World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
What’s it about? The title pretty much tells you all you need to know. I mean, we all remember when zombies nearly wiped out humanity, right? Wait, you don’t remember World War Z? Then you’re in for a deliciously creepy treat. Journalist Max Brooks sets out to commemorate the zombie revolution (now known as World War Z) by creating a documentary-like compilation of interviews with some of the war’s most amazing survivors, including some impressive military players. Appropriately, he starts at the beginning—with a survivor from a small Chinese town who personally witnessed the origin of the uprising with preteen Patient Zero’s descent into the zombie nation.
Brooks scoops classified stories from high-ranked military officials around the world, digging out the real story behind the government intervention (or lack thereof). But the best story of all is that of a teenage girl, who went north during the war with her family to battle starvation, cannibalism, and the worst of human nature in an unnamed land of perpetual winter, where zombies frozen for most of the year would still manage to reanimate their reign of terror each summer. The various survivors’ stories are necessarily episodic in nature, but each tale’s overarching goal of man vs. zombie ties them all together nicely.
Is the narrator any good? I wouldn’t be surprised if author Max Brooks wrote World War Z with an audiobook format in mind. The interconnected sessions of interviews lend themselves quite well to a vocal telling. I can’t imagine how much of the story might’ve been lost had I been reading the transcribed words of the interviewees, rather than hearing those words in their own voices, complete with accents and emotional reactions.
The author himself narrates the story, personally interviewing each of the survivors and providing transitions between stories as he travels to each corner of the world looking for survivors. And what luck that each of his subjects also happens to be an accomplished vocal actor! It just makes their stories all the more believable.
The verdict? You may have already noticed that this audiobook felt more real to me than any I’ve recently listened to. The somber music between interviews heightens the drama, and most of the characters describe their stories with a casualness that only accentuates the creepiness of the ordeal they survived. Even in the zombie-soaked climate of today’s pop culture-obsessed society, the unique format alone would be enough to make World War Z worth a listen. Luckily, you get much more than a unique format—you get an engaging apocalyptic tale.