I read this a while back and felt it needed a review. This book is written by Max Brooks who is the son of legendary comedic director and actor Mel Brooks. Mel Brooks directed Blazing Saddles, History of the World, and Spaceballs in case you were wondering. At the time of reading this I did not put two and two together that they were father and son. This is also not the first book written by Max about zombies, he also wrote The Zombie Survival Guide, which I have not read but did get some good reviews. Honestly, I am not a big zombie fan, but I had heard a ton about this book so I thought I needed to check it out.
As I just said I am not a huge fan of the genre, but I do enjoy The Walking Dead series on TV, I just never got into the whole zombie thing. All that being said I went into this book with little to no expectations. Not that I was thinking it would be bad, but I just was not sure what direction the author was going to go in. Not only that but I was on the side of “there has been so much zombie stuff already out there what will make this any different.”
Boy was I was blown away and in for one awesome ride. I have read quite a few books in my day and I can honestly say that regardless of the genre or subject matter this is it is one of the most well written and researched books I have ever read. The way it is written is very impressive and very unique, not to mention all the research that went into the book. It starts out with a journalist after the “war” against the zombies has ended, and the journalist travels to China where the disease first breaks out to interview the locals on what happened. From there, and this is really the only similarity to the movie, the guy travels around the world interviewing people, and gets their story and how it affected the war. As they tell what they know through the interview process their stories start to build what happened for the reader. I think this one of the coolest aspects of the novel, how it is written.
The zombies in the book are totally different from what appears in the movie. They are the typical slow moving zombie, and the only way to kill them is either by shooting them in the head or crushing their skull. It may sound like a boring depiction of zombie, but this zombie is way better than the ones in the movie and here is why. This zombie although slow can only be killed by a bullet to the brain or having its skull smashed. This creates an interesting scenario in the book where all our smart bombs and spraying bullets everywhere basically become useless against this enemy. A bomb is mostly designed to kill, but if it cannot kill it will certainly injure anyone in the area, thus putting them out of the fight. This weapon is utterly useless against the zombies. Remember only a head shot will kill them, so unless you are incredibly lucky that a large amount of shrapnel hits one of the zombies in the head all you have done is create a nice fireworks show and put a few holes in the zombie. Even if the initial blast blows apart the zombie only the head shot will kill it. There are some battles in the book where the armies learn the hard way that the conventional tactics are not working. It is kind of silly that a slow moving enemy can be so devastating, but the sheer numbers also come into play as well.
The other thing that I think makes this book cool, and that the author did a great job of portraying, is showing that the zombie was unlike any enemy that mankind had ever faced before in any war. In the story the journalist interviews a general that explains this very fact to him. Throughout human history every war that has been fought, one enemy has given up at some point during the war for whatever reason. Lack of food, water, or lost the will to fight, there is always a reason that the one side will throw in the towel. Zombies however do not need any of that stuff, they will never surrender no matter if there are one or one thousand of them left. The only way to win this war is by total annihilation. To me I think this is a very interesting point and one that is often overlooked in the zombie genre. Well, I say that having read exactly one story in the genre, so take that with a grain of salt. Regardless it is an interesting thought that I found fascinating.
Another neat point that Brooks makes in the book is the communication system used by the zombies. Loud moans usually arouse other zombies in the area that there is food nearby. The zombies are also attracted by loud noises, which are used as an advantage of the army when they mount an offensive.
Lastly the research! I cannot imagine how much time went into researching every detail of this book. From military tactics, to how a nuclear submarine operates, to various political issues it is truly amazing to see so much work go into a novel. Honestly, if you get nothing else out of this book I think you will see the amount of time and effort that went into it, and it was totally worth it. The final product is one of the most interesting, thought provoking, and exciting books I have read in quite some time, and to top it off it’s about ZOMBIES!
There is so much going on in the novel not just the war, but there is a ton of political moves and aspects to the novel as well. After the outbreak, suddenly warring nations are best friends and nations that were communist are now democratic. I felt this aspect of any end of the world type book is pretty standard. The world will surely change if something like this were to happen. Brooks does make some very interesting outcomes regarding different nations after the war. I will not ruin it but for example Cuba is a world powerhouse after the war, go figure.
I cannot recommend this book enough. Every aspect of it is great, the plot, how it is written, the execution, and the research. If you are not into the zombie thing, totally fine, but if you can put that aside of a second and just read it there is so much more here than the slow moving, blood oozing, brains eating zombie story. If you saw the movie first, I will forgive you, but just this time. The book, as almost always, is so, incredibly, beyond comparison, without a doubt, a million times better. There really is something for everyone in this book. I cannot compliment the author enough on his work, truly a modern classic.