Bookreviews: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

By Max Brooks: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War [Audiobook]By Max Brooks: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War [Audiobook] by -Random House Audio-
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(contains a section that can be seen as a spoiler: it is at the end and marked as such)

I decided to listen to the audiobook version of this book for two reasons: I have a interest in post apocalyptic settings and like to see how a book is translated into a movie.
The translation of the book into a movie is something that we need not consider here. Although there are similarities between them, they are superficial at best. Unless the sequel to the movie gets aligned to the book, that is.
There are three similarities: there is a zombie outbreak, the storyline plays out all over the world, and there is the same character that we follow: the UN investigator.
But the latter’s role is just totally different. In the book he has almost no personality as he is only used to give voice to the people telling their stories, while in the movie Brad Pitt takes the center of the stage.
The audio book adds an additional layer to story. A book that I read lets me give the voices their own characteristics in my mind. A ‘hero’ is to me something personal that I fill in. I read from various other reviews that many found the writings to be similar voiced. I did not experience that as such as they used distinct voices in the book that gave them color and personality.

Now let’s mention some good points of the audio book.

The stories from everywhere created an interesting jigsaw puzzle that not only pieces together an overall idea of what was going on in the world at the same time, but also build up to unfold the development of the zombie ‘war’. It is an interesting, and certainly fresh idea for a zombie apocalyptic story. The writer tries to keep the pieces fitted together by referring forward and backward to certain key moments, events or ideas, which is certainly helpful at the start of story as the jumping all over the place can also create confusion if not kept in check.
The voices used in the book helped a lot with fleshing out the characters and I was certainly gripped by some of the stories.I saw in the actor list that they used some respectable actors for various roles: Alan Alda,Jurgen Prochnow, Martin Scorcese, Bruce Boxleitner, Frank Darabont.
Some stories stand out for me. The one related by the Chinese doctor Kwang Jinghsu who tells about the first zombie case he runs into and the description is horrifying. The flight of the Indian Ajay Shah to try and escape by ship via Alang, the ships’ graveyard. The one told by the blind Japanese hermit Tomonaga Ljiro who seeks to die in a lone forest, but refinds faith. But I was specially gripped by the story of colonel Christina Eliopolis who is sucked out of her damaged airplane but manages to save herself by chute and lands in marsh full of wandering zombies hundred of miles from safety.

So to the bad points.

The first good point is also the first bad point, because all the stories are separate stories that tells but a moment in the whole war, there is little room for character development. This makes a character rather one dimensional.
There is some kind of attempt to give the ‘grunt’ Todd Wainio a kind of overall binding role as he returns several times and has most of the space in the story, but he is the least interesting of all characters as he is as fake as can be.
I am probably too European to like the way some Americans like to represent their military, and Max Brooks is one of those. Overconfident and smug. He is that guy that flattens your hometown and napalms the surrounding lands and then approaches your with a big smile to say: “So there missy, that should settle it. No need to worry. We got it all under control.. We’ll be heading over the next town now. But I might be around later on, if you feel interested.” Wink.
(Waino tells the interviewer on a side note that he is certain he has some kids fathered by some grateful ladies from the places he liberated. What a revolting man).

As much as there are likable characters -or at least believable characters- in the story there are also totally unbelievable characters.
The prime unbelievable character is General Travis D’Ambrosia, the commander in chief. At the moment the counter attack is ordered he is basically a defeatist and should have been relieved of command. He tells the interviewer some nonsense about three basic rules of war: men must be bred, fed and led. And then he explains how all these rules do not apply to the zombies. And then tells of more advantages they have, totally neglecting to mention all the weakness zombies have and which can be exploited(which they later do).
An almost equal unbelievable character is the Englishman David Allen Forbes. He was introduced as having experience with castles and writing a book about it and then goes to tell some nonsense about European History in which the middle ages are classified as institutionalized anarchy.

Say what?

