There is so much undead literature out there–movies, too–that I wonder if we haven’t reached some sort of zombie saturation point. Even the Playstation 3 western Red Dead Redemption is about to get a zombie update on downloadable content. From Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to Breathers to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I wonder how long it will be before the bottom drops out and the value of walking-dead-lit crashes. But until then, I will state loudly and proudly that I still believe World War Z: An Oral History of The Zombie War is the finest of them all.
Summary of World War Z
There has been a war, called The Crisis, in which the undead spread out all over the world in and started causing mischief of the most permanent sort. Non-spoiler: the humans win. The book is told after the fact (about ten years down the road) in first person by people who survived it. Think of VH1 and the talking head shows. It’s kind of like that, except that the stories Max Brooks has his characters are a lot more cool. All over the world. All sorts of crazy tales and characters. Especially the blind samurai. That’s right. Don’t attack even a blind Samurai or you will pay dearly.
One thing I really liked about this book that a lot of zombie tales leave out is the aftermath. There are several accounts of people who were on cleanup duty after the war ended. Meaning–humans had beaten enough of them back that the final outcome was no longer in doubt, but there were still a lot of dead people walking around out there. In my opinion, the most memorable story is from someone who works on an underwater crew. The zombies can breathe underwater, and unfortunately, a bunch of them are still wandering around on the bottoms of lakes and rivers. The images of men in diving suits descending through swirling silt as the zombie faces appear in the darkening water freaked me out but good.
You will like this book if you like stories like this. I know you can tell if that is you. Brooks tells the story with a totally straight face, which I absolutely loved. It grabbed me from the start and I was sad when it ended. If that war is actually on the horizon, we’ll be better off if you all read this as preparation.