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Cannonball Read V: World War Z by Max Brooks

By Popcultureboy | Books | June 19, 2013 |

By Popcultureboy | Books | June 19, 2013 |

In a world… where a cinematic adaptation of a book is about to be released… where volunteer reviews are about to be irrevocably shadowed by a new blockbuster, Cannonball Read brings you the 2006 novel, World War Z.

You might feel like you’ve been hearing about this movie for a long time, but Cannonballers have had this book on their radar since the very first Cannonball Read.

Drayke’s review of Max Brooks’ novel went up in November 2008, where I learned something new:

Being the son of Mel Brooks (who knew?) , you’d expect to find a lot of humour in this book. Instead, you find almost none. This book manages to be both extremely dark and hopeful at the same time. He manages to hit all of the standard zombie cliches and still keep the entire story completely new.

I guess I missed the author’s parentage in all the marketing hubbub.

Brian Prisco (primo Cannonballaera) also reviewed the book during that first Read, writing a somewhat prescient review in 2009 where he said: “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.” Brad Pitt probably qualifies it as a “supercast,” but anyone know anything about any “neato cameos”?

As the years went on, they told two Cannonballers, and they told two Cannonballers, and so on, and so on. When Cannonball Read III started up, we had five reviews of this novel posted to the group blog, while Cannonball Read IV had eight reviews. We’re halfway through Cannonball Read V, and we already have five reviews posted.

Reviews tended to be on the positive side, but that doesn’t mean everyone completely agreed (everyone agree on Pajiba? Never!) Excerpts from this year’s Cannonball Readers of World War Z include:

  • denesteak - “World War Z should be read, not as fiction, but as a parable.”
  • KayKay - “I want to forget ever reading it…”
  • loulamac - “This book is so brilliant. Read it! This instant! Is that not enough? Do I need to write more?”
  • BenML - “While I do like good science fiction, I haven’t yet been ensnared by the now prolific zombie apocalypse genre. This book, though not a favorite, does make me wonder what I’ve been missing.”

Whether you see the movie or not, like it or hate it, the construct of World War Z will change in your mind once the movie is released. How many of us read the Harry Potter books long before the movies, only to find that years later our mental images of Harry, Ron and Hermione are now supplanted by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson? So take a moment to read through the linked reviews above, and popcultureboy’s take on it below, and experience this zombie apocalypse through the eyes of a Cannonballer.

If you’d really like to experience life as a Cannonballer, join us for the July Pajiba Book Club, where we read and discuss Shift, the second in Hugh Howey’s Silo series. (Check jennp421’s winning Cannonball Read V review of Wool, the first in the series.)

Follow the Cannonball Read V group blog for details, and watch for an announcement here. — mswas

World War Z is a remarkable achievement. What could have so easily been a shallow shoot ‘em up (which is what the upcoming movie seems to have gone for, which may explain the negative buzz) is instead an in-depth look at all the ramifications of its titular War. The unnamed journalist travels across the world, meeting with key players in halting the zombie invasion that nearly wiped out humanity. From those who witnessed Patient Zero, to rebuilding a shattered Earth, the scope of Brooks’ vision is quite breathtaking.

I’m probably one of the few people on the planet who hadn’t read the book when it was first published back in 2006. I toyed with it, but for some reason never got round to it. Kicking myself for that now. The book is grimly fascinating and breathlessly exciting with it. There were several first person accounts that had my palms sweating. I haven’t been this gripped by a book in a long time.

There are some detractors who bemoan the similarity of the voices telling the story. I don’t agree. Throughout, I marvelled at the dexterity Brooks was demonstrating and how well he differentiated his characters. There are a lot of them, and all of them have a different story to tell. Not one of them is any less than utterly fascinating. To maintain that level of interest and excitement when you’re refracting such a huge narrative through such a large prism is an absolute marvel. Top notch stuff.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read V. Read all about it, and for more of popcultureboy’s reviews, check out his blog popcultureboy’s book quest.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)

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