But it got worse.. Next he mentions that there is a difference between a castle and a palace and he mentions how castles were often turned into palaces so they lost their defensive value.
And that is true enough.
And then he says the most profound stupid thing I have ever heard: ”.. like Versailles, that is why it was such a cock up.”
Did I hear him say: like Versailles?
I played it again: Versailles.
Again: Versailles.
Versailles?
VERSAILLES!!!!!!
%^%^&&**&*&
No student of any level of history of warfare would ever mention Versailles as a defensive structure. Versailles was not a palace converted from a castle. It was build from the ground up as a prestigious object to show off the power and wealth of Louis XIV, the 17th Century king of France, the ruler of the most powerful nation of Europe at that time. Versailles was exactly not a defensive place because Louis had a big army, and big navy to protect him and plenty of forts if he needed them. It was exact the opposite of a castle because he could say: I can afford such a place and do not fear my enemies..
It was never at anytime considered or converted or used as defensible structure, not by the French, not by the Germans when they occupied France, not by the Allies when they liberated Europe..
Nearby Disneyworld Paris is more defensible.
Only an utter clueless guy would mention Versailles or use it.

Another weak point in the story is that the style of story is distant, observational and in hindsight. You know that everyone is basically going to survive. There seems to be seldom any interaction between the interviewed of the moment and anyone else of the interviewed. It turns to matter of fact observations. This is perhaps intentional, but it creates distance. As if you are hovering above it instead of being in the midst of it. It also takes away any uncertainties doubts, or interesting complication. Nobody of all of the interviewed seems to contradict someone else. It is dry, distanced and faultless. Which might make a nice report, but takes away from the story.
But what I often missed is the anguish people would experience when they see one of their loved ones turned or sick. Or even see them back as zombies. Brooks describes that at the start somewhat. But soon enough he the zeds are zeds. That they are your friend, lover, partner, dad, mom or buddy is pushed aside fairly rapidly.

And then there is this.. this -how to tell it- this demonstration of a certain myopic mindset.
When public humiliation and corporal punishment(flogging) are reintroduced crimes are are no more, so we are told by the former vice president of the United States.. I see.
And when American soldiers ‘fight’ they suffer of course less losses than say the Russians and the Chinese man on man.. Of course.
And in Israel a rebellion erupts when the zombies start to show up, because certain extreme groups in Israel rather compromise the safety of the whole nation to further their own cause. Right. Patriotism is only for Americans.
And the Cuban problem is easily solved by having them take in five million United States refugees so that the western(=American) ideas of greed ( oh sorry: free enterprise) and democracy gets spread around and eventual restores Cuba to a democracy.
It is that simple.
And when a German officer(from West Germany) is ordered to abandon civilians by his (former East German) superior, he at first refuses, but when pressured buckles under anyway. without asking an explanation, consulting his staff or talking it through with the civilians. Noo. All he has gained is the benefit of fifty years of western inspired conscience. See how down on their morals those (Former) Eastern Jerries really are anyway, cause that guy kills himself afterwards.
But regardless of west or east: it is the same cadaver discipline of course and the same way out. They never change, those Germans: only their excuses.
At some point I was wondering if this was meant to be satire or that Brooks really thinks that is how you deal with the worlds issues or how the world works?

But the list extends into the story telling.
So the battle of Yonkers shows that the US army is not ready to deal with the dead yet. Mind you, they are shown to be extremely incompetent. Not even using things to hinder the advancing horde with, like say a wall of cars, barbed wire, cheval de fraises, minefields, stakes, ditches, wood fences, wires, fallen trees and anything else the books are filled with. And claymore mines! No Clymore mine. Easy to set up, deadly, shoot balls of metal that go right through you. But noo.. the army has been ordered to be incompetent.
Or has it been written?
For Brooks now tells us that there is a break between refugees and the zombies. Up till now he tells us in all other stories how they were mixed.
But the Battle of Yonkers is designed by Brooks to show of the incompetence of the US army, forced on them by who knows who? The press? The politicians? Their superiors? Why not blame them all!
It is a setup.
We are looking directly at the writer forcing an unbelievable twist in his story. You can see his hands grabbing it, twisting and turning, until it is disjointed enough so that the best equipped army in the world loses the first time around.
Mano-a-mano.
Zombies 1. Humans 0.
It is one of those fake wrestling matches.
They have to lose to have the US overrun, but also to have the army get up for a second round. As if war just consist of a few important battles.

