My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Twizzlefizzlepop's Book Pimp: World War Z Book Review

Hi all, Twizzlefizzlepop here and I promised you all that I would never recommend a book thathadbeenturnedintoamovie.  Wellthisisabookthat.....

~deep breath~

Sorry.  I got a little excited there.  I have to remember to talk slow to you non-gnomes.  Humans and your super slow metabolisms can't handle the speed of my unadulterated awesome.  Especially since I recently got some gold teeth bling and I can't quite talk right yet.

Today I want to pimp one really fine ass book: World War Z by Max Brooks.

I promised you all that I would never recommend a book that had been turned into a movie. That's why I want to recommend World War Z to you before Hollywood and William Bradley of the Pitt Clan has a chance to absolutely mangle every wonderful page of it.  I know it's under the wire, but it still counts.  The movie is pretty undoubtedly going to suck the fuzzy purple banana of Hollywood hackery.  It might have zombies, but so did 28 Weeks Later and that blew so much knob it made Jenna Jameson look like an amateur, so don't be fooled.  Production rumors for this film are like watching a train full of babies crash into a plane full of children's cancer ward transfers...who are all holding balloons filled with alternating chlorine or ammonia gas....in slow motion.  I mean I'd love to be wrong, but it looks like this movie is going to suck so hard that vampires (and I mean the old Bela Lugosi types, not these sparkly whack jobs or the angst ridden types) will say "Daaaaaaayuuuuuum!"

But the book....the book is awesome.  For the book, I definitely have to get my pimp on.  So if you'll excuse me for a moment while I don my purple-feathered fedora.

World War Z is listed as a novel, but it is probably better characterized as a set of contiguous short stories and vignettes from within the same setting--each a first person narration, and many from particularly dramatic moments in the war.  Though it is tied together through the motif of a journalist gathering "the personal stories" from the war, and though there is timeline continuity to the stories, none of the characters actually meet each other, nor are any of the stories related directly to any other.  From an officer aboard a Chinese nuclear sub, to a pilot downed behind the zombie-free zones, to a soldier on the front lines of the counter-offensive in the U.S., the reader gets to see the overarching history, but at the same time does so through a patchwork of separated first person narrations.  In terms of setting and some themes, it might work as a novel, but in regards to characterization, plot, and many of the individual thematic struggles, it really is a collection of short stories.

You can already see how the format wouldn't lend itself easily to a movie.  Vignette movies don't do very well unless they're very cleverly edited (like Love Actually--which might actually be a bad example since all those stories had tie ins with all the others).  The need for movies to condense stories is particularly brutal to short stories.  Likely, many of the World War Z vignettes would have to be scrapped, leaving fans disappointed, newcomers a bit confused and box office sales in a flushing toilet.  That or they would do what 20th Century Fox did to that abomination of a movie, I Robot, and just take the name of the title and like one character to generate buzz for a travesty of a movie that is (at best) vaguely related to the source material.  (I mean...it did have robots, I guess.)  Based on the IMBD description of the movie (due out in lateish June) it will be butchered--butchered worse than the last John I had who didn't pay his overdue fines.

Max Brooks's novel deserves better than to be passed over by untold legions of people thinking "Yeah, but the movie sucked King Kong's scroat man."  You owe yourself to read this book before the movie comes out so that the love is firmly ensconced in your heart and will weather the trial by fire.

These short stories are awesome.  They explore both ARMAGEDDON and PERSONAL HORROR of zombies and deal well with zombies as both a virus instead of a predator (like vampires or werewolves) but also as a symbol for the loss of individuality.  But mostly what he nails is the fact that zombies are never the real threat--we are.  These aren't the campy villains of a George Romero or Peter Jackson movie either--slipping and sliding on an ice rink or having sex and little zombie babies--they are genuinely terrifying creatures described by Brooks with one horrifying detail after another.   There are moments that sent chills up this little gnome's spine, and believe me that this little gnome has read his fair share of books.  KnowwhatImeanyesyoudo.

Is the book perfect?  No.  The voices of the narrators are a little too similar, so it's hard not to imagine Broooks as every one of his characters (kind of like Hannibal in The A-Team where you can totally tell that all his "disguises" are George Peppard).  Also there are a few details of the war that are a little too skimmed over.  Brooks usually does a good job with exposition--leaking details as if the imagined audience shouldn't be unaware--but some parts of the overarching plot are a little too vague.  It is easy to imagine that Brooks (or his editor) took a story or three out of the anthology and a bit of the important exposition went with it.

Still, Brooks's real genius throughout the book is his social and political commentary.  He really took the time to consider a realistic reaction from different countries, and you will most likely find yourself struck by just how plausible the stories feel.  From the corporations selling placebos in the U.S. while the government denies the scope of the problem to the complete walled isolationism of Israel, to the denial of anything wrong at all by China because that is where it started, every reaction to the zombies seems to have been actually considered by Brooks through a modern historical lens.  I stopped several times to think, "you know, if it ever did happen, it is not unreasonable to think that this is how it would unfold."  In a fully technological world, it is not the zombies that would be the biggest problems but our reaction (or lack of reaction) to them.

And I can personally attest to the fact that not one person tries to take their blood pressure while they're being chased.

You know it's a good book, or I wouldn't be pimping it, but this is still a fairly new segment, so I'm really going to be pimping only the best.  If you like zombies--or you just want to know why people like zombies so much--this book is a must.  Don't make me use my "Bust a Cap" power which is on cool-down and ready to rock.  If I weren't a staunch feminist, and if books were women, World War Z would be one of my very best hos.

You should read it.

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