Mad about books: ‘World War Z’ by Max Brooks


Hannah Donahue

World War Z by Max Brooks is the oral history of a fictional “Zombie War.” I listened to the audiobook whenever I drove for more than an hour. This book was voiced by a full cast, including Mark Hamill and Nathan Fillion, and the recording is just over 12 hours long. This audiobook has almost a podcast-like quality to it, with the narrator (Max Brooks) asking questions as a journalist would. The entire novel starts with Brooks talking about these interviews he’s collected for the United Nations from all over the world in order to get more information on what happened during the Zombie War. The UN only wants the numbers and statistics that these interviews provide, but give Brooks full permission to publish the interviews as they are.  

The chapters go over everything from how the war started, to how people survived the zombies, to the government’s response, right down to the role that dogs played in the war. The people that are interviewed are from places like China; Syria; Japan; Brazil; Yonkers, New York; Mexico; South Africa; Burlington, Vermont; Germany; Israel; Russia; a nuclear submarine; and even the International Space Station. The people interviewed all have different occupations and experiences with the war; some are fighting on the front lines, spying on other countries, creating zombie vaccines (even if they’re a scam), setting up new towns and safe havens or trying to escape in any way they could. 

Brooks takes you through the most pivotal moments in the war, starting by interviewing the doctor who saw patient zero. As people start to panic and the plague begins to spread, a group of men introduce Phalanx, a placebo vaccine that created a false sense of security. Then, when it is revealed that Phalanx does nothing, the entire world goes into “The Great Panic.” One event that Brooks refers to several times is “The Battle of Yonkers,” which was exciting for me since I live just a town over from where this takes place. During this battle, people realize that modern army weapons don’t work against the zombies, which sends the world into an even deeper panic.  

The audiobook is broken up into eight parts, with at least five chapters per part. Only a handful of characters showed up twice which meant that each chapter was extremely different than the last. The voice work is stunning and I’m not sure I would have liked the book as much if it didn’t have a different voice for each person.  

If there was one quote to sum up the entire book, it would be “I’m not going to say the war was a good thing. I’m not that much of a sick f***, but you’ve got to admit that it did bring people together.”  

World War Z holds your attention from beginning to end and I honestly never knew where it was going next, or who else the narrator could possibly interview. Some of my favorite interviews were with the soldier from Yonkers, the Russian spy and the girl who was young when this all started and had to grow up with zombies in her backyard. I’d recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of zombies, alternate histories or just needs a good audiobook to listen to.