Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Undead Don't Thrill Me at All

World War Z

by Max Brooks

Published by Three Rivers Press

2 Out of 5 Stars

I have biblio-cooties.

There. I said it and I accept it. Because the majority of my friends really, really loved this book. And I fear they will reject me now that they know that it did little to nothing for me. I shall have to sit alone in the library, other readers keeping a wide berth for fear of contagion, but I cannot tell a lie and I stand by my pronouncement: Hi, my name is Amanda and I did not enjoy World War Z.

In the past, I have ripped into books I disliked with a gleeful, almost maniacal abandon, and so there are some who may suspect that I will do so here. But this is an entirely different case, for World War Z's fault is not that it's a bad book. It's well-written, it's got an intriguing conceit (the tale of the zombie apocalypse told in journalistic hindsight from the perspective of those who survived), and some imaginative scenarios (sure, we've all thought about zombies on land, but what about zombies underwater?).

In fact there's no fault at all here other than the fact that, as far as undead ghouls go, I'm Team Vampire. I've never really found anything that frightening about zombies, other than a certain "Eww" factor that compels me to think about how I need to stock up on hand sanitizer and wet wipes in a zombiefied world because they're leaving nasty bits and pieces everywhere. To me, there is nothing more frightening than intellect coupled with either undeniable evil or with moral apathy. Since zombies are basically husks driven by a biological imperative instead of conscious thought, they're not my monster of choice. The only zombie flicks I've enjoyed have been Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland. Humor + zombies = a win. Horror + zombies = not so much.

So I knew going in that this was likely a swing and a miss, but it had received such rave reviews that I couldn't resist. I thought the journalistic style might appeal to me, but few of the voices were clearly differentiated enough for me to connect with any one character. There were 3 or 4 stories that really engaged me, but not enough to enjoy the overall experience. What was really frightening, however, is that Brooks does an excellent job of showing how ill-equipped we are globally to deal with any type of rapidly-spreading contagion. He also captures the fear and panic that comes out of facing an unknown. Particularly in first world countries, we are so complacent with "knowing all the answers" and controlling everything that the mental toll of facing a problem we can not solve would be just as damaging as the physical threat. Brooks does an excellent job of realistically portraying this.

So, I'll say it again: not a bad book. Just not for me. Now I'll go sit in my corner and wait for someone else to catch biblio-cooties. It shouldn't be long. I just have to wait for someone to write a 1 star review of an Orson Scott Card or Janet Evanovich book and my transgressions will be forgotten.


  1. Heh heh. Biblio-cooties. That still makes me laugh. This is a great review. I'm convinced if I had read it instead of listened to it, it would have dropped at least one star for me. Still looking forward to the movie though!!

    1. I think I would have enjoyed it much more if I had read it. However, I will definitely be in line for the movie!