that the boy came up crying with a bite mark on his foot. He didn't know what had happened, the water had been too dark and muddy. His father was never seen again. I reached for my cell phone and dialed the number of Doctor Gu Wen Kuei, an old comrade from my army days who now worked at the Institute of Infectious Diseases at Chongqing University. We exchanged pleasantries, discussing our health, our grandchildren; it was only proper. I then told him about the outbreak and listened as he made some joke about the hygiene habits of hillbillies. I tried to chuckle along but continued that I thought the incident might be significant. Almost reluctantly he asked me what the symptoms were. I told him everything: the bites, the fever, the boy, the arm . . . his face suddenly stiffened. His smile died. He asked me to show him the infected. I went back into the meeting hall and waved the phone's camera over each of the patients. He asked me to move the camera closer to some of the wounds themselves. I did so and when I brought the screen back to my face, I saw that his video image had been cut. "Stay where you are," he said, just a distant, removed voice now. "Take the names of all who have had contact with the infected. Restrain those already infected. If any have passed into coma, vacate the room and secure the exit." His voice was flat, robotic, as if he had rehearsed this speech or was reading from something. He asked me, "Are you armed?" "Why would I be?" I asked. He told me he would get back to me, all business again. He said he had to make a few calls and that I should expect "support" within several hours. They were there in less than one, fifty men in large army Z-8A helicopters; all were wearing hazardous materials suits. They said they were from the Ministry of Health. I don't know who they thought they were kidding. With their bullying swagger, their intimidating arrogance, even these backwater bumpkins could recognize the Guoanbu. Their first priority was the meeting hall. The patients were carried out on stretchers, their limbs shackled, their mouths gagged. Next, they went for the boy. He came out in a body bag. His mother was wailing as she and the rest of the village were rounded up for "examinations." Their names were taken, their blood drawn. One by one they were stripped and photographed. The last one to be exposed was a withered old woman. She had a thin, crooked body, a face with a thousand lines and tiny feet that had to have been bound when she was a girl. She was shaking her bony fist at the "doctors." "This is your punishment!" she shouted. "This is revenge for Fengdu!" She was referring to the City of Ghosts, whose temples and shrines were dedicated to the underworld. Like Old Dachang, it had been an unlucky obstacle to China's next Great Leap Forward. It had been evacuated, then demolished, then almost entirely drowned. I've never been a superstitious person and I've never allowed myself to be hooked on the opiate of the people. I'm a doctor, a scientist. I believe only in what I can see and touch. I've never seen Fengdu as anything but a cheap, kitschy tourist trap. Of course this ancient crone's words had no effect on me, but her tone, her anger . . . she had witnessed enough calamity in her years upon the earth: the warlords, the Japanese, the insane nightmare of the Cultural Revolution . . . she knew that another storm was coming, even if she didn't have the education to understand it. My colleague Dr. Kuei had understood all too well. He'd even risked his neck to warn me, to give me enough time to call and maybe alert a few others before the "Ministry of Health" arrived. It was something he had said . . . a phrase he hadn't used in a very long time, not since those "minor" border clashes with the Soviet Union. That was back in 1969. We had been in an earthen bunker on our side of the Ussuri, less than a kilometer downriver from Chen Bao. The Russians were preparing to retake the island, their massive artillery hammering our forces. Gu and I had been trying to remove shrapnel from the belly of this soldier not much younger than us. The boy's lower intestines had been torn open, his blood and excrement were all over our gowns. Every seven seconds a round would land close by and we would have to bend over his body to shield the wound from falling earth, and every time we would be close enough to hear him whimper softly for his mother. There were other voices, too, rising from the pitch darkness just beyond the entrance to our bunker, desperate, angry voices that weren't supposed to be on our side of the river. We had two infantrymen stationed at the bunker's entrance.


From the Hardcover edition.

From AudioFile

Zombies are among us. In a series of journalistic-style interviews and monologues, Max Brooks tracks the institutional and geopolitical missteps that led to the collapse of civilization and follows the intrepid survivors as they tell the story of fighting their way back against a zombie horde of 200 million. Alan Alda, Carl Reiner, Mark Hamill, and a host of others lend their considerable vocal talents to give these interviews a solid realism. China secretly developed a deadly virus. Israel closed its borders. Cuba plotted. And in the United States the Battle of Yonkers was a devastating rout for the U.S. Army. It's all very much in the grand tradition of War of the Worlds. B.P. © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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