Wednesday, 7 January 2015
World War Z by Max Brooks
I really wanted to like World War Z. It was a favourite with my husband, and I think the premise of the novel is very clever. I like the idea of it being a history book rather than a story, and it allows Brooks to bring in stories from people all around the world. We get to be there when a doctor arrives on the scene of the first outbreak, when Israel decided to shut themselves off completely, when the bold decision was made to abandon parts and populations of whole countries, in order to save the few and avoid the total destruction of humanity. I liked the descriptions of what it was like to face the zombies, and to be on the run from them.
Unfortunately, there were a few things that stopped me from enjoying World War Z. Although it was a quick read and never hard to get through, it ultimately disappointed me. The first problem was the lack of tension. The 'history book' conceit of the novel means that you know that everyone who is narrating their account survives. No matter how dangerous the situations they find themselves in, no matter how slim the chance of survival seems, you know they are going to survive, and this ruins it a bit. Another issue was that all of the accounts were of people who made key decisions or were in key places. Of course, that is who would make it into a history book if this were to happen, but I missed the run of the mill accounts of everyday people. I can only think of one like this, and it's a shame there wasn't more.
However, the main problem I had with World War Z is that it was too focused on being technical and clever. Brooks is very concerned with how the outbreak spread, the politics of the different countries and their reactions to it (and these were extremely stereotypical, another negative) and the military responses. There are pages and pages of descriptions of weapons, and of arguments between different forces on effective responses and which weapons should be scrapped. I can't deny that Brooks' scenario is plausible, and he has obviously thought everything through carefully, but I missed the emotional connection. I didn't want to read about weapons and battle tactics, I wanted more human impact, more of the feelings that would come with your world being turned upside down. Perhaps diary entries of those that couldn't cope, or stories from families who had lost members could have been included, anything to make it more emotionally engaging.
Overall, the history book format is both the strength and weakness of World War Z. It's a clever idea, and Brooks' scenarios are extremely plausible but it also completely destroys the tension and the emotional connection to the story.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 2006
Score: 2.5 out of 5
Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)
I've been going back and forth about whether I want to read this book or not, but now I can put it into the "not" category. Many people like it because of its clever setup, and it does sound clever, but I can do without stereotypical reactions. I am almost excited that here is finally a book I do not have to add to my TBR pile. :)ReplyDelete
The countries were dealt with pretty stereotypically - the Russians were brutal, the Chinese inscrutable, the English holed up in their castles etc. Not good!Delete
I've heard a lot about this book, I think I'm still going to give it a try.ReplyDelete
Let me know what you think if you do give it a shot.Delete
I totally agree with you that there's just a lack of tension there, something I craved while reading this book as well. I understand the concept and why some readers love it, but it's not for me. The movie, however, I quite enjoyed and was entertained with it.ReplyDelete
I'm quite interested in the film, I've heard it's quite different from the book?Delete
The 'history book' conceit of the novel means that you know that everyone who is narrating their account survives. No matter how dangerous the situations they find themselves in, no matter how slim the chance of survival seems, you know they are going to survive, and this ruins it a bit.ReplyDelete
That's a really interesting point and I hadn't thought of that. I'm not sure how a book would work without any tension or atmosphere. I'd think it would get a bit repetitive after a while?
I just can't decide whether to read this or not - I know people who have loved it but then people who weren't all that impressed with it either. Maybe I'll pick it up if I see it in a charity shop or something!
It wasn't too repetitive, mainly because all of the narrators were from different parts of the world and had different experiences.Delete
Charity shop or library is a good call for this one.
So, since I read the end of every book I encounter (just about), I didn't mind at all knowing that all the people giving the accounts must have survived. I just loved how fascinating and weird and different all the stories were, and I so appreciated that Brooks put such an international spin on it.ReplyDelete
That's true, it must not have bothered you at all. I don't know how you read the ends all the time, I love the tension of not knowing.Delete
I'm so glad you felt like this too! I was starting to think that I was the only person not to completely adore it. I couldn't agree more with everything you've said, especially about it trying so hard to be clever. I have a lot of admiration for Brooks and the amount of thought that obviously went into planning the book but I just wasn't at all gripped or moved by the story (the parts that were heavy on the military tactics were particularly hard for me to engage with). I think I'm glad I've read it but I definitely haven't been recommending that others do!ReplyDelete
I felt bad about not liking it as my husband loved it, and was clearly hoping I would like it too so we could gush about it together.Delete
It's not one I'll be recommending either...
I though this movie was quite enjoyable - sure it had its issues too, but it didn't have some of the problems that this book has. I haven't read the book yet, but my husband loves it too, and I will read it some day. I think I will be bothered by the same things you were.ReplyDelete
I'm interested to see the film, mainly because I've heard that it is very different from the book. I think my husband was quite disappointed that I didn't love it as much as he did...Delete
For whatever reason, the book has never held that much interest for me. I tarted to watch the movie, then I got distracted and never went back to finish it. Some day I'll at least do that.ReplyDelete
I also really wanted to like this book - the premise is really great! But I think I only managed to read a chapter or two. I couldn't believe that a book about a zombie apocalypse could be so boring!ReplyDelete