Literature Monday: World War Z, Max Brooks

Khairete, Mikaius remains your ever loyal bookbuddy. It’s exam season, and students are endangered, so I have arranged today’s Literature Monday.

Today I’m bringing what may well have been the last book I read. My reading is limited, but I went through a predictable and absolutely massive zombie-phase in my late teens/early twenties. This happened to coincide with a general peak in zombies in fiction, from games to movies to books; zombies were everywhere and readily available. To that end, Shaun of the Dead was my favourite movie at the time, and Max Brooks was my favourite author. Reading World War Z was great fun and Brooks’ depictions of zombies were always in line with the classic Romero-slow-zombies that I so cherished.

The book is a series of interviews, vignettes between the author and interviewees, ranging from spies, grunts, teenagers, generals, doctors and economists. Through the interviews, the world is pieced together, the familiarity of regimes, the way certain ideologies clashed against the undead, and how the pieces were put back together. Who failed and why they failed, told through the lens of those that “lived it”. There are some cringey parts of the book, such as the Japanese teenager that ninja’d his way to an old blind man and formed a group around that. Otherwise, subjects such as submariners dealing with the endless distress signals from boats with outbreaks, people selling snake oil as cures, survivors guilt and full on breakdowns, the book becomes touching in its own way.

I don’t know how many times I read this book, and how many times I read my favourite passages. This particular excerpt, well, it might be entirely owed to be a teenager, a headbanger and a big damn fan of Iron Maiden, that I hold this one above ‘em all:

“The dogs were recalled, racing behind our lines. We switched over to our Primary Enticement Mechanism. Every army had one by now. The Brits would use Bagpipes, the Chinese used bugles, the Sou’fricans used to smack their rifles with their assegais and belt out these Zulu war chants. For us, it was hard-core Iron Maiden. Now, personally, I’ve never been a metal fan. Straight classic rock’s my thing, and Hendrix’s “Driving South” is about as heavy as I get. But I had to admit, standing there in that desert wind, with “The Trooper” thumping in my chest, I got it. The PEM wasn’t really for Zack’s benefit. It was to psych us up, take away some of Zack’s mojo, you know, “take the piss out,” as the Brits say. Right about the time Dickinson was belting “As you plunge into a certain death” I was pumped, SIR* charged and ready, eyes fixed on this growing, closing horde. I was, like, “C’mon, Zack, let’s fuckin’ do this!”

(*The SIR referenced above is a “Standard Infantry Rifle”, designed by the United States after a particular failed confrontation in the book.)

Max Brooks can be found on Twitter and seems to be readily doing regular rounds at various conventions.

(Excerpt: World War Z, Max Brooks)


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