Zombies are everywhere in pop culture these days. The undead presence is so proliferated that its occurrence is no longer shocking to encounter in almost any given genre. By and large I am an independent soul, beating to the chords of my own guitar. I eschew trendiness like a kindergartner cringes at shots. For all practical purposes, whenever something becomes coo, it is implicitly given a death sentence, because the masses are always looking for something new and different. The zombie craze, I think, is finally nearing the downward slope of its popularity. (But the question is can it remain dead?)
I’ve been a zombie fan for most of my life. My mom woke me up late one night—I was five—and she wanted me to watch some old black & white movie with her cause she was scared. This is one of my earliest memories. The film was “Night of the Living Dead.” To this day she is still terrified of that movie. Apparently it entered into my young psyche and I’ve been partial to the genre ever since.
When Max Brooks’ World War Z came out I thought it sounded interesting. I’m a fan of the documentary style of storytelling, and World War Z was described as a series of interviews with survivors from the zombie war. But this was all during the hype of the zombie craze, so I dropped the book on my TBR and went about my business (much like I did with Pride & Prejudice& Zombies). However, I had to do some traveling recently for work, so I decided to pick up the audio version of WWZ for the road.
To begin with, the audio book itself is a work of art. Because the book is a series of interviews with various survivors, the audio production features a full cast of actors to fill the bill. Max Brooks reads his own part, playing the role of the interviewer. Alan Alda, Mark Hamill, Rob Reiner, and several other voices play other roles. This version won recognition and an Audie award. This was truly a delight to listen to.
However, one thing I did not notice until later, the audio book was ABRIDGED! I am against abridged books and cannot understand why they even exist. (If you have any good reasons why, do tell.) But there was no going back, so I pressed on. This is my only disappointment with the audio book.
Plot-wise, Brooks establishes right up front that he’s presenting these interviews as a follow-up to an official UN report. He traveled the world collecting facts and figures and wound up gathering so much stuff that he was encouraged to write the book. Most of the time Brooks stays silent in order to allow the survivor to tell their story. He introduces each character and asks an occasional question, but he has intentionally removed himself from the story.
The world is fascinating. Brooks interviews people from all over: China, Japan, Iceland, New York, South Africa, Palestine, and more. The stories are captivating to varying degrees, but all were engrossing enough that I never grew bored. The interviews provide some unique insight to how the zombie outbreak affected the entire world, culturally, economically, mentally. They were handled well and entirely believable.
I don’t want to say anything about any of the individual stories to remain spoiler free, but all were worth the read. If you can suspend your disbelief and have a weakness for this type of storytelling, check out Max Brooks’ World War Z. I very much enjoyed it. The audio was excellent, just remember that it is abridged.