So…this is the latest book I just started reading, and instantly got wood for. Zombies! Freaking undead cannibals! And it’s awesome. And it’s pretty interesting as well.
I’d read Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide some time during the Summer, and I was really impressed and fascinated with all the work and deep thought gone into that book. It detailed a very elaborate survival plan, comprising anything from food, weapons, equipment, different locations, evacuation plans, environments, beheading-guide, fictional documented cases and also a history and background to the zombie virus. Also, dispelling common zombie-myths. For example, did you know, that the classic chainsaw is actually the dumbest and most impractical weapon against the undead? It’s loud, relies on fuel and regular maintenance (and who the hell wants to carry a heavy canister of petrol everywhere they go, in addition to the weight of the tool itself?), as well as being unreliable to start (while they are slouching closer every second) as well as very clumsy and clunky to operate. You are more likely to saw bits off yourself than any intended target, it’s quite likely to get choked with bits or rotting flesh, and as a final point, is guaranteed to spray congealed blood, bits of flesh, bone and pus everywhere, including all over your face, blinding you faster than you can say ‘fuck’. Good to know.
I don’t think I’m going to spoil anything, because all this is told during the first chapter of the Survival Guide, but Brooks sets up quite a good background story to the zombie pandemic, as a virus dubbed “Solanum”, that causes the victim to get sick, fall into a coma, dying and then rising again as a mindless cannibal. Most of what goes on in the introduction is pretty standard stuff, but Brooks does break the standard zombie-lore-formula in places. Some things about the Solanum seem like a bit of a mind-fuck, like what keeps the zombie nervous system running, if there are no metabolic functions, and they are incapable of digesting any of the raw flesh they devour. There is no breathing to feed oxygen to the muscles or brain, so all in all, what keeps the neurons firing and where do the muscles get the energy to function, for years and years, while they are slowly decomposing and deteriorating? Anyway, any doctor would probably call bullshit on the virus, but that is quite a small detail if you allow that one thing to pass. Everything else is very, very carefully thought out, very imaginative and really entertaining.
So, the new book, World War Z: an Oral History of the Zombie War, builds on what’s been established earlier in the Guide, including more of the similar fictional histories and eye-witness accounts, as were included in the Guide. It starts explaining that the stories included are extracts from interviews the writer had performed following the Zombie War, just some years back, that left under a billion survivors, from more than seven billion living pre-War. These stories include accounts from all around the world, China, USA, Russia, South-Africa, etc., including soldiers, doctors, politicians, civilians and others. They are all very interesting, following some really imaginative scenarios, like a Chinese doctor visiting people fallen mysteriously sick, soldiers talking about the mass-exoduses from big cities, and gruesome screening processes to single out the infected, politicians discussing amoral plans to sacrifice a portion of the population to ensure the survival of some and how to attempt restoring infrastructure, as well as individual stories from very different angles.
Brooks does include some more serious critical notes in the novel, though some of them are just one off gags, like referencing a location within the borders of “the Holy Russian Empire”; or a more serious critical note of the pharmaceutical industry financially exploiting the rising panic in the masses, selling huge quantities of Rabies medicine, fully knowing it to have no effect on the spreading epidemic.
The chapters seem to follow a chronological line, from the initial isolated cases, to nationwide panic, mass-genocide, scrounging for survival, followed by humanity eventually organising again and moving towards recovery, as the zombie numbers finally start a slow decline.
It’s gruesome, gross, absolutely fascinating and in every possible way awesome to all zombie fan boys and girls. So if you get the chance, go and read it.