Hello again fledglings!
It’s Sarah here, bringing you my review of Max Brooks’ World War Z. I realise that Rose may well feel as if I’m encroaching on her sci-fi, apocalyptic territory here, but this was one of the books I have to read for my third year at university and it’s the most fresh in my mind of all the books I’ve read recently so I’m going to do it anyway!
I’m going to start off by saying that this is going to be a very mixed review indeed. Let’s just say, the high hopes I had for this book were certainly not met… World War Z? More like World War Zzz!
There were a number of things that annoyed me about this novel. For starters, I get that it’s supposed to be an oral history and that the multitude of viewpoints are used in order to give the reader a more rounded perspective of the Zombie War. It was certainly interesting to see the variety of people the author chose to tell his story. It was also fun to see how Brooks adapted his writing style from one character to another. I feel he achieved this particular task relatively well, except for the fact that towards the end, there was a lot of overlap in the different characters’ idioms. This made it feel as if he had exhausted his thesaurus in trying to find a different word to describe the same thing from one character to the next. However, I personally found that the multiplicity of viewpoints made it very hard to immerse myself into the plot as I never really felt fully involved with one character. As soon as I was getting a feel for one, their narrative ended and the story moved on to the next person.
Another thing that I disliked about the story as a whole was the fact that I felt that the whole time, it was leading up to a crescendo, but it never came. I like my gratification and so I found this rather frustrating. It just seemed like the action (it was a Zombie War after all…) was brushed over and none of the characters ever fully engaged with that aspect of the story. They were all so busy telling their own stories that it was like the actual zombies fell by the wayside somewhat. I can understand that this may well have been a conscious, stylistic choice by Brooks in order to defamiliarise the events of the Zombie Apocalypse. Perhaps he was trying to represent the fact that the whole war and the small matter of the existence of zombies is simply a natural part of everyday life for these people. However, for me, it just didn’t work I’m afraid.
Furthermore, I don’t feel that it worked as an oral history as the connection between the frame narrative of the journalist and the characters themselves is made too explicit and so I feel that this excludes the reader somewhat. The questions the journalist asks should be a conduit in order to forge a link between the characters and the readers; they should help to establish a link between the characters and their stories to make us feel as if we are actually there, reliving the events with them. However, instead of helping to immerse the reader in the events that are being told, they only work to alienate the reader from the journalist-interviewee relationship, therefore making it very difficult to get involved in the story.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. One redeeming feature of the book which I really appreciated was the sheer extent of absolute powerhouse, kickass females. There was very little content in the way of stereotypical, weak, powerless females and pretty much every woman who had her own narrative was a boss ass bitch who could hold her own against the threats of a postapocalyptic world, let alone zombies. I also really liked the representation of the many different races that can be found in the book and the fact that it wasn’t just blanket Americanisation.
Another aspect of the book that helped me to immerse myself (I needed all the help I could get…) was the fact that Brooks treated the Zombie War as if it was a real event. From the footnotes to the introduction and even the blurb, he didn’t once stray from purporting to the fact that these were real life events and that they actually happened. I found this really interesting and I liked that the addition of the notes at the bottom of the page every now and then didn’t detract from the story. They simply added more depth.
All that’s left to say is that I’m a woman of my word; I promised a very mixed review and I think it’s safe to say that I certainly delivered! Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone like me who prefers to immerse themselves into a book and its characters. I just found it far too fragmented and disjointed, and frankly, boring. This has to be up there in the list of books that it has taken me a long time to read; perhaps, at four weeks, it may even be a new record. But this just goes to show the extent to which I did not want to pick up this book as I found myself having to reread the part I had read just before I put it down because I just could not get involved. Certainly no page turner!
As always though, this is only a review and I urge you to always read a book for yourself and to form your own opinions, fledglings! After all, the only thing worse than having a bad opinion is having no opinion at all!
Until next time,