The Zombies are Coming! The Zombies are Coming!

"You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake." - Jeannette Rankin
"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." - Albert Einstein

"The most successful war seldom pays for its losses." - Thomas Jefferson

While the zombie genre is popular right now among many TV audiences with shows like The Walking Dead, and movies like Zombieland, it may seem like beating a dead horse with another zombie novel and coming big-budget movie entitled World War Z by Max Brooks.  Many a previous author and screenwriter have had their take on the zombie genre.  Anything from the macabre to the comic, the zombie genre has seen it all.  Given the plethora of zombie fare out there and given the proclamations of the coming catastrophe of the over budget, soon-to-be film based upon the novel by Brooks, I certainly approached the story with a little anxiety and trepidation.  It took all of three pages to get me to eviscerate any preconceived notions of impending peril and drudgery over an almost 350 page novel.

Brooks begins his zombie treatise with an introduction.  While only three pages long I was very tempted to skip it, but was very glad that I did not.  Brooks' narrator begins by telling us he is piecing together a series of interviews about the whole of the zombie war.  Instead of having a straight forward narrative of nightmarish creatures attacking and being repulsed or eventually conquering their human meals-on-wheels, you are introduced to a rich tapestry of stories from individuals, a decidedly human element in a tale about the undead.  Each tale intricately weaves around the previous "history" and then adds its own element, driving the narrative forward with every story told.  Every new angle brings a complexity and richness to Brooks' overall story arc.  Questions like how did the plague get started, how was it not quashed quickly, why did it spread so rapidly, and how, once these undead creatures dominated the planet, was humanity able to beat back such a worldwide infestation are subtly and deftly answered with every passing tale, interweaving stories of the rich and powerful with the poor and destitute.

After reading the novel I began to fully grasp why the zombie genre is so popular.  Anytime a society has a chance to collapse there are a myriad of themes and ideas that have the ability to be mined.  What is morality?  Why should we be stewards of the planets fragile ecology?  What responsibility do scientists bear in their pursuit of knowledge?  What things are of ultimate importance?  There are so many different questions that can be mined within such a tale that it provides authors and artists alike a rich palette of themes and ideas with which to explore.  Brooks' World War Z narrator describes this conflict as a war, not because it is what the governments and participants would want you to think and believe, but because of what it was.  And in war, humanity is often the first casualty, but also its most precious commodity.  I believe the exploration of this theme is what makes the novel brilliant and definitely worth a look, whatever fate may befall the movie based on its pages.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great review! I'm going to put it on hold!