Monday, February 05, 2007

Zombie Stories

I just finished Max Brooks's World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, ably reviewed by Amazon's volunteers here. It took me a night and a day to read it: in the middle of the night, I had to put it down and enter the inevitable zombie nightmares, and the next day, I hurried to finish it before I had to sleep. Despite the morcellated structure, the rapid-cut interviews with people from China to South Africa to Iran to Israel, the book moves. Every major country and culture has to encounter the zombie threat. Brooks credibly raises characters, who, from their specific cultural positions, can look back on the year the undead nearly destroyed humanity.

Don't laugh. There's something serious going on in Brooks's book; I suspect that it's something a little less charmingly global than my brief synopsis above could suggest, but it's serious, nonetheless.

For starters, Brooks's book invites specific political analysis; the US President during the Zombie War(s) is a thinly veiled, heroized Colin Powell, with Howard Dean, referred to as "The Wacko," as VP. Each country's policies are projected about four years forward. For IP wonks, some of these projections may grate. Israel is the first to understand the threat, retreats behind the '67 borders, abandons Jerusalem, and admits any non-infected foreign-born Jew, Israeli descendant, or Palestinian descendant (sparking a briefly invoked Israeli civil war). The Muslim world gets an even briefer mention: Iran tries to close its borders, but due to some miscommunication, Pakistan launches, and Iran responds with, nuclear missiles. And these globals tales end up being the more episodic elements in this episodic book; the narrative momentum in the war against the zombies takes place in America.

This is all too easy, and all too easy to criticize. What I think Brooks is trying to express is the recent sense Americans are getting that, well, we're not going to be on top of the world any more. The new challenges will probably not require the war-nerdly anti-zombie armaments that Brooks lovingly describes; I'm hoping that the new challenges won't require anywhere near this book's mortality rates or dictatorial quarantines. But this book taps into some usually submerged part of me that simultaneously fears and desires a showdown, a come-uppance, a change, a clarification, a meaning, a resolution.

Impatience and fear breed zombie stories.

5 Comments:

Anonymous teofilo:

Have you seen this review?

2/05/2007 09:25:00 PM  
Anonymous zombieb:

BRAINS

2/06/2007 04:05:00 AM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

I think I had seen that review at some point, but thanks for the pointer to it, Teo. It is interesting from a military and policy standpoint: the military mistakes at the Yonkers battle are really well rendered as a tragic instance of "fighting the last war." It would be awesome if Farley taught a zombie course at his university.

2/06/2007 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous correctorzombie:

Shouldn't that be BRANES?

2/06/2007 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Well, in the book, see, the zombies just want to eat any part of you. You destroy the zombie-brains to kill it. I don't know brains from branes, though.

Also, whoever copyedited Brooks's book should get a stern talking-to. There were multiple confusions between "its" and "it's," which in a published book is really bad.

2/06/2007 04:52:00 PM  

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