Submitted by idrinkkombucha t3_10f0rmz in books

Very rarely do I like skim milk. Even less rarely do I skim a book. I apologize. It is late, I am tired, and that line sounded more clever in my head.

But that brings up three important points: I skimmed the ending of World War Z out of sheer boredom, World War Z is more a clever idea (or collection of clever ideas) than an actual book, and whole milk is the superior dairy choice.

World War Z (or WWZ, as I shall refer to it from here on out), sounds great on paper. It is a cool idea, and it is filed with cool ideas. Most of the stories recounted by the survivors are clever and interesting, and yet they are not explored as stories. Take the survivor who lived in the catacombs. Zombie apocalypse in the catacombs? Terrifying. Survivor retelling exposition about surviving in the catacombs? Yawn.

That is the problem I had with WWZ: it is all exposition, from page one until the ending, it is nothing but one-sided conversation. You know the kind of conversation to which you reply “wow.” “No way.” “That’s crazy.” “Wow.” And internally you’re wondering when this person will shut up or when you can slip away unnoticed.

Seriously, I am curious: did this book actually scare anyone? Because, despite being a novel that uses zombies to give a political and sociological analysis of humanity’s response to an epidemic - this book is advertised and sold as a horror novel. Horror means scary. I expect to be scared. Not once did I find myself scared, or even tense, or even concerned!

While I acknowledge and even respect the author’s research and the knowledge packed in the book, it almost becomes another flaw, as it sometimes feels as though he is flexing his research muscles rather than including necessary details for the story (and again, I don’t think there is much of a story here). Curious to hear what others think!



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grunulak t1_j4u4f2c wrote

I loved it, and it’s one I go back to every other year or so.

I’m not entirely sure it was ever marketed as a ‘horror’ story, though. It’s loosely based on a book about the Second World War, ‘The Good War’ by Studs Terkel. It’s an account of what happened, using a journalist as a framing device, and told through first person accounts and anecdotes.

I think World War Z deals with something horrific, without being a horror. It explores a global trauma, something unimaginable, something that will leave a scar on the human psyche forever, but it’s not a sensationalist horror story.

Either way, I was interested in your take on it, so thanks for sharing!


horrifyingthought t1_j4u7rpw wrote

It's not meant to scare you...

WWZ is a phenomenal book, not because it is "scary" but because the author is PHENOMENAL at envisioning a world infested by zombies and recounting it though flawed narrators.

It's a masterpiece that wasn't setting out to accomplish what you were looking for is all.


idrinkkombucha OP t1_j4u8qeo wrote

That’s fair! But even without expecting to be scared, I think the story relies on the flawed narrators too much and lacks a plot and character development, which negatively impacts my engagement with reading, because essentially, I don’t care.


horrifyingthought t1_j4ubpvp wrote

... that just means the book wasn't for you. Doesn't mean the book was bad. You wanted a single protagonist in a scary story. The rest of us were excited to find incredible world building through the eyes of many individual participants.


gardenomette t1_j4ucdso wrote

Just because you like it, doesn't mean the book is good. Goes both ways. No need to be condescending.


BlacktailJack t1_j4x3vt8 wrote

I have some trouble seeing how the person you're responding to is being condescending, unless you're reading into that ellipsis pretty hard (which is possible! punctuation in text-based communication has become so loaded linguistically, in fascinating ways.) This person hasn't told OP that they can't feel the way they do, just that their experiences aren't universal or objective, and they weren't especially impolite about it (again, unless we're choosing to read a significant amount of tone into that ellipsis.)

That said, I agree with your initial statement. Of course subjectivity goes both ways; it's a functional impossibility to determine if a piece of media is objectively good or bad, because no media can be interpreted through a totally unbiased lens. OP's perspective is valid, just stated in a way that's probably gonna rankle people who enjoyed the book.


superhappy t1_j4yar2r wrote

That’s like saying you don’t like a movie with an ensemble cast because you like movies with a focus on a single character. That has nothing to do with the quality of the film, just your preference of structure? It’s like saying you hate Rashoman because it has multiple flawed narrators recounting their side of the story - it is kind of a meaningless critique.


idrinkkombucha OP t1_j4ybbeu wrote

Not at all. I loved ‘The Stand’ and other novels with a diverse and large cast. The difference between those stories and this one was - the story. Those had cohesive stories with a plot that built and arced. This book had zero story and no focus and no movement, just endless exposition.


Mrkoaly t1_j4u5151 wrote

I don't think Horror is the right genre for this book. It has a lot of mystery in terms of the origin of the plague, and suspense. Lots of shocking moments, and a decent amout of action. I really enjoyed it from what I remember.


idrinkkombucha OP t1_j4u8jk8 wrote

In my experience, there was zero suspense since I already knew everybody recounting their stories was safe and had survived.


curatedcliffside t1_j4u4dt7 wrote

It had some good moments. Like the kid that stayed on his computer too long and had to find a way out of his apartment. I also liked the big battle scene with the military. I guess it wasn’t that scary but I really love zombies so I enjoyed it.


idrinkkombucha OP t1_j4u8fbv wrote

Yes the kid climbing down the apartment building was perhaps the best part of the book.


AtraMikaDelia t1_j4ujyg1 wrote

That battle scene was just garbage, though. Straight up reformer nonsense.

I guess it's somewhat cool but it definitely plays into that whole narrative of the military wasting money on fancy gadgets that aren't good for anything. And I've heard too many people try to say the F-35 is inferior to the F-16 to not get annoyed by that.


