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