Aim for the Head: A Book Review

Jessica Upchurch, Reviewer

A fascination with the undead has a chokehold on America’s mainstream media; you can’t walk into a theatre without seeing fangs on this or that poster or an “I <3 Zombies” written across the chest of a t-shirt. Every other display in a bookstore is laden with survival guides and love stories featuring these monsters. Granted, it is rather close to Halloween, but you catch my drift.

Since it is so close to the beloved holiday, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and pick up a zombie novel. Because they haven’t started sparkling yet.

“World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War,” written by Max Brooks, came out in September 2006 and was published by Three Rivers Press.

“World War Z” immediately sets itself apart from other novels because of the formatting; the novel is a collection of interviews of the survivors of the Zombie War that plagued the world for a little over a decade, and still isn’t quite over.

In the introduction, the narrator tells his reader that he was collecting data and felt he shouldn’t have to cut out the personal side of the apocalyptic event, and thusly, he compiled a novel. There are several chapters that divide the war into phases. The novel begins with the section titled “Warnings” that contains interviews of people that witnessed the beginnings of the plague and follows the war to end with “Good-byes,” a section full of small messages of people hopeful for the future, regretting the past, etc.

The interviews are conducted all over the world and the survivors are vastly different from one another, each adding a different perspective and another piece to the chaos that was WWZ. The reader is introduced to prewar drug smugglers, military men and women, and government officials. The narrator interviews a wealthy pharmacist who didn’t lie about how his miracle drug could prevent infection; a young woman who has the mind of a 4-year-old due to post-traumatic stress; and a genius strategist who figured out that the most efficient way to begin saving a country’s population would involve sacrificing half of it.

It may be in poor taste not to mention flaws of a novel during its review, but the ones I noticed were few and far between. The narrator is a little opinionated at times, and there is a nagging question that is never answered, but the stories make up for these little things. And the stories really are the point; Brooks doesn’t bog you down with context or dialects, just honest stories from over 60 individuals that lived through the Z war.

Why you should pick up this book (or perhaps why you shouldn’t): it psychologically freaks you out. Etched in the stories, especially at the beginning, is a fear – the helpless, hopeless fear that comes with not knowing how to fight the threat and having nowhere to run because the threat is everywhere.