World War Z by Max Brooks

By Brian Prisco | Book Reviews | May 15, 2009 | Comments ()


Is this what summer promises to bring? After all the buildup and hoopla, I was kind of disappointed in the final result. I dig oral histories, and Brooks is pretty goddamn ingenious when it comes to formulating his zombie mythos through the great Zombie war, but I think his failing was in assembling it as an oral history.

Granted, I've only ever read a few oral assemblages in my time, two based on "Saturday Night Live," and one, the last decent book Palahniuk wrote. Stylistically, they read like documentary films, getting multiple view points presented by several people. And I felt like that was the failing of World War Z. Instead of being delivered in what could have been an outstanding assemblage of character pieces, it came off like a bad collection of monologues. Almost like a Vagina Monologues, only about the undead. My zombie is a flower: hungry, tearing up soil, and craving hot sticky brains. Wait, plants aren't hungry.

I can see how this would be an interesting audio book, mostly because I can imagine with the right cast, this would be a fantastic read. But each one of the characters is only presented once. And I think that's the problem. It's interesting, but I also felt cheated. I didn't care about the characters. Because it was all told in flashback, relating the events, there was no danger of death. Sure, there was some amazingly poignant stories being related, but really, I was about as unfeeling as if I were one of the chewy chewy chompers coming after them.

I don't know how this will translate as a film, unless they go the supercast route, and just pack it full of neato cameos. But really, I was a little let down in the execution. It's not like Brooks is a hack, he's incredibly witty and you can almost taste the thought that went into the work. But really, I wished he hadn't forced the awkward style on himself. It would have worked so much better.

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  • ferryman

    After just having finished the book, I find I have to label it as "unremarkable". Certainly some of the author's imaginings of the beginning, spread and methods of resolution to the outbreak in relation to the POV's of those being interviewed were interesting, but again I never felt invested in the story. From beginning to end I felt as if I were reading words written by the same person, pretending to be others. And I was.

  • ferryman

    I bought the book a couple days ago and have finished a little more than half. I admit that I'm a bit disappointed, as I feel the "interviews" are a little too sanitized and don't make me feel involved in the story.
    A book with similar structure but is far more engrossing is "Battle; the Story of the Bulge" by John Toland. It may be out of print now and you know how the story ends, but it puts you there as individual's stories are told. I highly recommend it.

  • YES.I love that book so much. I think I've read it 10 times by now, and I can totally see myself re-reading it forever.

  • disqus_mQPW6cixfl

    I read this and was ... underwhelmed.


  • BWeaves

    I think I'll wait for the Mel Brook's parody movie to come out.

    World War Zayin

    starring Gene WIlder as Brad Pitt, and Jamie Foxx as Richard Pryor as Patient Zero.

  • Mrcreosote

    The movie seems to be trying to hit every beat of clueless Hollywood. Hear buzz about a great book? Buy the rights! Kids love the zombies these days! Now what? Get a star! Brad Pitt wants to do this, and the kids love Pitt, right? (Note: Kids do not love him.) Now we've got him, get him extra grimy, give him a family for pathos, and profit!

    Ignore the actual book you have rights to. The amazing set pieces, the documentary set-up, the compelling characters, the painstaking research. Fuck that. The kids love fast zombies, right? Get me those Tough Mudder/Spartan zombies! Get some CGI that Paul W. Anderson would reject for being too hokey and PIMP THAT MUTHA!! Get Superbowl ads, interviews, a tie in videogame, whatever. Trade in the series of amazing stories for a plot the GENERIC SUMMER MOVIE PLOTBOT 8000 shat out and make sure there is no original thought.

    Realize that after spending a mountain of money on zombie hookers and blow you still need to produce a movie. Somehow spend between a 100 and 200 million where, at least so far none of it is on the screen in any meaningful capacity.

    Try new idiotic marketing techniques to try to pull money out of the audience. "Mega tickets" that allow you to see the movie 2 days early? That's.....just stupid. 50 dollars for a ticket? Hey, you might want to grease that up first.

    And when this fails, and make no mistake I WANT this to fail, the discussion will be about how the audiences are tired of zombies, or how hard it is to predict the outcome. It's not hard, really it's not-respect the source material. Don't just use the name. Don't focus group and finesse all the intellegence out of hte story. Don't listen to the fucknut who's available at 11:30 on a Tuesday to watch a movie and fill out a card in exchange for a sandwich and a 5 dollar gift certificate to Fudruckers. That guy is a moron, and of course he won't follow the plot.

    This whole process reeks. Every step feels calculated to try to suck money out of a name without any respect for anything else. It's a tone deaf kareoke version of a photocopy of a fax of the original. It needs to suck, because if it succeeds like Titanic we'll get more of this pablum.

  • Fredo

    Since we've discussed the book ad nauseum, I wanted to ask a question about the movie:

    We're all expecting a shoot 'em up style movie that ends with Brad Pitt winning by entering the black Russian hole and finding Patient Zero and surviving long enough to save humanity. But what if we're wrong?

    What if this movie is just the first third of the novel and it ends with Pitt failing and the Great Panic running through Earth and the Earth ruled by the Zed heads? What if this is just part 1 in a series? Would that change your mind?

  • TK

    It'd certainly restore some of my faith.

    Never gonna happen though.

  • denesteak

    ahhh very cool of you to tie it all together, mswas!

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