Quality Zombie Literature? Oct 28, 2007
I like survival stories. There are two post-apocalyptic, society-is-utterly-changed-by-sudden-catastrophe books that moved me and stayed with me over time. One is Stephen King’s novel, The Stand (and for goodness’ sake, read the book; don’t see the mediocre movie!). The other was Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka’s War Day. Both amazing stories came from sources I’d not expected. Third time’s a charm, I guess.
World War Z surprised me. The writing grabbed me, and not the cheesy way a ghoulish hand from under the bed grabs the stupid heroine in a horror movie. I found the structure of the novel intriguing: Brooks shares the story of World War Z by “interviewing” the survivors ten years after “the Crisis” has passed. The interviewees are people who were, at the time, doctors, children, government officials, military grunts, cyberpunks, pilots, gardeners at fancy international resorts. They are Americans, Chinese, Russian, Mexican, Korean, British, French, Australian. While this style of storytelling is not completely original, it is compelling. I stopped chortling about reading about zombies (of all things! not serious literature, of course!), and started hearing what Max Brooks understands about humanity – as a whole, and as individuals.
I thought he had some profound insights about resilience and depravity, about the bald cruelty of survival tactics and the ridiculous amount of luxury we think of as necessity. Most of all, as someone who has fought my own version of life-or-death demons, I really agreed with what Brooks says about hope. Pick the book up yourself, and see if you don’t find it hard to put down. Max Brooks may be a bit odd – he is the son of Mel Brooks, the director of many tongue-in-cheek films – but the writing here hits many issues right on the head. That’s the only way to kill the undead, or the critics, if you can tell them apart.