Duchess-of-Erat t1_j4wg5sj wrote

It’s not horror. It’s mostly a book about how humans would react to a global crisis. It’s a character study.

Also, the audiobook with a big narrator cast is fabulous, in case you ever want to change your mind. :)


johaden t1_j4w33dl wrote

World War Z might be my number one favourite book of all time. I guess everyones tastes are different.


melatonia t1_j4u6srs wrote

I liked it. It didn't "scare" me, and that's not why I read it. I read it because I like sci-fi. I'm a reader, not a horror buff.


After-City6242 t1_j4wumx6 wrote

Who advertised it as a horror novel to you?


idrinkkombucha OP t1_j4xhihh wrote

It was in the horror section of the bookstore. Also the cover (don’t judge a book by its cover, yeah we all do, and it’s meant to advertise the book). Also if you look up the book online, it is listed under the horror genre.


AlanMorlock t1_j56qjzi wrote

There is certainly a difference between horror as a military and horror as a mechanic Doesn't anyone find Anne Rice vampire novels scary?


After-City6242 t1_j58rvlr wrote

#924 in Fiction Satire #1,819 in War Fiction (Books) #3,927 in Science Fiction Adventures

I think Amazon's categories are pretty accurate.


gardenomette t1_j4uc8zq wrote

I wasn't a fan of it. I like my books to be more fast paced. But I like the idea if it. I like that it's slow and realistic and written like a book documenting an event like that would be written had it actually happened. But it just isn't my style of fiction. I need more face ripping with my zombies.


frisianfan91 t1_j4xnfyh wrote

Have you tried "Devolution" by the same author. Really good book about Sasquatch and a group of people/community surviving in PNW after a natural disaster.


gardenomette t1_j50p0uw wrote

It's on my kindle, but I haven't gotten to it yet. 👍


Kssio_Aug t1_j4x269s wrote

I have listened a bit of it's audiobook and didn't like it too much either, but for a different reason. I actually found interesting the premise and the narration style, but it seemed to me characters were too stereotypical and it kinda made the stories sound less convincing.

But I still intend to read or listen to it again. Maybe the narration of the actors made them feel more stereotypical then the writing itself. Would like to give it one more chance.


ZaphodG t1_j4uf55l wrote

I read that maybe 10 years ago. It was a bunch of vignettes. Red Storm Rising but zombies instead of Russians. I thought it was OK but it’s certainly not on my re-read list and I purged the paperback years ago.


RockofChickamauga63 t1_j4xgeiy wrote

I love the book, but I see what you mean about horror. I definitely agree with what someone else said: it’s way more sci-fi than horror. Although I got to admit, some of the scenes are pretty chilling like the one of the feral girl in the church in Kansas. I think it is a great take on the zombie story from a unique perspective, and the interview format actually allows the author to go into both the broad ramifications of the zombie war and all of the little personal experiences without making it feel like some alternate history textbook. I honestly liked that we never stayed with one or two characters for too long, because that’s the main drag of a zombie story in my opinion: the opener is always horrifying but as they survive the story tends to become less and less suspenseful. Just look at the Walking Dead. In this story, the tension was kept up because you got to see all these unique little individual stories that still kept pace with unfurling world events as humanity scrambled to stave off the undead and then formulate a plan of action to return.

Honestly, this is one of the few books where I would recommend you give it a second round later on with the audiobook version. The audiobook uses different voice actors for each interview and it makes it a lot more horror-like. Like a collection of campfire stories. They got a lot of well known people in the audiobook version like Martin Scorsese voices the guy who sold the placebo antiviral medicine. Might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the format lends itself really well to audiobook style. Almost like listening to the tape recorder of the interviewer throughout his study.


idrinkkombucha OP t1_j4xiex6 wrote

I don’t mind head hopping characters. Like the Walking Dead, the apocalyptic horror novel ‘The Stand’ does the same thing, hosting a large cast and making for a fat book. The difference between that and WWZ, is that The Stand has a story that progresses and, while it frequently changes POV, it will return to characters and show their journey progressing, and ultimately tying in with the other characters, and so there is movement, engagement, and suspense, where with WWZ it is just random snippet after random snippet, no movement, no urgency.


RockofChickamauga63 t1_j4xmmw4 wrote

I respectfully disagree. I’m not sure how far you got into the book, or if you finished the book, but the book is not just a scattered bunch of random POVs up until the end. They all track key developments in “World War Z” with the beginning obviously starting with the first instances of outbreaks in China, then progressing through rumor and rural spread, then eventually the Great Panic, and then the brink, then humanity fighting back, until the end when it seems the apocalypse has been largely halted and reversed. The POVs, especially as you reach the middle and end, often tell a personal story that ties directly into the larger sequence of events in the story. It builds, and I really did feel a strong sense of urgency as the story went from rumors of outbreaks to shit actually hitting the fan. And then the sense of triumph and strength as the countries began to really learn from events and adapt. I mean just compare the POV from the Battle of Yonkers to the later reclamations and new tactics used by the American troops at these end of the book.

At least when I read it I certainly felt like there was a broader narrative being advanced behind every single POV and that there absolutely was motion and urgency. But to each their own I guess.


sylverbound t1_j4y7ihh wrote

This is a great example of "you were the wrong audience"

The book you seem to have wished it was is not one I would like or read, because I don't like horror and action books.

I liked this book. It's essentially dystopian speculative fiction just using the zombie framework in a grounded way. It's clever and well crafted and was a great read.


idrinkkombucha OP t1_j4y9372 wrote

I knew what I was getting into. I’m entitled to my opinion.