World War Z by Max Brooks: Book Review

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World War Z by Max Brooks Book Cover
Title: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (Abridged)
Genres: ,
Content Warning: Zombies, violence, pandemic

Synopsis from GoodReads:

“From the author of the bestselling, The Zombie Survival Guide, World War Z is for fans of zombie literature and film; for lovers of apocalyptic what-if novels; for those obsessed with the state of paranoia in which we all live—it’s a new standard in apocalyptic fiction. This brilliant novel imagines a Studs Terkel-like character traveling the world to access the impact of a war between humans and zombies. Though humans have survived World War Z, many are still haunted by those terrible years. Max Brooks sets out to reveal the people’s stories, to tell the true history of what happened. The result is a stunning and all-too believable oral history of a future conflict.”

My Review:

I didn’t realize that I had checked out an abridged audiobook until I finished listening, the credits rolled, and I heard “Abridgement by…” someone. Dangit. I dislike abridgements and don’t understand why publishers do that! When I saw that the audiobook was only about five parts long, I should have realized. I’ve never paid much attention to how long the print book is; I just assumed it must be short. Oh well. Live and learn.

I can’t watch many horror movies but for whatever reason, my husband and I did watch the movie version of World War Z not long after it was released in 2013. It was pretty good and it didn’t scare me too badly. But there was one zombie who freaked me out. He went around clicking his teeth in a really intense part of the movie. Oh, that clacking noise! To this day, if my husband wants to freak me out, he’ll bare his teeth and click them at me! (I know that’s probably weird, but every relationship is weird if we’re honest, right? It’s not just us?)

Last year, I listened to Devolution, also by Max Brooks and read by a full cast. It was one of my top books of the year. I was riveted.

So you can imagine my surprise when I listened to World War Z and discovered that I was… a little bored. There. I said it. The format is very similar to that used in Devolution, with a fictional interviewer speaking with survivors of a catastrophic event. I think the difference for me was that Devolution also included a fictional journal from the main character. That made the action more intense and immediate. In World War Z, every interview takes place after the war is mostly over, so obviously the interviewee survived whatever awful event they were relating. There were a lot of politics and survival strategy and even war maneuvers. A couple of stories really caught my attention (the downed pilot immediately comes to mind, as does Mark Hamill’s military story) but most of them just didn’t catch my attention.

The full cast did an amazing job with the narration. Multiple narrators don’t always work for me but this one was absolutely fabulous!

I don’t know if this would have worked better for me if I had listened to an unabridged version. I’d definitely recommend that if you’re interested. It’s a quick listen and worth a try if you like horror. But honestly, I prefer Devolution more.

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  1. Oh no! I don’t like abridged versions either; sorry this one snuck up on you. I read this before Devolution and I liked World War Z much better, so part of it could just be that the author’s approach doesn’t feel as novel the second time around. I’m also just not very interested in or scared by big foot stories and I enjoyed the broader view provided by World War Z’s many perspectives.

    And my husband and I have lots of silly in-jokes, so it’s definitely not just you 🙂

  2. Bummer about the abridgement of this book! I’ve never made that mistake, but I did once accidentally purchase an audio book in Spanish. Fortunately, Audible let me swap it out for the English edition. 😉

    World War Z has never appealed to me, but as I read your review, I was reminded of The Passage by Justin Cronin. I listened to that and The Twelve, but not the third book. If you haven’t read/listened to those, I highly recommend them. Scott Brick is the narrator and he does an outstanding job. I’m almost tempted to give the books a second read, but they’re so long!

    1. I read The Passage years and years ago. I remember that I liked it but I also remember that it took me *forever* to finish it. I’d like to move on to The Twelve but I know I need to re-read The Passage first and I just don’t know if I have the energy for it. I did watch the short-lived show that was based on the book a few years ago but I don’t think it followed the book very closely.

      That’s funny about the Spanish edition! I’ve accidentally added some Spanish language titles to my Overdrive wishlist before but at least that’s an easy fix.

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