World War Z

World War Z is a book written by Max Brooks, on behalf of the United Nations. It is a series of interviews, presented as an oral history of the zombie apocalypse. No, the zombie apocalypse has not actually happened.

The book tells of an alternate present, where an outbreak of rising dead turns in to a world-wide epidemic. The story doesn’t unfold as classical horror, but as a look at geopolitical implications, military strategy, and individual survival instincts in the face of an unprecedented, global threat.

It deals with the big questions– wouldn’t Israel deal with such a threat in a fundamentally different way than say South Africa or Russia, because of their history? How would our military machinery work against an enemy who does not work under the traditional parameters– has no emotions, no family, no expenses, and can only be downed by decapitation? And for every one soldier you lose, they gain one.

As I said, the story is told as a series of interviews, a few years after the war is over– an interview of a doctor who saw the first cases in China, an Israeli intelligence agent who was among the first to take the threat seriously, of US military personnel, a South African politician, and of so many individuals from across the globe. While the climax is told from an American perspective, this is a global story and that is what really makes it special– the plausible military, social and political implications.

The audiobook makes this book even better. Here’s part of the cast: Alan Alda, Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner, John Turturro, Mark Hamill, Henry Rollins, and Jürgen Prochnow. Since each chapter is an interview with a different person, this format works really well.

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