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Customer Review

43 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent read blemished by crude stereotyping and lack of narrative, 3 Feb. 2010
This review is from: World War Z (Paperback)
Max "son of Mel" Brooks's first fiction novel proper, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, is inspired both by Studs Terkel oral history of World War II and of course, the classic films of George A Romero (Night of the Living Dead et al).

The book casts a global eye over the spread of the "infected", from patient zero in China, to mass migrations in Central and North America, to the evacuation wholesale of Japan, amongst other places. This story is told not via a conventional narrative but through a long sequence of interconnected interviews, which tend to cross-reference back on each other, thus allowing a sense of progression from the initial contact with the living dead through to their domination and then the human fight back.

The downside of this approach is that no characters are allowed any room to develop, so there is a lack of attachment to anybody in particular; most stories are given only a few short pages which is unfortunate, as some of the reminiscences are quite gripping, such as the young American woman who moves north into the frozen wastes with her family, who, it is suggested, end up resorting to cannibalism. Such an interesting, dramatic narrative is quickly aborted to make way for others far less engrossing.

Brooks has undertaken much research to make this plague of zombies seem as realistic as possible but unfortunately, the book is marred by crude national stereotypes, such as the Englishman who practically bursts into tears about his love for the Royal family, the blind Japanese swordsman (ok, so he uses a spade), or most offensively, the raving Arab, spouting "Drive the Zionists into the sea!" nonsense. Typically, of course, the Americans save the day. Remember that scene two thirds of the way through the film Independence Day, when the US President announces his plan to defeat the aliens and people all over the world punch the air and whoop with joy? Yes, you pretty much get that scene here, though somewhat more muted.

All in, though, World War Z is an entertaining little pot-boiler that will surely find its market - it is already being adapted in to a Hollywood film - the Lord of the Rings of zombie movies, apparently - though the praise lavished on this book (especially by high profile fans like Simon "Shaun of the Dead" Pegg) does seem rather excessive for what it actually is.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Feb 2011 03:53:59 GMT
Well, it was written by an American. If a Brit were to have written it I'm sure the Brits would have saved the day.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2011 07:03:32 BDT
No offense, but a great probably unstatedly profound statement in response to an actually well written 2 star review:))

Smiles all around:)))

Posted on 27 Jul 2013 16:07:37 BDT
J. Smith says:
got to agree with the research comments. most chinese are taoists, so i wouldn't have thought the villagers or doctor in chapter one would have 'prayed' nothing like an american author not researching to put doubters on the book

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Aug 2013 09:58:36 BDT
Probably not. In "War of the Worlds", germs save the day.

Posted on 17 Oct 2013 10:25:34 BDT
J Brown says:
100% agree. Although I think the most offensive stereotyping was of China. I really like the book, but it seems to approach the whole event with an '80s cold war mindset. The Chinese just cover up, imprison people and distribute infected harvested organs, the Russians and Ukrainians mass murder their own people, the South Africans come up with plans of evil ingenuity, while Israel and America are sometimes incompetent but all fighting for the greater good. Granted a lot has changed already since 2006, but certainly reading it now it feels internationally very off the mark. Even though I'm not an American, I wish that it had focused more on the individual stories of Americans without trying to make global statements - after all Brookes clearly knows America better than he knows anywhere else.

Posted on 24 Oct 2013 18:48:17 BDT
jack hooper says:
I agree with you in relation to the narrative being detached. I had read and heard so many great things about this book but Im just not digging its style. Some of the stories are really engaging and you want them to go on for longer. But then theres a lot of stories that arent engaging at all, they seem kind of pointless and ramble on into irrelevant details. Honestly I found myself skipping a good few pages after a while, I'd know pretty soon when a story was gonna be engaging or not. Im gonna commit sacrilege here and say I thought the movie was better.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 May 2014 12:37:02 BDT
Good points made! You must own a crystal ball! "the Russians and Ukrainians mass murder their own people" (see current events!), "the South Africans come up with plans of evil ingenuity" (Oscar Pistorius: 'I shot her because I thought she was a burglar, Your Honour...'). So I DEFINITELY clicked 'YES' I thought this adds to the discussion! Can you email me next week's lottery numbers????.........

Posted on 24 Jun 2014 12:59:10 BDT
TOTPS3 says:
The Americans only really save themselves in this book. The Chinese and Russians sort out their own problems if I remember correctly.
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Location: Hertfordshire, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,515