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World War Z (2006)

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Title:
World War Z
Date: 2012
Source: Wikipedia

Abstract: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is a 2006 post-apocalyptic horror novel by Max Brooks. It is a follow-up to his 2003 book, The Zombie Survival Guide. Rather than a grand overview or narrative, World War Z is a collection of individual accounts in the form of first-person anecdotes. Brooks plays the role of an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commission, who published the report a decade after the ten-year Zombie War. The United Nations left much of his research out of the official report, choosing to focus on facts and figures from the war rather than the individual stories that form the bulk of Brooks' novel. The interviews chart a decade-long war against zombies from the view point of many different people of various nationalities. The personal accounts also describe the changing religious, geo-political, and environmental aftermath of the Zombie War.

World War Z was inspired by The Good War, an oral history of World War II by Studs Terkel; and by the zombie films of director George A. Romero. Brooks used World War Z to comment on social issues like government ineptitude and American isolationism, while also examining themes of survivalism and uncertainty. Critics have praised the novel for reinventing the zombie genre; the audiobook version, performed by a full cast including Alan Alda, Mark Hamill and John Turturro, won an Audie Award in 2007. A film based upon the book is in production, and is set for a June 2013 release.

Development
Brooks designed World War Z to follow the "laws" set up in The Zombie Survival Guide, and explained that the guide may exist in the world of the novel as a precursor to the Zombie War. The zombies of The Zombie Survival Guide are undead humans reanimated by an incurable virus, Solanum. They are devoid of intelligence and are motivated only by the desire to consume living flesh. The only way to destroy them is to destroy the brain, by any means. Although zombies are as strong as the humans they infect and do not tire, they are slow moving and incapable of planning or cooperation in their attacks. Zombies usually reveal their presence by moaning.

Brooks did a large amount of research while writing World War Z to make the novel as realistic as possible: "Everything in World War Z (as in The Zombie Survival Guide) is based in reality... well, except the zombies. But seriously, everything else in the book is either taken from reality or 100% real. The technology, politics, economics, culture, military tactics... it was a LOT of homework." Brooks used a variety of reference books and consulted with friends who were experts in several fields when writing the novel.  He also cites the U.S. Army as a reference on firearm statistics.

Plot Summary
Through a series of oral interviews, Brooks, as an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commission, describes the history of 'World War Z'. Although the origin of the zombie pandemic is unknown, the story begins in China after a zombie bites a young boy, who becomes the pandemic's 'patient zero'. The Chinese government attempts to contain the infection and concocts a crisis involving Taiwan to mask their activities. The infection is spread to other countries by the black market organ trade and by refugees, before an outbreak in South Africa finally brings the plague to public attention.

As the infection spreads, only Israel initiates a nationwide quarantine and closes its borders to all but uninfected Jews and Palestinians. Pakistan and Iran destroy each other in a nuclear war after Iran attempts to stem the flow of refugees from Pakistan. The United States of America does little to prepare; although special forces teams are used to contain initial outbreaks, a widespread effort never starts as the nation is sapped of political will by several "brushfire wars", and a placebo fraudulently marketed as a vaccine has created a false sense of security. When the world recognizes the true scope of the problem, a period known as the "Great Panic" begins. Following the fall of New York City, the United States Army sets up a high-profile defense at Yonkers, New York to restore American morale. The military uses Cold War tactics on the zombies, including weapons intended to disable vehicles and demoralization through wounding. These have no effect on the zombies, which have no self-preservation instincts and can only be stopped if shot in the head and killed. The soldiers are routed on live television, while other countries suffer similarly disastrous defeats, and human civilization teeters on the brink of collapse.

In South Africa, the government adopts a plan drafted by ex-apartheid government official Paul Redeker, which calls for the establishment of small "safe zones", areas surrounded by natural boundaries and cleared of zombies. Large groups of refugees are abandoned, but kept alive outside the safe zones to distract the hordes of undead, allowing those within time to regroup and recuperate. Governments worldwide adopt their own versions of the "Redeker Plan", or relocate the populace to safer foreign territory, such as the complete evacuation of the Japanese Home Islands. As zombies freeze solid in the cold, many civilians in North America flee to the wilds of northern Canada and the Arctic where 11 million people die from starvation and exposure.

During a conference near Honolulu aboard the USS Saratoga, seven years after the pandemic starts, most of the world's leaders indicate they want to wait out the zombie plague, but the United States President successfully argues that the only way to survive physically and psychologically is to go on the offensive. Determined to lead by example, the United States military reinvents itself to meet the specific challenges involved in fighting the living dead: automatic weapons and mobility are replaced by semi-automatic rifles and formation firing, troops are retrained to focus on head shots and slow, steady rates of fire, and a multipurpose hand tool, the "Lobotomizer" or "Lobo", is designed to destroy zombie heads close up. In two north–south lines stretching across North America, the military leaves its safe zone west of the Rocky Mountains and crosses the continent in a three-year campaign, systematically destroying the zombies and reclaiming outposts of survivors (whether they want to be reclaimed or not).

Ten years after the "official" end of the zombie war, millions of zombies are still active and the geopolitical landscape of the Earth has been transformed. A democratic Cuba has become the world's most thriving economy and the international banking capital. China has also become a democracy, following a civil war sparked by the collapse of the Three Gorges Dam and ended after a Chinese submarine destroys the Communist leadership with intercontinental ballistic missiles. Tibet, freed from Chinese rule, hosts the world's most populated city. Following a religious revolution, Russia is now an expansionist theocracy. The refugee-inhabited islands stretching from Palau to French Polynesia have become a new nation referred to as the "Pacific Continent". North Korea is completely empty, with the entire population presumed to have disappeared into underground bunkers; it is unknown if they survived or have become zombies. Iceland has been completely depopulated, and is the world's most heavily infested country. The United Nations fields a large military force to eliminate the remaining zombies from overrun areas, defeat hordes that surface from the ocean floor, and kill frozen zombies before they thaw. Overall, there is a drastic reduction in the human population, which is alluded to have been brought to the brink of extinction, and many environments and animal species have been devastated, as much by desperate humans as by marauding zombies (Wikipedia, 2012).