—zzzzzz spoilers down here zzzzz ————-

Its a few years later, after this severe defeat the army counter attacks under command of mister defeatist D’Ambrosia via an offense from the rocky mountains. From the west to the east.
Wow.. how many people would that take? Well, they walk side by side, just like how they search for survivors and evidence after an aircraft crash, so we are told. So that’s something like 1400 miles as the crow flies. And assume for every ten yard one grunt. That is 300.000 men. Oh wait they got a second line: 600.000. And then you need replacements, backups, support, perhaps some more men per 10 yard really, certainly in denser area’s. Double that. Triple that. Quadruple that. You need to guard the flanks too, the liberated areas. You need logistics, repairs. replacements. 5 million? 6? And that from a country that has suffered 200 million dead and lost over ⅗ of it’s land. And most of it’s industry and food supplying area’s.
Brooks is basically unable to properly handle this. His stories are basically light weight and interesting, and work as separate instances, but he can’t tie it together in the end. He needs to twist too much to make it work. I assume he does. Because I hope that he does not really belief all these things that he wrote down. It is such an absurd look of the world.
But you got to give him credit for one thing though. Once the United States has won the victory at home, it doesn’t retreat into isolation and let the rest of the world to it’s own devices. Why should they anyway. What would the world do without them! They got a whole world to liberate… or conquer.
It is just the way you look at it.
It is..

—————spoilers end———————————–

One star extra for the great voice acting and the great colonel story. It gave me tears, honest.

View all my reviews

Empathic Eccentricia: Bitter Sunday(s)

Bitter Sunday

 

Sometimes one gets these visions or images. Trying to capture them is half the challenge. Bitter Sunday(s) is one of those. This one is made by Tau using prims in second life and a lot of tweaking with windlight(= the name for the light scheme used). Hence Tau made it, cause Tau does all the lighting stuff. Made at Emphatic Eccentricia.

I should write a story with it. Well maybe later.

Video

Dreams in Neon

Recommend to set it to HD^^

Dreams in Neon is a movie made at Insilico in Second Life. Insilico is a vast place covering several so called ‘sims’ all done in a cyberpunk, near-futuristic style. Music is Max Waves, called Twareg Rose and made for it. Well that is my opinion. P

Well actually I had reserved the music with the idea of using it in a kind of vampire the masquerade: bloodlines way. That is a game in which you have to travel through sewers at one time and far of you hear the sound of chinese/japanes singing. Very eerie.

 

 

Henry and Kristl tucked in for The Big Sleep(1946)

“You know.. I just love these film noir movies. I can not help myself,” Kristl said.

“Well..it’s an old movie,” Henry said.

“And don’t you find Lauren Bacall marvelous! I mean. Remember she was very young at the time and she easily dominates every scene she is in. She is born to be an actress. An amazing person on the level of say Katherine Hepburn.”

“Yes.. I know, but the movie is a bit slow on the action.”

“And it’s just about as great a movie as it is as great a film noir,”Kristl did not let herself stop and continued, “Don’t you see it.. I mean.. In a hundred years.. when the like of a Steven Seagal and Charles Bronson have been nearly forgotten, this is one of those movies

people will still like to watch. It is like head and shoulders above the likes of a Seagal or a Bronson.”

“I mean really there is no comparison. It is better acted, better written, better shot, better whatever,” Kristl said enigmatically, “This is how you make movies…”

“Yeah… still slow and a bit..boring. Except for these girls who play around with Bogie. I mean the librarian is really.. cute. Even without glasses.”

“Gosh.. it has to be about sex.”

“Like you do not get all bothered by Lauren Bacall?”

“That’s because she is a great actress!”

“Yeah… Right.”

“Listen.. this is a an great movie both as a movie and as a film noir movie. Both Humprey Bogart and Lauren Bacall are at their best here. I mean the combination of them makes this movie. Of course some of the cast helped.. but it was their interaction that makes this movie.”

“Okay.. still it’s a slow movie… kinda boring,” Henry repeated.

“I grant you that.. it is slow for nowadays.. but.. if..”

“.. you are as old as you?” Henry grinned.

“Okay.. as old as me.. you start to find these movies great for what they are. For the story, the acting and what not.”

“But not for their speed.”

“No.”

“Good we agree on that,” Henry said.

“It’s not bad to take time..”

