Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fascinating in spite of the subject matter

I've written before about how I used to be a huge fan of zombie fiction but did the hipster thing and got over it when it got too popular. As such it's been a while since I've read World War Z but I should have remembered how much I like that particular book.

WWZ is my ideal zombie story; it examines how the disease was spread, how people reacted, and how they rebuilt after the primary threat was gone. It's full of little stories all contributing to a bigger story and the "oral history" construction helps. I don't think a really good zombie story can be told from a single point of view because if that's how you do it you're cutting out the rest of the world to focus on a single person and zombies are scary because of their reach. You don't worry about a horde of zombies harrowing a single house on your block, you worry about a horde of zombies harrowing the entire globe and so far no one but Max Brooks has really captured that.

There's a lot of humor in the novel and I think that helps too - how can you be serious about some bizarre quasi-magical viral threat? But the serious parts of the book are VERY serious and handle important issues: the social contract, racism, the nuclear threat, and the fact that in any serious disaster you sometimes have to sacrifice the few for the benefit of many.

I don't agree with a lot of the ideas espoused in the novel but I do find myself consistently entertained when reading it and thoughtful after. I live in Southern California where zombies are a useful metaphor for the destruction an earthquake could do and I try to think accordingly - I don't have to be prepared to fight off the undead, but I do have to know how to function if there's no running water or if the freeways are closed for weeks. I guess that's not exactly the kind of escapism that most people go in for when they read or watch zombies, but it's useful enough for me.

     - Alli

Brooks, Max. World War Z. Three Rivers Press. 2006.

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