I wasn’t prepared for ‘World War Z.’ It was the second thing I ever read on my Kindle and I was still working out how to reconfigure all my reading habits to this mystical new piece of technology, hand still drifting whimsically to one side with a superfluous bookmark.
All this meant that I was a significant amount into the novel before I realised how bloody good it was. On first reading, I was somewhat baffled by the shifts in time, place and perspective; with every ‘chapter’ focusing on the account of a different protagonist in the zombie war, from the early warning signs to much later on (*desperately attempts not to spoil book for anyone who hasn’t read it yet*). I am not a huge fan of narratives which switch speakers so often; ‘Cloud Atlas’ and ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ being two novels which have annoyed me far more than provided any entertainment. But ‘World War Z’ makes it work; no one character outstays their welcome and, if anything, I wanted more from most of them.
Every voice in ‘World War Z’ is different enough to sustain my interest, from the soldier fighting on the front line to the doctor who first encounters the mysterious disease in China. The scale of the novel is extraordinary, taking in more of the globe than a Taylor Swift tour (although with fewer guest appearances from Phoebe from ‘Friends’) and even beyond; my favourite section focuses on an astronaut, stranded in space while Earth is ravaged by zombies and humanity’s attempts to defeat them. Forgotten while mankind fights for its survival, the astronauts can see fires burning on Earth, evacuations of whole nations and something really creepy called “zombie holes.” It’s the chapter I most often return to when I want to relive the glory of this book, and the one I refer to when discussing the book with another fan.
After reading it for the first time, I even wondered whether my judgement had been impaired by the whizzy technology of Amazon’s finest anti-book device. So I read it again to check. And I had not been fooled; ‘World War Z’ is really just extraordinary. It surprises you, it makes you jump, it makes you re-read sections just to check that what you just read is as good as it seemed. It is.
So, who should anyone read ‘World War Z’? Obviously, all the millions of people who watch ‘The Walking Dead’ need a copy of this. Anyone who has seen the film ‘World War Z’ but not read the book cannot possibly understand how different the two are; basically, the title is the same and that is it. This is the ultimate example of Hollywood acquiring the rights to a book which they then find themselves fundamentally ill-equipped to actually transfer to the screen. It really needs to be a Netflix series with at least 10 seasons. I will generously offer my services as an expert on the source text to make sure it ends up exactly how it is in my head. You’re welcome, world.
When I am asked for book recommendations, I don’t often choose ‘World War Z.’ There is one main reason for this; if someone I previously liked tries this book and doesn’t enjoy it, I will have to cut them out of my life forever, and that just seems like too much of a commitment for someone who already has far more books than friends. The universe agrees with me; having ordered a copy for my classroom library, the version that showed up was in French. Fate does not want me to share my love of this book with anyone. But I have to. Because it is epic in every sense of the word; scale, the ambition of the narrative, the range of speakers and situations, the story itself from start to finish… Everything about ‘World War Z’ is outstanding.