“Maybe.. but it’s more fun when it all goes in a rush and has some cool but kicking guys or girls in them.”

Kristl snapped her mouth shut.

Then Henry grinned at her and said, “I liked it. That Bacall girl is one sassy broad.”

“What?”

“Just teasing you.”

“So you liked it too?”

“Sure.. there is this amazing woman in it.. why should I not like it?”

“Ehm..”

“Exact..”

“Just wanted to say one thing..”

“Which is?”

“I like this movie.. but I still like the Maltese Falcon better,” Kristl said.

“Really?”

“Yeah. Marlowe/Bogart seems to be much more cynical in that movie, which seem to be at odds with the romantic overtones in this movie. I sort of feel it’s not quite right.”

“Hold on.. are you now saying you did not like the romantic relation between Marlowe and Vivian Sternwood? Eh Bacall and Bogart?”

“Well.. I did like it, but it was a bit too romantic..”

“Oh I see.. Damned by love..”

“More or less.. I think it should not be that happy for a film noir,” Kristl said.

“It has to be a negative thing..”

“Well not exact.. it can be a happy thing, just with a dark edge,” Kristl said.

“Hmm,” Henry said, “Why can’t it just end with love?”

“Well.. it can.. but it’s not film noir to me.”

“Ah well. As long as it ends nice,” Henry said.

“Quite.”


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038355

Henry and Kristl witnessed The Trial (1962)

“Nowadays you can hardly say anything against Orson Welles without invoking scorn and ridicule,” Kristl mused.

“You were going to?”

“Not on purpose, but I feel a bit apprehensive about it. I mean you have a certain amount of leeway towards almost any other director,

except for Welles.. You have to say he was a great guy..”

“Pff..” Henry said.

“Yeah.”

“You do not have to, with me,” Henry said.

“Thanks.”

“So, I think it is an old boring slow moving that is a bit confusing, to say the least,” Henry said.

“You think so?”

“I mean, black and white in 1962,” Henry said.

“Uh, well..is that such a big thing?”

“Yeah.. and no action.”

“Okay..I feel compelled to come to the defense of this movie.”

Henry smiled, but he hid his smile behind his hand and pretended to

take sip from his tea, “Hot,” he remarked.

“Regardless of anything it’s at least a decent film, although it seems to be all over the place,” Kristl said.

“It looks like someone pasted a lot of ‘scenes’ together without much sense and pawned it off as a coherent movie,” Henry said.

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“It seems to be quite true to the book.. which means that any coherence in the movie, or any incoherence for that matter, must stem from the

book,” Kristl said.

“Then the books must be a bit of a confusing mess,” Henry said.

“Maybe, but I liked the movie, you know. It was surreal, strange and unsettling. Which seems appropriate to me..”

“Right.”

“For the Kafka story, that is.”

“Oh, did you read it?”

“No,” Kristl shook her head.

“Me neither.”

“I think that goes for most of the audience,” Kristl said.

“Yeah. So how you know?”

“Well, other people say so..except for the ending. Which was thought off by Orson Welles. He felt it to be more appropriate.”

“Yeah. Too old a movie for me really,” Henry said.

“I think it’s a good movie, but not astounding. Perkins is such a dubious choice. At times he is really excellent, but at other times he

seems to be a poor choice. He constantly hovers between assertive and dejected. It’s just odd how he swings from one attitude to the opposite

demeanor.”

“Heh.”

“And there seems to be no development in his character. He just seems to swing between one mood or the other depending on what is fitting

towards the scene. So there seems to be no human reason that drives him.”

“Ah.”

“It is just a bit to fabricated. A very nice fabrication, but a fabrication nevertheless.”

“Ok.. the movie looks like it contains a fabricated story,” Henry said.

“Did you know someone made a sequel to the trial?”

“Yes. Ik know.. Will Eisner made a sequel  called the Appeal. In it justice is done.”

“So.. .”

“I think it was Eisner responding to Kafka. While Kafka painted a surreal world in which a man was the victim of an surreal and merciless

bureaucracy, Eisner seems to say that in a democratic society ‘they’ would not get away with it.”

“Maybe someone should make a movie about that?” Henry said.

“Maybe someone will.”

http://www.meritcoba.com

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057427