Whew. This book was rough. And not because I didn’t enjoy reading it. It was rough because it describes a fictional zombie apocalypse with such attention to realistic detail that it was exhausting to read.
The book is presented as “An Oral History of the Zombie War,” written by a journalist who interviews people for first-hand accounts of the violence and struggle the war entailed. It has now been twelve years since the United States declared its VA Day, and there has been relative global peace since then. However, this means only that the zombie population and its accompanying threat of contamination have been contained. Children are still warned not to play near water, where the dead may have fallen in, and, unable to swim but invulnerable to drowning, await a stray arm or leg to latch onto; and in the cold polar regions, zombies that freeze physically can reanimate should the temperature drop enough to grant them mobility. The only way to kill a zombie is by destroying the brain. Though really, shouldn’t we all know this already? Word of advice: when facing a creature whose weaknesses are unknown, there are two nearly universal safe bets that will either kill a creature or incapacitate it long enough for you to get away:
1.) Decapitation. Anything that has a brain in its head can’t go too far if its head is separated from its body. In the case of the World War Z zombies, the head remains alive if separated, but at least it can’t come after you, you know? As a nice side benefit, decapitation also works for vampires, werewolves, and telemarketers.
2.) Fire. The great equalizer. Everything burns. Just remember that zombies can’t feel pain and are likely to continue staggering toward you while on fire. Yeah. Think about that.
3.) Numbers 1 and 2 may not apply in case of extraterrestrials who may neither keep brains in their heads nor be carbon-based.
As is the case with many books structured from multiple viewpoints, sections are either riveting or dull depending on how intrigued you may be by any one story. This made the book a hair less compelling than if there had been more of a through-plot to string things together; for instance, if the narrator were more of a character. But really, the book is impressive in its envisioning of the failure of human foresight, the nature of group psychology, and the capacity of humans to be both abjectly self-centered and valiant by turns. At times, I was so enveloped in the mood of desperation the book depicts, I had to walk away to do something cheerful for fifteen minutes! This resulted in many revisions of my “Oldies” playlist on ITunes and me wearing an entire face of makeup though I had no intention of leaving the house that day. And now, I’m off to celebrate my zombie-free existence by eating pasta.