It’s October, and Halloween is right around the corner. As I pass by the seasonal Zombie Bash billboard on the highway, I ask myself, what better time is there to read about zombies? Each time I make my way to the bookstore, I notice Max Brooks’s popular zombie apocalypse novel, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. I am finally going to read it. As I read about the author’s background, I find that he is the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, and I hope that these obscenely famous parents are not the reason the book was published and well-accepted. As I begin reading, I get a disconcerting feeling from the author’s means of communicating the story to the reader; the lack of organization in the text makes me question the writer’s intentions. While I enjoy many aspects of the plot-line, which are conveyed by the narrator who is an interviewer conducting a series of discussions with survivors of World War Z, the delivery of topics in the text makes me want to stop reading. On page 191, short of finishing by over 100 pages, I do stop reading. I am still left wondering if I am expecting the text to be something it’s not, or if I am right not to like its presentation.
Since the text is presented to the reader as a series of interviews, I reason there are a couple ways to approach its interpretation. Wanting to give Brooks the benefit of the doubt, I consider that he chose to write in a journalistic style as opposed to prose intentionally. With this choice of style comes the inevitable inability on behalf of readers to decipher character traits such as personality, looks, or emotion, which would be included in a chapter novel. But, did he want the reader and characters to remain at a distance? My eventual answer to my own question is, no. The second of the two options for interpretation I spoke of earlier is to decide that the format and presentation are ways to take the easy way out for a writer who is inexperienced, not a great talent, and has trouble organizing his story into a logical sequence. The result is a story of the apocalypse that lacks creativity and is largely based on military incidents and other stories from history. These subjects make this story seem as if it has already been told. For instance the Holocaust is echoed as people are placed in camps to be certain they are not infected with the zombie virus. Even if I can get past the hauntingly familiar historical aspects, the more “accounts” of witnesses that are presented leave me pondering where the stories are leading.
There are too many ideas that the writer fails to connect for the reader. In the 191 pages I read of the text, I did not hear from any person the narrator interviewed more than once. As a reader, I don’t get the sense that pieces of interviews are eventually going to come together as a whole. When my interest peaks in a character or story, I am left wondering when the character will reappear. Instead, more and more characters enter the picture. I enjoy some of the details provided about how the virus was spread, politics, and survival techniques, but even though I know each character shares the same overall experience as a survivor, I am left thinking the stories need to be connected in some way by the author. However, some of the stories held my interest, so I struggle to continue reading a text, which should flow due to its simplicity and subject matter.
I can’t deny that frequently seeing the book at the bookstore and knowing it is being made into a film starring Brad Pitt influenced my decision to keep reading as long as I did. Still, in the end the idea of zombies destroying the human race and hope for better structure, was not enough to hold my interest. I am certain that those who didn’t have this issue would fare better while reading the book. I will wait until the film comes out and hope for good screenwriters to bring the missing pieces together.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars