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World War Z

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

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The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, "By excluding the human factor, aren't we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn't the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as 'the living dead'?"

Note: Some of the numerical and factual material contained in this edition was previously published under the auspices of the United Nations Postwar Commission.

342 pages, Hardcover

First published September 12, 2006

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About the author

Max Brooks

96 books6,764 followers
Max Brooks is The New York Times bestselling author of The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z. He has been called ”the Studs Terkel of zombie journalism.“

Brooks is the son of director Mel Brooks and the late actress Anne Bancroft. He is a 1994 graduate of Pitzer College. His wife, Michelle, is a screenwriter, and the couple have a son, Henry.

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Profile Image for Ellen.
13 reviews89 followers
June 5, 2008
This book was initially recommended to me by several people in the office and since I love zombies and apocalyptic themes, well, I was pretty excited. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations and I struggled to finish it. (I'm going to write this review under the assumption that the reader has some inkling about the story and how it's constructed.)

There are two issues that killed it for me. Firstly, most of the characters had the same--or similar--voice. Of course this is partly to do with the fact that the voices all originate from the mind of one individual, the author. Also, the more journalistic/interview approach to constructing the narrative limits how much color the author can impart on any given character. Q and A is inherently dry, no matter how exciting the events described are intended to be. This is a minor gripe, though, and one that can be lived with.

A more serious complaint, however, is that this book can be seen as completely lacking any and all dramatic tension that a person (or, me) expects from a survival horror-themed story. The primary draw--the zombie war and how humanity survived--is such a compelling hook, but it's told...by the people who survived. As in, past tense, as in we are left with their impressions of things that happened to them. Basically, then, the story devolves into an excercise in basic exposition: "And then this happened, and then that happened." And so the author is free to weave his story without any pesky things like character development, story arcs, plotting, and personal details that are shown and not told. It seems to me like an extraordinarily easy (maybe even lazy) way to tell a story.

One other minor point: For me, accounts of survival when the victims are real have meaning that allows them to transcend the limitations described above. WW2 Holocaust survivors' accounts, for example, can take your breath away. The difference is, of course, that they were real events that happened to real people.

Since all the classic storytelling elements are dispensed with, we're basically left with the author's views on our current world, particularly and naturally, the wars and our culture(s). However, it's my view that there are dozens of books written about these subjects already; books that haven't needed to sex the discussion up with a horde of shambling undead.

So, in summary, if I'm going to read an apocalyptic recounting of the end of civilization as we know it, I want to read about people in real time, struggling to survive, not being told how people surivived after it was over.

(I realize, though, that it's all a matter of taste, as I know half a dozen people whose views I respect that absolutely loved this book.) :D

Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 24 books1,323 followers
March 24, 2008
(My full review of this book is longer than Goodreads' word-count limitations; find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com].)

Anytime I hear of some funny, gimmicky book suddenly becoming popular among the hipster set, I always squint my eyes and brace myself for the worst; because usually when it comes to such books, the worst is all you can expect to find, an endless series of fluffy pop-culture pieces designed specifically for crafty point-of-purchase display at your favorite corporate superstore, and then a year later to be forgotten by society altogether. And so it's been in the last six months as I've heard more and more about this book World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, which supposedly is a hilarious "actual" oral history about an apocalyptic war with the undead that supposedly almost wiped out the human race as we know it; even worse, that it had been inspired by an actual gimmicky point-of-purchase humor book, the dreadful Zombie Survival Guide from a few years ago which had been published specifically and only to make a quick buck off the "overly specific survival guide" craze of the early 2000s. And even worse than all this, the author of both is Max Brooks, as in the son of comedy legend Mel Brooks; and if the son of a comedy legend is trawling the literary gutters of gimmicky point-of-purchase humor books, the chances usually are likely that they have nothing of particular interest to say.

So what a surprise, then, to read the book myself this month, and realize that it's not a gimmicky throwaway humor book at all, but rather a serious and astute look at the next 50 years of global politics, using a zombie outbreak as a metaphorical stand-in for any of the pervasive challenges facing us as an international culture these days (terrorism, global warming, disease, natural disasters), showing with the precision of a policy analyst just how profoundly the old way of doing things is set to fail in the near future when some of these challenges finally become crises. It is in fact an astoundingly intelligent book, as "real" as any essay by Seth Godin or Malcolm Gladwell, basically imagining the debacle of New Orleans multiplied by a million, then imagining what would happen if the Bushists were to react to such a thing in the same way; and even more astounding, Brooks posits that maybe the real key to these future challenges lies with the citizens of third-world countries, in that they are open to greater and faster adaptability than any fat, lazy, middle-class American or European ever could be. Oh yeah, and it's got face-eating zombies too. Did I mention the face-eating zombies?

Because that's the thing to always remember, that this comes from an author who has spent nearly his entire life in the world of comedy and gimmicky projects, not only from family connections but also his own job as a staff writer at Saturday Night Live from 2001 to '03; that no matter how smart World War Z gets (and it gets awfully smart at points), it is still ultimately a fake oral history of an apocalyptic zombie war that supposedly takes place just five or ten years from now, starting as these messes often do as a series of isolated outbreaks in remote third-world villages. And in fact this is where Brooks first starts getting his political digs in, right from the first page of the manuscript itself, by using the initial spread of the zombie virus to comment on the way such past epidemics like HIV have been dealt with by the corrupt old white males who used to be in charge of things; basically, by ignoring the issue as long as it wasn't affecting fellow white males, then only paying attention after it's become an unstoppable epidemic. In Brooks' world, just like the real one of pre-9/11 intelligence-gathering, we see that a few government smarties from around the world really were able to catch the implications of this mysterious new virus while it was still theoretically controllable; just that their memos and papers went ignored for political reasons by those actually in charge, as well as getting lost in the vast bureaucratic shuffle that the Cold War has created in the Western military-industrial complex.

That's probably the most pleasurable part of the first half, to tell you the truth, and by "pleasurable" I mean "witty and humorous in a bleak, horrifying, schauenfreude kind of way" -- of watching the virus become more and more of a threat, of watching entire cities start to go under because of the zombie epidemic, then watching Brooks paint an extremely thinly-veiled portrait of how the Bush administration would deal with such a situation, and by extension any government ruled by a small cabal of backwards, power-hungry religious fundamentalists. And in this, then, World War Z suddenly shifts from a critique about AIDS to a critique about Iraq, showing how in both situations (the Middle East and zombies, that is) the real priority of the people currently in charge is to justify all the trillions of dollars spent at traditional weapon manufacturing companies under the old Cold-War system (companies, by the way, where all the people in charge have lucrative executive jobs when they're not being the people in charge), leading to such ridiculous situations as a full-on tank and aircraft charge mostly for the benefit of the lapdog press outlets who are there covering the "first grand assault." In Iraq, unfortunately, we found that a billion dollars in tanks still can't stop a teenage girl with a bomb strapped to her chest; and metaphorically that might be the most chilling scene in the entirety of World War Z as well, the press-friendly "zombie response" set up by the Bush-led government in New York's Yonkers neighborhood, done not for good strategic reasons but rather to show off the billions of dollars in weapons the government had recently acquired, leading to a virtual slaughter of all the soldiers and journalists there by the chaotic zombie hoard that eventually arrives.

This, then, gets us into the first futuristic posit of Brooks in the novel to not have actually happened in real life yet -- the "Great Panic," that is, when the vast majority of humans suddenly lose faith in whatever government was formerly running their section of the world, and where mass anarchy and chaos leads to the accidental and human-on-human deaths of several hundreds of millions of more people. And again, by detailing a fictional tragedy like a global zombie epidemic, and the complete failure of a Bush-type administration to adequately respond to it, Brooks is eerily predicting here such real situations like last week's complete meltdown of Bear Stearns (the fifth largest investment bank in the entire United States), leading many to start wondering for the first time what exactly would happen if the US dollar itself was to experience the same kind of whirlwind collapse, a collapse that happens so fast (in a single business day in the case of Bear Stearns) that no one in the endless red tape of the government itself has time to actually respond to it?

Brooks' answer here is roughly the same one Cormac McCarthy proposed in last year's Pulitzer-winning The Road; chaos, bloodshed, violence, inhumanity, an everyone-for-themselves mentality from the very people we trusted to lead us in such times of crisis. Make no mistake, this is a damning and devastating critique of the corrupt conservatives currently in charge of things; a book that uses the detritus of popular culture to masquerade as a funny and gross book about zombies, but like the best fantastical literature in history is in fact a prescient look at our current society. It's unbelievable, in fact, how entertaining and engrossing this novel is throughout its middle, given how this is usually the part of any book that is the slowest and least interesting; here Brooks uses the naturally slow middle of his own story to make the majority of his political points, and to get into a really wonky side of global politics that is sure to satisfy all you hardcore policy junkies (as well as military fetishists).

Because that's the final thing important to understand about World War Z, is that it's a novel with a truly global scope; Brooks here takes on not only what such a zombie epidemic would do to our familiar US of A, but also how such an epidemic would spread in the village-centric rural areas of southeast Asia, the infrastructure-poor wastelands of Russia and more, and especially how each society fights the epidemic in slightly different ways, some with more success than others. For example, Brooks posits that in such places as India, population density is just too high to do much of any good; in his fictional world history, such countries are basically decimated by such a catastrophe, with there basically being few humans even left in India by the time everything is over. Other countries, though, used to picking up as a nation and fleeing for other lands, survive the zombie outbreaks quite well; those who are already used to being refugees, for example, see not too much of a difference in their usual lifestyle from this latest turn in events, ironically making them the societies most suited for survival in such a world. (This is opposed to all the clueless middle-class Americans in the novel, for example, who in a panic make for the wilds of northern Canada, in the blind hope that the winter weather will freeze the zombies into non-action; although that turns out to be true, poor planning unfortunately results in the deaths of tens of millions of people anyway, from hypothermia and starvation and plain ol' mass-murder.)

And this is ultimately what I mean by this book being such a politically astute one; because as...
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
December 10, 2020

New week, New BookTube Video - all about the best (and worst) literary apocalypses to live through!
The Written Review


Humanity survived Zombie apacolypse.

Like after any great tragedy, the government wants a record.

Max Brooks is their oral historian.

Only, when he hands his documents, the bureaucracy whittles it down to the bare facts.

Humans, over every nation, dragged their bone weary bodies through this war.

They are now faced with the numbing task of rebuilding society.

They deserve to have their stories told. So, he publishes the true account of World War Z.

Told in a series of vignettes, we listen in on interviews as Brooks travels both the country and the world. And one thing is certain, life with zombies is a chilling tale.
The monsters that rose from the dead, they are nothing compared to the ones we carry in our hearts
The vignettes are absolutely riveting. There's a bit of the regular zombie murder mayhem but the story focuses on the human side of things. How the survivors, survived.

There's the blind man who fought off a hoard with no more than a blunt staff. Some people lost their minds - succumbing to tree belief that they have joined the dead. There's the unintentionally cannibalistic family - and so much more.
Most people don't believe something can happen until it already has.
Audiobook comments:
--Read by Max Brooks, Alan Alda, John Turturro, Rob Reiner, Mark Hamill, Alfred Molina, Simon Pegg, Henry Rollins and Martin Scorsese
--Highly recommended you listen to this novel - it's a quality production.
--Every voice is country-specific and the actors read very convincingly. It feels like I'm next to Max as he interviews the survivors.

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,846 followers
January 2, 2023
A perfect vivisection

Of the social, economic, environmental, and political consequences of zombie outbreaks
One day, it might be a helpful or even lifesaving work one hopefully has as a paperback and not on an ebook reader. The seriousness and attention to detail Brooks put in his work are part of the satire, because it really feels as if a real reporter is investigating a story.

Each one reacts differently
As in the ironic Zombie survival guide, Brooks uses all possible aspects of a zombie apocalypse, from its beginning until how it could end, including each human's individual reaction to it to describe the happenings.

Less action, more characters
Switching between the interviews, the book gives a new and more personal view on this very prominent topic, avoiding stereotypes and overused tropes, and is instead telling it from the points of view of very different people that wouldn´t normally be used to write the standard book or movie script.

Could be used in other genres too
The idea of using interviews as the main element for telling a story is a rare style element, but full of potential for more frequent use in fiction, although it might get very tricky to integrate it in a way that doesn´t interrupt the flow. But a Fantasy or Sci-Fi novel told from those perspectives would be a nice variation of the scheme.

Not as superficial as the Zombie survival guide
While the zombie survival guide was more a pure fun read, Brooks pimps his writing this time with innuendos, criticism, and social commentary.

It´s maybe also a satire of journalism itself
But I haven´t enough expertise to be competent in that. So maybe Brooks even imitated and satirized the tone of autobiographical monologues and endless introspections that are often unintentional satires already, when reporters are losing rhetorical control.

Tropes show how literature is conceived and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Penny.
215 reviews1,367 followers
November 10, 2012
I know what you're thinking. "Five stars for this book? Why???"

If you've been following my reviews then you know I tend to stress over how many stars to give a book, and I'm not one to hand out five-star ratings willy-nilly. I'm usually quite cautious when it comes to handing out that all-important fifth star. I'm stingy. That being said, every once in a while a book, that may or may not be amazing, comes along and wows me.

And now you're (probably) thinking: "But Penny, it's a book about zombies. Zombies! Disgusting rotting corpses that stumble around, looking to sink their teeth into any living thing. How--how could that sort of thing wow you? Are you, like, smoking crack???"

First things first: No--I'm not smoking crack. Everyone knows crack is cheap--I much prefer the real thing*. Now that I've cleared that up, lets move on, shall we?

So. World War Z. I really enjoyed it, which was a surprise because I didn't think I would. This book is not something I would've picked up on my own. Had it not been for a couple of really nice Barnes & Noble employees who practically shoved this book in my hands while gushing about its supreme awesomeness, I definitely wouldn't have purchased it. But since they didn't have the book I was looking for (Storm Front by Jim Butcher), and since I'd already been bitten by the zombie bug over a year ago (The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan) I took a chance and purchased this book.

Despite the fact that Max Brooks used to write for SNL, and also happens to be Mel Brooks son, this book isn't funny, nor is it meant to be. Max Brooks tells this story through a series of interviews given by survivors of The Great Panic, or World War Z (the Z stands for Zombie, in case you didn't, you know, put two and two together...).

The interviewees come from different parts of the world and they tell their accounts of what happened to them, what they thought when they first heard of what was first referred to as "African Rabies"; what happened when the Great Panic started in their part of the world. A lot of these stories are sad and/or terrifying, but mostly I found them incredibly intriguing.

Before I go on I need to add that I totally geek-out over documentaries, and this book--were it in movie form--would be a documentary. I'm one that appreciates the method Max Brooks uses to tell this story.

To me the beginning of this book has more to do with the way things are done in this world--politics wise--than anything else. Of course, as the book goes on and more and more governments are collapsing due to the fact that zombies are basically taking over the world, we get a good look at human nature during times of crisis. I found the whole thing fascinating..

Hardcore zombie lovers need to know that this isn't a book that follows one set of characters, though some interviews have been broken up, and so a few characters are featured in this book more than once. Rather it is one story told by several different people. There is continuity in the order in which the stories are told to us, and sometimes one survivor's account answers a question that was raised by another survivor.

All that said, there is quite a bit of zombie slaying action. Lots of blood and guts and gore. We get to learn how best to stop a zombie--and let me assure you, there are many ways. We also learn about newest in improvised zombie killing weaponry and effective warfare techniques to decimate a raging-out-of-control zombie population.

But seriously, I loved reading it, everything in this whole entire book. Me. A church-going mother of three. Although, yeah, I'm not your typical church-going mother of three. But still...

P.S. I'd have finished this book a long time ago had it not been for my husband, who kept stealing this book away from me so he could read it too. He's really liking it, btw.

UPDATE 11/10/12: About a year ago I bought the audiobook from Audible only to discover, after purchasing, that it was the abridged version. I soon found out that was all they had to offer which was quite disappointing because some of my favorite eyewitness accounts from the book were not included. I've since heard from the World War Z's Facebook page that they are going to make an unabridged version. I am unaware of when it will be available for purchase. That said, I did end up liking the (abridged) audiobook well enough. The performances are pretty top notch.

*To those who have zero sense of humor, it must be said: I'm kidding, I don't do any drugs, and you need to chill.
Profile Image for Rebecca DeLaTorre.
12 reviews15 followers
July 8, 2008
I just can't get on this bandwagon. The pseudo-government reports the book is written in handicap it in many ways. First, there are no protagonists to grow with, no story arc, no climax, etc. You know what's going to happen from day one--there was a world crisis involving zombies and at least some people live to tell the tale. The sure knowledge of the outcome deflates any tension and book feels flacid. The pseudo-scientific jargon is a poor imitation (my sister, a nurse, tossed aside Brooks' other Zombie manfesto in disgust within the first few pages and this one fairs no better)and there are far too many emotional pauses and descriptive introductions for what amounts to an addendum to a government study of events. The thing that put me over the edge with this book is the inconsistency--one chapter has a boy with bloody knuckles sliding his hands about in zombie goo and remaining uninfected and in the next chapter there is an expression of gratitutde that no one exposed to detrius from a headshot has open wounds to be infected through. What editor let that get by? On top of that, racial, national stereotypes abound and are crude and unappealing. Brooks is obviously a big fan of Israel, as they are the heroes of the day, even going so far as to selflessly save Palestinian refugees (yeah, right)and remnants of South Africa's apartheid system are given a reprieve due to their pragmatism. Russians are wacky comrades, Chinamen are inscrutable and Americans are cowboys weakened by education and consumerism. Ugh.

I won't recommend this book to anyone, even a die hard zombie fan, lest World War Z ruin the genre for them forever.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
February 19, 2019
”The book of war, the one we’ve been writing since one ape slapped another was completely useless in this situation. We had to write a new one from scratch.”

With most apocalyptic situations, I think the hardest part to deal with is that there are no wrong decisions or right decisions. There are simply too many variables to consider if your ultimate goal is to survive. The most meticulously planned strategies can still result in failure. You make the best decisions you can and then hope for a bit of luck. Should we barricade ourselves hoping to be saved, or go North hoping the zombies will eventually become popsicles when winter hits? Are we safer in the underground tunnels of Paris or on a cruise ship or living in the woods by ourselves? Whatever decision you make, you must think long game and short game. The short game, the immediate concerns, involve food, water, and shelter. The short and long game both come into play when trying to figure out how to avoid becoming zombie chow.

Once you survive the first wave of contagion, then what?

This book is written as an investigative report, collecting all the experiences of survivors from around the world. Different cultures reacted differently to the apocalypse. Some were more successful than others. The learning curve, unfortunately, has to be short with apocalyptic situations, especially if the hope is to actually salvage civilisation. The lights go out, and many of the comforts we’ve become accustomed to are gone instantly, and the possessions that have come to define us, such as electronic devices, suddenly become useless.

If the whole idea of a zombie apocalypse is too wild a concept for you to grasp, you might be relieved that for the most part the zombies are really just part of the background. What Max Brooks is really dealing with goes well beyond the concept of zombies and focuses more on how people survived the collapse of civilisation. He could have used microbes or conventional war or a devastating meteorite hitting the earth or any of the other fascinating concepts that people have come up with as ways to end the world. It reads like books of a similar nature that collect the stories of people who survived World War Two. The scope is huge and impressive. Brooks addresses aspects about a zombie apocalypse that I have never thought about before.

Quislings ”Yeah, you know, the people that went nutballs and started acting like zombies.” Ok, I’ve read a handful of zombie books, not enough to make myself an expert, but certainly enough to have some background on the lore of a zombie apocalypse. WTH? Now Brooks didn’t just make this term up. It is a term from WW2. ”A quisling is a person who collaborates with an enemy occupying force. The word originates from the Norwegian war-time leader Vidkun Quisling, who headed a domestic Nazi collaborationist regime during the Second World War.”

The minds of survivors, I’m sure, snapped in all kinds of strange and wonderful and terrifying ways, but unfortunately pretending to be a zombie was a quick way to find yourself...well...dead. First, any reasonably sane human who notices you lurching toward them, performing your very best mimicry of the undead, will smash your brain. Second, you don’t blend with the zombies. They know you are alive. You become a zombie delight!

People also just went to sleep perfectly healthy and didn’t wake up. This was called ADS, short for Asymptomatic Demise Syndrome or Apocalyptic Despair Syndrome. ”It killed as many people in those early stalemate months as hunger, disease, interhuman violence, or the living dead.” I’ve heard of things like this happening to people who experience long term stress situations. The body just reaches a point where the brain decides to just shut down the power to the spacecraft and let the mind drift away.


People will put up with a lot as long as there is hope that someday their situation will improve. Babies die when they are not held. People die when things become hopeless.

Brooks also told stories about zombies underwater. WTH? Yeah, people reanimated as the living dead on ships and eventually managed to fall off the ship in the water. It wasn’t unusual for zombies to just walk out of the water onto beaches or grab divers or attack fishermen in boats. Somehow they are more scary underwater than on land. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it. I’m having a Jaws flashback.

During and after WWZ, people had to relearn things that our grandparents and great grandparents knew.

A chimney sweep. ”I help keep my neighbors warm.” he said proudly.

A cobbler. ”You see those shoes. I made them.”

A shepherd. ”That sweater, that’s my sheep’s wool.”

A gardener/farmer. ” Like that corn? My garden.”

”That was the upshot of a more localized system. It gave people the opportunity to see the fruits of their labor, it gave them a sense of individual pride to know they were making a clear, concrete contribution to victory, and it gave me a wonderful feeling that I was part of that. I needed that feeling. It kept me sane for the other part of my job.”

The other part of his job?...killing zombies. Several of the survivors talked about how important it was not to think of them as people or of who they were or of who they might have become. They couldn’t see them as people or what they were doing was genocide.

This is by far the most serious zombie book I’ve ever read. The stories are compelling. This is a panoramic view of a society in crises. The observations are thoughtful. The writing is convincing. By the end I had the feeling I’d just read a history book, not a speculative zombie apocalyptic book.

The book is unfilmable, but the movie industry knew a catchy title when they saw one. They certainly borrowed aspects from the book, but really the movie should be considered a completely different entity. The zombies in Brooks book are the George Romero lurching, yucky living dead. In the movie, they are super charged, fast moving, aggressive, nasty creatures. The virus in the movie is fast acting. Someone bitten is transformed within seconds. In the book, the virus takes much longer to take effect.

Did it bother me that the director Marc Forster took such liberties?

Not one bite bit.

I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I was thoroughly entertained. I certainly intend to watch the movie again. So read the book to discover new depths to an overly exploited genre, and watch the movie to experience a whirlwind of fear and dread. Just a suggestion, have someone else hold the popcorn.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16.3k followers
May 18, 2010
At this current moment in time my husband and I do not actually have a working will. We are the legal definition of intestate. We have not yet made any preparations for our death and we only have life insurance/house insurance because his mother organized the whole damn thing (come to mention it she is also the reason we have electricity, water and a phone line - the internet though was all us because we'd die without it.)

So believe me when I say that we don't organize... anything. Except our zombie kit. That's right. We have a zombie kit. Should zombies suddenly strike while I type out this review we would be able to take our son and get in our car and drive away without a backward glance. Everything we need is in the boot of the car. If we're holed up inside the house we have our second zombie kit to live off of and use to defend ourselves. We have several plans in place as to where to go, what to do if we're separated at time of crisis, who we're taking with us, how we'll stay in contact etc.

Some may call his paranoia. Some may call this stupidity. Do you know what I call these naysayers?

Zombie food.

It is this obsessive and weird need to ensure survival during a zombie apocalypse, despite every rational reason to believe that all our efforts are for naught, that has made me the prime candidate and target group of this book.

It is not the norm of the zombie genre. In general a zombie movie tends to be about a small group of individuals against the undead hordes looking to floss with intestines.

This book is not about a small group of individuals - it is about a large collection of humanity. This book is how HUMANITY would survive and deal with a zombie infestation. It is a collection of small, broken narratives from people all over the world, across many social, economic and political classes.

Some of them were amazing, others horrifying. Some were inspirational, others so depressing or introspective that I wondered if there was any hope.

I would argue that many of the "voices" from certain nationalities were not really very accurate and didn't really match the cultural region they came from - but I'm lazy. Either you "get" the voice of the narratives or you don't.

This book was a fascinating, thoughtful read in a field that I'm personally obsessed with. I could easily understand how those who've never stayed up until three in the morning, drunk off their heads with a group of people yelling that if they head into the city then they're zombie meat (Zombie meat I say! You ridiculous idiots!) probably will find this book a hard read.

It's also a difficult read in the sense that you are continually sucked into one story, only to have it end abruptly and shift to another. I kept getting frustrated and wanting to scream, "No! Go back! I want to know what else happened!" but alas. It's like little snap shots from all over the world, except when it comes to several of the snapshots, I'd really rather see the whole picture.

Other than that, I loved it. I had a hoot reading it. It gave me plenty of fodder with which to have many drunken debates with my husband, brothers and friends.

Much to their disgust...

Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
September 14, 2018
this book is about zombies the same way the bible is about god. they are mostly background actors who are the reason other characters do what they do and occasionally they will rarrrr in and kill a bunch of people because they cant help it, but mostly they are an invisible presence, always to be feared but never given a voice.

this whole book takes place after the zombies have already destroyed most of the world and is a collection of the testimonials of hundreds (?) of different characters detailing their experiences with the zombie outbreak, and how they have survived. because of this, there arent really any action scenes, or any immediate terror. this book is more about politics and global concerns and human nature and dissatisfaction with the way the government handles natural disasters and (im gonna say it, im gonna say it) the zeitgeist (woohoo) than it is about man-eating corpses. it takes into account so many different aspects of post-zombie experience that i never would have considered like what will the actors do now? and what happens if a zombie gets on board your boat? and how will this affect the rest of the food chain? very multi-faceted, if not what i was expecting.

also interesting: the role of castles in a zombie holocaust, and the underground tunnels in paris: unsafe. so for people like alfonso, who do not enter a room without first considering their escape routes should zombies attack, this could give some interesting perspectives about what may have been overlooked, and provide some good food for thought. brains are for thought. brains are zombie food. you do the math.

uh-oh - book avalanche... maybe more later...

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews41 followers
April 28, 2022
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is a 2006 zombie apocalyptic horror novel written by American author Max Brooks. The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet.

He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, "By excluding the human factor, aren't we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn't the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as 'the living dead'?"

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز سی و یکم ماه آگوست سال2016میلادی

عنوان: جنگ جهانی (زد) تاریخ شفاهی جنگ زامبی‌ها؛ نویسنده مکس بروکس؛ مترجم: حسین شهرابی؛ تهران: کتابسرای تندیس، سال‏‫1393؛ در432ص؛ شابک9786001821219؛ چاپ دوم سال1395؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده21م‬

جنگ جهانی ز (زد) عنوان یک رمان وحشت آخرالزمانی و زامبی است، که توسط نویسنده آمریکایی «مکس بروکس» نوشته شده است؛ دهسال است که بشر بر زامبیها پیروز شده، و سرانجام توانسته صلح را، به دنیا برگرداند؛ نماینده ی سازمان ملل، مشغول تهیه گزارشی از علت شیوع بیماری زامبیها، چرایی شکست دولتهای دنیا از آن، و در نهایت چگونگی پیروزی انسان است؛ در این سفر نخست به «چین» میرود، که «بیمار صفر» در آن پیدا شد، و سپس هم کم کم به همه ی دنیا از «کره شمالی» گرفته، که مردمانش غیب شده اند، تا «روسیه»، که اکنون به امپراتوری مقدس «روسیه»، مبدل شده، از «کوبا» که به ابرقدرتی سرمایه دار تبدیل شده، تا «آمریکا» که به سوسیالیسم روی آورده است؛ در این کتاب داستان مادرانی را خواهید خواند، که فرزندانشان را از ترس زامبیها میکشند، و نیز داستان فضانوردانی که از مدار زمین، یورش زامبیها را زیر نظر دارند؛

نقل از متن: (هشدارها: «چونگ چینگ» بزرگ، «فدراسیون متحد چین»: این ناحیه، در اوجِ شکوهِ پیشاجنگش، جمعیتی بالغ بر سی و پنج میلیون نفر را، در خود جا داده بود؛ امروز بعید است به پنجاه هزار نفر هم برسند؛ سرمایه های بازسازی، هنوز پایشان به این بخش از کشور باز نشده، و دولت ترجیح داده، بر سواحل تمرکز کند، که تراکمِ جمعیتیشان بالاتر است؛ هیچ شبکه ی نیروگاهی، و برق رسانی در کار نیست، و بجز رودخانه ی «یانگ تسه» هم هیچ آبی جاری نیست؛ اما در خیابانها زباله و خاک و خاشاک به چشم نمیخورَد، و «شورای امنیتیِ» محلی هم اجازه ی وقوعِ هیچ شیوعی را پس از جنگ نداده است؛ رئیس شورا «کوانگ جینگ شو» نام دارد؛ پزشک عمومی است، و به رغم سنِ بالا، و جراحتهای جنگیش، هنوز به تک تک بیمارانش سر میزند

اولین ظهوری که از بیماری دیدم در دهکده ای دورافتاده بود، که رسماً هیچ اسمی نداشت؛ ساکنانش میگفتند: «داچانگِ نو»، اما این اسم فقط به خاطرِ نوستالژی بود، تا هر چیز دیگری؛ خانه های پیشینشان در «داچانگ قدیم»، از روزگارِ «سه امپراتوری»، سرپا باقیمانده بود، و میگفتند مزارع و خانه ها، و حتا درختهایش سده ها عمر دارند؛ وقتی سدّ «سه دره» تکمیل شد، و آب مخازن سد، کم کم بالا آمد، بخش اعظم «داچانگ» را، آجر به آجر، برداشتند و دوباره در زمین بالاتری ساختند؛ اما این «داچانگ نو» دیگر شهر نبود، و به «موزه ی تاریخ ملی» مبدل شده بود؛ حتماً طعن و طنزِ تلخی برای آن زارعهای بینوا بوده، که دیدند شهرشان نجات پیدا کرده، اما الان دیگر مجبورند بلیت بخرند، تا از آن دیدن کنند؛ شاید به همین دلیل بود که بعضی از آنها ترجیح دادند اسمِ آبادیِ تازه سازشان را «داچانگ نو» بگذارند، بلکه پیوندی با میراث کهنشان برقرار بماند؛ حتا اگر فقط به اسم باشد؛ من اصلاً خبر نداشتم که جایی به اسم «داچانگ نو» وجود دارد؛ پس امیدوارم ��فهمید که چرا وقتی به من تلفن زدند، و صحبتِ آنجا را کردند، چقدر تعجب کردم

در بیمارستان خبری نبود؛ حتا به رغمِ افزایشِ آمارِ تصادفهای ناشی از مستی، شب بی سروصدایی بود؛ استفاده از موتورسیکلت کم کم رایج میشد؛ بین خودمان زیاد میگفتیم که آن «هارلی - دِیویدسون»های شما بیشتر چینی به کشتن داد، تا کلِ سربازهای امریکایی توی جنگ «کره»؛ به همین خاطر قدردانِ آن شیفت خلوت بودم؛ خسته بودم و کمر و پاهایم درد میکردند؛ میخواستم بروم بیرون سیگار بکشم، و طلوع را تماشا کنم، که شنیدم اسمم را پیج میکنند؛ مسئول پذیرش آن شب تازه کار بود، و متوجهِ لهجه ی فردِ پشت خط نشد، یک تصادفی شده بود، یا مریضی ای...؛ وضعِ اضطراری است -این بخش معلوم بود-، و آیا ممکن بود ما بدون اتلاف وقت کمک بفرستیم؟ چه میتوانستم بگویم؟ پزشکهای جوان، این بچه هایی که خیال میکنند طبابت یعنی چاق و چله کردنِ حسابهای بانکی...؛ اینها حاضر نبودند بروند، و بی جیره و مواجب، به چند تایی نونگمینِ بدبخت بیچاره کمک کنند؛ به نظرم من هنوز ته دلم از آن انقلابیهای پیر هستم؛ «وظیفه ی ما آن است که خود را در قبالِ خلق مسئول بدانیم» این کلمه ها برای من معنا داشت...؛ این کلمه ها یادم بود وقتی وانتِ دییرِ کهنه ام توی جاده خاکی ای بالا و پایین میپرید، که دولت قول داده بود آسفالت کند، اما هیچوقت سراغش هم نیامد؛ دردسر زیادی کشیدم تا محل را پیدا کنم؛ رسماً آن محل وجود نداشت، و به همین دلیل روی نقشه هم نیاورده بودند.؛ چند بار راه را گم کردم، و مجبور شدم از محلیها پرس و جو کنم، که البته خیال میکردند منظورم همان شهر - موزه است؛ وقتی به مجموعه ی کوچک خانه های سرِ تپه رسیدم، واقعاً کاسه ی صبرم لبریز شده بود؛ یادم هست که با خودم گفتم کاش واقعاً قضیه حاد باشد، وگرنه...؛ بعد وقتی چهره ی آدمهای آنجا را دیدم، از حرفم پشیمان شدم.)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 19/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 07/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for MischaS_.
785 reviews1,371 followers
August 20, 2019
So, I've seen the movie several times when it was on TV, and I have to say that I even watched a scene or two a couple of dozen times on Youtube. Yes, the action and visuals are fantastic. (Okay, except the one where the guy tears his own tooth, yuck!)
But after reading the comments where people were angry at the movie, saying that it does not hold a candle to the book, I knew I had to read it.
And yes, I do agree that the only things the movie took from the book were the zombies and Israel building a wall. Oh, and the title.

Right away, I was very surprised by the format of this book; it was not all what I was expecting. And the more I think about it; I believe it would be better if I picked up an audiobook instead of a book. Yeah, shocking, I never thought I would say such a thing.
Every interview is done with a different person, so, soon I stopped paying attention to their names, so when they again appeared later in the book I had a hard time connecting them with their previous chapters.

Also, like one third into the book, I got stuck after several boring chapters where I seriously considered DNFing this book, but then I pushed through, and yes, it was worth it.

I loved that we got to see how so many different parts of the world battled with the zombies. The different approaches, what do to the countries, did they go all savage? Did they bomb their own people? Did they just lose all control? That was fantastic to watch.

And surprisingly, this book made me even laugh! I just loved the boy who almost missed the zombies because he was focused on his computer. I did not expect that.

That's the one thing you can always depend on; as we're fighting on war, we're always preparing for the next one.

I did not very much grasp how they were suddenly able to fight the zombies when they previously failed with much better equipment but alright. But I have to say that zombie cleaning is funny to imagine. Especially of those underwater, I bet it will be fun if a zombie managed to get stuck in the Mariana Trench.

However, the scene I was sort of hoped for was post-war when some scientists have a zombie in a lab for studying, that would be fantastic! I honestly would love to see some experiments on these creatures. The book stated that it seemed that the state of the zombies deteriorated, but I wonder what would happen if they maybe starved for years. So many possibilities!

What sort of surprised me is that I expected that when the humans would go so close to extinction that the environment would get better, no factories running, no one is dumping anything in the water etc. but it was otherwise and it sort of made sense! There had to be so many fires; it's terrifying to imagine. But I wonder about the impact of all those nukes used!

And that's another thing I wish was different, the last part was sort of jumping from character to character, for short conclusions but I would love to see more about the brand new world. Honestly, I think I would be able to read a book dedicated to each country! Especially Russia, Iceland and Israel would be interesting. Also, I wish we really knew what happened in North Korea.

I also wonder about Patient Zero, because when the doctor in China informed his friend, they knew what was going on, the military seemed ready for what was happening there. That does not seem like the first case

Overall, the book is 3,5/5🧟‍♂️🧟‍♀️ for me; I think I will get the audiobook to see if I'll like that format better.
Profile Image for seak.
434 reviews473 followers
November 15, 2021
Hey, I have a booktube channel (youtube for book reviews) and I do video reviews for books like this one, epic fantasy, science fiction, media related to them, and more. Please subscribe here!

Update: See end of review for movie review.

I've broken my cardinal rule for reading books just before the movie comes out. This rule I've alluded to is the following - I don't read the book directly before the movie (at least 1 year before or it must be read after or just wait on the movies). The reason for this is that I want to enjoy the story through both mediums and if you read the book just before the movie, you've set yourself up to be a critic - analyzing everything and complaining about every detail that's inevitably left out, but which is more often than not necessary for the medium.

If you read the book at least a year before, at least with my shoddy memory, the movie becomes a happy time of fond remembrances. Oh yeah, I remember that part, so cool! Yay! Happy! In this instance, I hear the movie doesn't quite follow the book exactly and what else can that mean than that it's a typical zombie movie. I don't think I've ruined much here.

You know, it could have been partly because of all the hype, but I didn't love this book. I didn't hate it either, which makes these the hardest reviews to write, but I think I have a few ideas why World War Z just didn't work all that well for me.

I'm studying for the bar at the moment, so you get an extremely well-organized review (at least with headings aplenty) since that's how my brain is thinking at the moment. :)

The Plot

Doesn't really exist. Yeah, there's a loose series of events that defines the book, or the Zombie War, but it's told through interviews with different survivors from different countries. And they're short too, I even checked this with the book (paper-form). Each interview amounts to a page or two, maybe 5 max. Each tends to discuss a certain important event, which ends up getting referred to by characters later in the book and often mentioned by the one directly following.

It's extremely clever and lets you see how well developed this whole idea is.

It's extremely clever

Max Brooks has literally thought of everything when it comes to a war against zombies. I thought the same in my reading of The Zombie Survival Guide, and it goes just as well here. EVERYTHING!

He goes into why tanks are all but useless against hordes of zombies - because you have to take out their heads! Anything else, and they'll still shamble and probably even become more dangerous when you trip over them on the ground. The airforce is just as useless because it's so much money and effort for such a little amount of good. Better spent on a bunch of soldiers with tons of amo. He even goes into better strategies for fighting this war, why the zombies are such a good enemy - because they don't need to be bred, fed, or led as I'll let the book explain.

Very clever and not even pretentious about it. Just captivating. And this isn't the only thing I liked although we're getting into the middle ground because I didn't love the audio either.

The Audio

One of the things that got me excited to listen to this on audio was that it's read by a full cast. That means they're trying REALLY hard and that tends to be a good thing, especially if you don't like one or two of the voices, it's okay, it's only temporary. With just one narrator, that can really kill a book. I mentioned that this is told through many different people in different countries and they have actors like Rob Reiner and John Turturro. Even Max Brooks himself plays the part of the interviewer.

(John Turturro from The Big Lebowski)

Very cool...until the point of distraction. There are so many different countries represented that the accents started to distract heavily from the story. I found myself pondering why the German guy had such a heavy accent on his "R's" and yet could perfectly pronounce "TH" every time. And this was just the one guy. One of the benefits of a single narrator is that even when they do an accent, it's easier to understand because English is their primary language.

The audio's great for the most part, outside of that little niggle about the accents, but one thing I absolutely HATE about it is...it's abridged!


I would probably never forgive myself if I listened to this abridged audio version and never actually read the entire book if I actually thought that mattered. Maybe others are better sleuths than myself, but I can't find a reading of World War Z that's not abridged. At the same, after having read the book, the abridged version seems to do enough justice to the entirety of the novel, what with how it is organized, that it just cuts out a few of the interviews.

Normally this is heresy, but I can live with it for this one time only.

What I didn't like

I think the thing that just makes this an okay to good book for me is that while it's style and organization is unique and highly clever, it also takes away from my ability to care. Without just following one person or a group of people, there's no attachment to any specific person.

The Movie

(Brad Pitt will make everything better.)

After writing the above, I actually do think the movie will make it all better. It seems like it will be following one single person and that's what this reader needs. Movie's set for a June 2013 release. Here's the trailer too.

In the end (in the sense of my final feelings not any post-apocalyptic sense)

Let's just say, if we ever do get into a Zombie War, you better have a copy of World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide on you. Someone's already gone through the effort of thinking up EVERY situation that can occur, what's effective, what's not and put it down in words. No sense reinventing the wheel.

While an entertaining idea and clever execution, these were the exact things that made World War Z a book I could never love. It's worth a read if only to see how in-depth you have not thought about zombies.

3 out of 5 Stars (Recommended with Reservations)

The movie, an update
I just wanted to make a quick note about the movie. I'm happy to say I called it correctly. I enjoyed the movie much more than the book even though you can really only say the movie is a loose adaptation (if you can even say that). I thought it was much better to visit all those countries through the single character of the UN agent as opposed to interviews of random characters. I felt for him trying to protect his family, I rooted for him when he was in danger, and it had the same effect of exploring the reaction of different cultures (to a much smaller degree of course). And it actually scared me, which for a zombie book, was completely lacking in WWZ.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
February 22, 2020
The deadly epidemic started in China. This time it’s ... zombies.

4.5 stars, rounding up because sheer brilliance.

I'm not, generally speaking, a fan of horror fiction in general or zombie tales in particular, but World War Z popped up on my radar so many times that I finally decided to give it a go. (I checked it out from the library; I wasn't going to stick my neck that far out for this book that I'd pay actual money for it.)

Anyway. World War Z takes the quasi-historical documentary approach to the zombie apocalypse, as a set of loosely-connected interviews gradually builds a picture of humanity's reaction to the zombie infection that quickly spreads around the world. Max Brooks examines the many ways this kind of a disaster would affect us: socially, militarily, psychologically, and more. The lies that government leaders tell their citizens. The lies that people tell themselves. The determination and heroism of some characters that infuses this otherwise depressing story with hope.

It's definitely not your standard zombie-flavored horror story. The horror is as much in the way some people react to the catastrophe (e.g., profiteering) as in the moaning, grasping and biting (a 100% death sentence if you get bit) of the zombie hordes.

Recommended if you're interested in a more analytical approach to the genre. I thought it was fascinating. VERY different from the movie that it inspired.
Profile Image for Alex Duncan.
42 reviews61 followers
July 10, 2013
This book is not a novel. You learn very little about the characters (even the narrator) and cannot follow them from story to story. There's no common thread, no arc, etc. It's a hodgepodge. For many of you, this is all you need to know about this book.

If you're looking for a great zombie NOVEL, my favorite is Cryonic: A Zombie Novel

I suppose there are parallels between the book and the movie in the sense that both are disjointed. It's too big a story to tell and to be done properly Brooks should have written a door stopper of a novel.

That said, he did piece together an interesting scenario: a world where humans have fought back against the zombies and won. This aspect is shown at the end of the film, as they elude to the inevitable sequel, and it's actually the most interesting part of the book, that is:

- how did they fight and how'd they win
- what challenges did they face
- in what ways were they no match for the zombies

That third bullet is an aspect I have the most difficulty with as there's so much of "bombs didn't work on the zombies" type of statements from those the narrators interviewed. Call me crazy, but if you drop a big 'ole bomb on a zombie hord there aren't going to be many "walking" dead around after that.

I suppose this book's format will appeal to some people, as many seem to be OK with what he's done, but it's such a huge disappointment when you were expecting a novel and don't get one.

The book actually has a decent start with the story of patient zero and the images of zombies grabbing ankles from beneath the depths of a flooded city, but it goes downhill quickly from there.

It's really a chore to read because the stories are so short that they don't allow you to connect with the characters. I have a feeling if Brooks hadn't had so much success with his Zombie Survival Guide that publishers would have turned their nose up at the structure of this book and made him rewrite it.

At the same time, Brooks and his publisher have made quit a bit of coin on this one so who can blame them?

Some stories provide enough detail to suck you in and get good (that is just before the end on you abruptly), but others are what I call Brooks' bastards because he gives them so little attention you wonder why they are in there at all.

There's also one story that despite being long is incredibly boring about a stolen Chinese submarine that takes up enough pages to account for several other stories. Definitely an err in judgment there.

With no one to root for and no characters to follow, you'll find yourself not caring whether you open the book back up or not. To me, this is the ultimate sin any book can commit. To call this the best zombie book ever written, etc. etc. is so far off the mark I can't even tell you.

If any of what I'm saying is speaking to you I wouldn't spend your money on the book as it will surely disappoint.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Joel.
556 reviews1,665 followers
April 6, 2012
Profile Image for John Wiswell.
Author 41 books427 followers
January 9, 2010
There are reasons to be wary of this book. The title is a little silly, and Max Brooks's Zombie Survival Guide was tongue in cheek. Hell, he's the son of legendary comedy director Mel Brooks. And zombies are creatures that gained popularity thanks to film, which is contrary to the nature of most good creatures. Vampires, ghosts, wizards, witches, dragons, orcs, goblins, angels, werewolves and even Frankenstein's undead abomination came from literature first, and entered film later. Film seldom contributes originality to prose. Fortunately Max Brooks pulled off a minor miracle in adapting the largely theatrical terror into the written word, by use of the literary apocalypse convention and oral stories. Our familiarity with the outlines of a zombie outbreak (or any plague outbreak) from so many films helps fill in the gaps between his various storytellers' accounts.

Brooks has a remarkable sense of voice, and places the various interviewees well, such that they sound all the more distinct in contrast to the preceeding and following speaker. We get a lot of interesting subjects, from the country doctor in China who treated the first "bite," to a hitman hired to protect a millionaire mogul, to a blind man who somehow managed to survive in the most infested parts of Japan - Hiroshima. Thus we also get a total sense of the rise and fall of the outbreak, with each arc illustrated by brilliant personal narratives of "true" stories from those periods that give us a sense of not just the plot, but how culture changed in this fictional earth. The narrative is unified by the interviewer who visits them and directs parts of their story, but only enough so that we can both enjoy the overarching plot and the survivors' stories.

Like the best science fiction the outlandish premise allows us to get a fresh view of real human issues. Brooks approaches such issues on multiple levels, from simple human interests like base selfishness and how we act in desperation, to political crises, such as early on in the book when the Israelis and Palestinians blame each other for the plague, and even claim it is a hoax perpetrated by their enemies. Many of the characters are inspired by people from real life, like Howard Dean, Karl Rove and Nelson Mandela - but rather than coming off as cheesy, they lend an air of authenticity to the tale. There is just enough real tension, both base and topical, to lend it the right aura for a great exercise in modern fantasy/sci fi - it's easily one of the best fantasy/sci fi books set in the modern world I've read in quite some time.

The quality of Brooks's book was totally unexpected. This was supposed to be a spin-off from an impulse-buy. But by the time you finish World War Z I think you'll hope along with me that this, his first work of fiction, won't be his last.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,676 reviews5,250 followers
June 23, 2012
On the menu tonight: WORLD WAR Z

Amuse Bouche
Our rich Tartare à la Homo Sapien will astonish you with its hauntingly familiar flavors, its bright and vivid colors, and the truly gamey taste of terror, tears, and trauma. Fresh kill will never appear so carefully arranged and presented: prepare yourself for a buffet that appeases both the palate and the intellect.

A surprisingly hearty summer soup: tantalizing hints of summer flavors frozen solid, then slowly re-animated to surprise the unwary diner. You will literally gasp in amazement as the flavors you thought had come and passed during the colder months rise again to challenge your taste buds! The stew contains a veritable global village of ingredients: you will taste the inscrutable flavors of the mysterious Orient, the refined and subtle tastes of English manor and European castle, the bold and ruthless tang of Mother Russia, and at its core, the zesty essence of woodsy North Americana will serve to keep this dish firmly anchored in the classic Western tradition. This bold starter will act as a bullet straight into your palate’s head!

One could perhaps assume that a multi-course, zombified meal will be centered around a choice cut of rare beef steak; our menu will sorely disappoint such traditional diners. Instead we offer as the centerpiece of our prix fixe meal an array of delights that appease not the base emotional senses, but the higher appetites of the intellect! Never fear, diner, your hunger will be truly satiated – but only if you are able to cast aside your yearnings for an old fashioned cheeseburger and partake in a less sensual but perhaps more fulfilling menu. To that end, we offer a buffet of international flavors: taste the crusty unleavened bread of walled Israel, savor the rainbow flavors of a South African duo of rib and grain, relish the fatty riches of Canadian poutine (we understand that Americans will often flee north simply to indulge in this dish!), enjoy a classic sampling of melancholy Japanese swordfish... the world is yours to consume, in a carefully planned and constructed rejoinder that laughs in the face of undead chaos, and shouts: I Am the Decider!

For our last dish, we offer you this stunning plate: a downed, half-mad pilot, communicating with phantoms as she hurtles through dense bog and over abandoned freeway, bravely resisting the hungry hands and teeth of the undead!

Wine Pairing
We are proud to offer a new vintage “Max Brooks”, heretofore enjoyed only by ironic survivalists, now available to the world at large.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
February 20, 2019
A very pleasant surprise.

TBT, not a huge fan of the zombie sub-genre: never watched an episode of the Walking Dead, never really bought into it as a fantasy vehicle.

So – I picked this up with not so much trepidation as an allowance that I probably would not love it. I didn’t LOVE it, but liked it a lot more than I expected I would.

Here’s the thing:

It’s not JUST about an I Am Legend scenario where the world turns into monsters. Well – it sort of IS about that – but it’s also about a lot more. Author Max Brooks (son of Mel “It’s good to be the KING!” Brooks) serves this up with a steaming hot portion of socio-economic views, cultural observations and more than a generous side order of HAVEATYOU! post-apocalyptic fudge.

You probably already can guess the premise, so no spoilers – there is a global pandemic where damn near everyone gets turned into zombies. We’re talking Aliens Bill Paxton “GAME OVER MAN!” world-wide catastrophe. MOST of humanity is wiped out.

But Brooks’ narrative, told from the shifting perspectives of the survivors in a kind of post-war journalistic oral history novel (patterned after Studs Turkel’s 1984 The Good War), is appealing for it’s plucky spirit and charismatic delivery. Not just blood and guts, we get to know first hand about this event from start to finish and all the details in between. It’s the human element of this that works so well, the near remembrances of the survivors told from their perspectives.

I loved that Brooks develops a working vocabulary for the post-war survivors. The human soldiers call their zombie opponents “Zach” and he makes the astute observation that they no longer needed consultants and executive directors – humanity needed carpenters and gunsmiths. I was also drawn to one of the survivor’s recollection that his group loved to go into battle to the ear splitting tunes of Iron Maiden’s The Trooper.

So if you were like me and avoided this because it was just another zombie book – go ahead and give it a try, it’s actually pretty good.

Profile Image for carol..
1,565 reviews8,205 followers
November 1, 2012
Thoughtful and thought-provoking. Not at all the typical zombie book, and not at all what I expected. Published in 2006, the issues and underlying plot points are as pertinent today as then. What would happen in a real zombie apocalypse? Given current politics, economics, cultural trends, and geography, I'd be willing to bet it happens closely to Brooks' vision.

World War Z is structured along the lines of a documentary, a collection of remembrances about the world-wide zombie war. Divided by chronological order, one can get the feel of the evolution from chapter headings: "Warnings," "Blame," "The Great Panic," "Turning the Tide" "Home Front USA," "Around the World and Above," "Total War," and "Good-byes."

"Warnings" begins with a doctor in China responding to a remote village to a request for help. His tale lures the reader in, giving an intimate view of the initial confusion, the fear, the drastic response by the state, and the systemic holes that lead to ultimate break down. From there, the interviewer talks to a human smuggler in Tibet, drug war agents in Greece, a black-market surgeon in Brazil, a laborer from South Africa, a member of Israeli intelligence, and a repatrioted Palestinian. It's a brilliant idea for a narrative about a global issue, because each culture group frames the problem in terms of its own narrow focus (how could it not?), giving the reader insight into how confronting any issue takes place in a morass of history--but also how similar we are at the individual level. And, unfortunately, the degree to which personal selfishness, both altruistic (saving loved ones) and greedy, pave the way for worsening disaster.

Further interviews include the ordinary survivor (who was anything but), soldiers, an astronaut, and various government officials including the vice-president and a diplomat. It makes for an extremely interesting analysis, because it covers both the personal, private story and the larger, world arc.

Ultimately, it was a sobering and satisfying commentary on humanity and the current state of the world. While that sounds potentially dull and analytical, structuring the story around a zombie war is frosting on the vegan cupcake. While it possibly could have been as strong of a narrative if Brooks was imagining a virulent and lethal virus, zombies gave it a flash factor that draws dystopia fans in. Besides, reanimated dead do create challenges of their own that would be unique in warfare. One general talks about how traditional warfare centers around people that are "bred, led and fed." Zombies require none of those things--their ranks grow with death, they require no leaders, so it is not possible to remove key strategists in a campaign, and they don't require any sort of supplies or rest, so there is no possibility of destroying a supply line. Underwater environments prove to be the long-term zombie reservoir, presenting unique challenges to world-wide eradication.

Minor quibbles include a lack of some of the science behind the outbreak, as well as that of the lone survivors. And, while it is a thought-provoking story over all, it's not exactly a gripping one that kept me up at night. That's actually okay, as it proved more satisfying in the long run. Just temper your expectations.

In some ways, this was the complete antithesis of Zone One, (review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...) which examines the zombie post-apocalypse through the individual and humanity's slide downward. This looks at zombie wars through multiple viewpoints on a world-wide scale, and it's ultimate message is hope with cost.

I highly recommend to zombie or science-dabbling fans. Four flesh-eaten stars.

Profile Image for Blaine.
782 reviews653 followers
July 15, 2020
Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has. That’s not stupidity or weakness, that’s just human nature.
Looking back, I still can't believe how unprofessional the news media was. So much spin, so few hard facts. All those digestible sound bites from an army of 'experts' all contradicting one another, all trying to seem more 'shocking' and 'in-depth' than the last one. It was all so confusing, nobody seemed to know what to do.

I first read this book at least ten years ago, back when Mr. Brooks’ choice to use the science and language of epidemiology was simply considered a clever way to write a zombie novel. So, how does this story feel now that we’re living through an actual pandemic? It’s even more impressive. Mr. Brooks spent considerable effort making his story realistic, and life has shown how right he was. A pandemic that begins in China and engulfs the world, helped by a Chinese government suppressing the truth. The willful blindness of the public (aided by a broken media system) to grasp the true magnitude of the outbreak. Cynical charlatans selling bogus cures. The failure of the international community to work together to stop the outbreak, and politicians sadly more focused on the economy than the public health. There are so many things in this book that might have felt farfetched before but look eerily prescient now.

The oral history method of storytelling is used to great effect here. The interviewees come from all walks of life; this is not just a ‘heroes and generals’ type of story. These first-person vignettes are often narrow in focus, moving, and even harrowing, and each character has a distinctive voice and manner of speaking. But by regularly shifting to a new narrator—across all seven continents, in cities and under them, on and under the oceans, even in outer space—we eventually get the full, grand scope of the story: the initial outbreak, safe zones, refugees, ecological problems, the loss of and eventual rebuilding of hope and civilization.

World War Z is a completely original, wonderfully imaginative, and chillingly realistic novel. It’s a good read that has become a must read.

P.S. If you can find the unabridged audiobook (it was originally released with only an abridged one), it’s very good and has a great cast.
Profile Image for Fabian.
956 reviews1,623 followers
October 22, 2020
Having just read the most literary of all zombie novels makes one thing quite clear: haute lit & this particular horror genre simply don't mix. But that doesn't make the effort any less outstanding, unique, or outrageous. "WWZ" takes a scatterplot approach to begin to tell what's happened to the world after the zombie apocalypse has transpired. All accounts are so definitive, so individual as to seem 100% authentic. We get accounts all the way from the very heights of the social echelons (Veep, Army generals...) to the rantings of average civilians (like a woman with a 5 year-old's sensibility, for instance).

There is a type of reader out there for this type of narrative. They will adore the militaristic accounts-- though, admittedly, not my cup of tea. But the additions to zombie lore are awesome! From quislings (i.e. live zombie impersonators) to zombie-detecting dogs.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,983 followers
September 9, 2016
I read this book a few years ago - the Zombie Survival Guide was super-hyped so I wanted to check this followup out as soon as it came out. I love the documentary format. Brooks did so well in telling it in such a way that it really did feel like non-fiction.

One of my favorite parts of the zombie genre is not necessarily the horror and gore, but how the survivors deal with the threat and rebuilding. The before, during, and after stories in this book are raw and real. Because of this, this zombie tale will likely appeal to more than just horror fans.

Concerning the movie: I enjoyed the movie, but it is barely like the book. They are each enjoyable in their own right.

Max Brooks: Probably the most entertaining fact about this book is that it is written by Mel Brooks' son (but don't expect any comedy!)
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,963 followers
October 13, 2020
*Updated after rereading. 10/12/20*

This still holds up remarkably well even if I'm not the zombie enthusiast I used to be. I did the Audible version this time and the all-star cast does a fantastic job. The weird thing is that the jumping off point for the American political aspect had that 2006 W. Bush era mindset which seemed kind of dark and cynical at the time, but now seems incredibly naïve and quaint these days. The stuff about how various governments around the world either react swiftly or fail completely in a time of crisis really hits home these days.

*Original review.*
While his previous book was a tongue-in-cheek zombie survival guide, Brooks turns deadly serious here. Written as a series of survivors' stories in a UN report following a world wide war with the undead, Brooks crafted a classic horror novel that reads like history. Inventive, scary and a must read for anyone who ever enjoyed a George Romero zombie movie.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,214 reviews9,881 followers
June 4, 2013

To everything there is a time - a time to reap and a time to plant, a time to listen to Schoenberg and a time to listen to Lez Zeppelin, the all-girl tribute band, a time to read Marcel Proust and a time to read about zombie apocalypses. That time, for me, passed some years ago. I shouldn't've picked up this novel but I was seduced by shedloads of great reviews on this very site.

Although my copy has a front-cover blurb by Simon Pegg, it's his very own great little zom-romcom Shaun of the Dead, plus George Romero's splendid zombie trilogy which Shaun beautifully parodies, plus other movies like 28 Days Later and I Am Legend, and a thousand other post-apocalypse novels and B-movies, and plus NOW the fab series THE WALKING DEAD which I only just discovered, wow, I love it - it's all of these things which cumulatively undermine the not inconsiderable energy and sociopolitical insight of Max Brooks' own version of The War Against the People You Really Hoped You'd Never See Again. Every scene in this book we've seen or read several times before, and alas, mostly by less truthful writers. This is really an excellent novel, but for younger readers who haven't already slogged, as I have, through a lifetime of pulp.

Brooks's imagination is tough and unflinching, but you have to concede that zombie apocalypses bring out the macho in pretty much everybody. This really is a war book, chock full of pumped-up acronym-heavy military jargon. World War Z is mainly fought with TESTOSTERONE!!!

This book wanted to be for zombies what THE WIRE is for Baltimore, and for that I give it a crisp military salute and a bag of red tops. I think my 15 year old self would have rated this one four fat ones but that guy didn't have the best taste really.


That said, myself and daughter Georgia will be lurching, shambling and jerking our bodies towards the cinema when the Brad Pitt zombuster film-of-the-book is released soon. Me and Georgia love that stuff. Gwan, destroy the world again... and again...
Profile Image for Brownbetty.
343 reviews164 followers
August 11, 2010
This book is like ordering ice-cream and receiving a punch in the mouth.

I've been wanting to read this book for a while, since it seemed right up my alley; I love a good apocafic, and zombies are always fun. I made it to page 69 before putting it down with great force--I would have thrown it, except it was a library book.

This book is, as advertised, about the global zombie apocalypse as told by the survivors. You don't stay with a narrative voice very long; each one speaks to the 'interviewer', telling their experience of the global plague, and then moves on. It's not worth becoming fond of any of them, and frankly, not very likely either; personalities only go about as far as classing a person as “stupid,” "naive", or “evil,” with the occasional “if only we'd listened to that farsighted man!”

The personality that comes through the strongest is the writer, not the in-story journalist who has supposedly compiled the stories, but in fact max brooks. I don't know the man, but from the 69 pages of his writing I already dislike him.

The overall tone I get from this book is 'smug.' I twitched in the introduction when the journalist describes his motivation writing the book; his boss who pays him rejects his first draft which contains the interviews which contain the “human factor”, dismissing them as “too intimate … too many feelings.” Obviously, this boss is a robot-hearted beaurocrat!

Or maybe the journalist is an idiot. He was told to write up a report containing “cold, hard data,” and “clear facts and figures,” and he handed in an oral history? What did he think was going to happen?

I could handle it if the framing device was “idiot-journalist is idiot,” but it's not just him. It quickly becomes apparent that the actual subtitle of this book is “How the people and institutions I despise will doom us all in the upcoming zombie apocalypse.” Nearly every account falls into “Oh, I was so foolish and innocent then!” or “I remain a selfish bastard, and refuse to feel guilty for my actions.” It's like a whole book of stories ending with “And then the entire bus gave me a standing ovation, and the bus driver told me I was his adopted brother.”

AUGH. Look, 69 pages produced that much aggravation. Imagine if I'd finished it.
Profile Image for TL .
1,876 reviews53 followers
April 27, 2020
2020 re-read:
Still a comfort read for me, despite everything going on right now. Reason why it took me so long this was I lost my job a couple days after I started this and wasn't in the right frame of mind for it, plus less driving so cutting down on commute.

I would like to see Netflix adapt this as a series, I think they'd do a good job.

*Make sure you go for the unabridged version of the audiobook of this, well worth it*

I even got mom to listen to a few parts with me when we had to go out and about. She would ask me questions after certain parts :).

Not alot to say really, just that this is still one of my favorite books <3

I remember seeing the movie of this and thinking "Youins screwed this up big time." I've heard the story of how this particular plot was decided on and rolled my eyes but I still gave it a chance. I was mostly bored during it.

IMHO, I hope the sequel doesn't ever get made if its gonna be anything like the first one. Worst book adaptation (for me) alongside the *coughPercyJacksoncough* films.

This was a balm after crazy busy or frustrating work nights (and there were QUITE a few)... few of these are still my top favorites and I still applaud the cast of voices. They make what could be dry retellings more compelling and fascinating.

Can't say much more than I've already said.. if you decide to go for this.. have fun:)

1st time June (paperback), second time (audiobook) October 2013.. Third read : near end of September to October 9th 2015

4th read: June 2017

For a list of the audiobook cast:

Not a bad way to kick off October hmm? I had planned to take my time with this but flee through it haha. The diverse cast of the audiobook adds to the enjoyment alot... half the fun for me was guessing who the sort of familiar voices belonged to (got a few right ).
A couple I was impressed by their accent change, Simon Pegg I didn't recognize at all the first time till I listened to the cast list at the end.. Good job Simon :)

There's not a plot persay really, its a bunch of survior accounts with a couple intersecting that follows the war from beginning to end.

Some of the parts were overlong and a bit dry/rambling but it didn't deter my enjoyment of the novel.

It's a book where you'll love it, or find it 'meh' probably... not a quick read but worth your time:)

I remember having fun tracking down the unabridged version of the audiobook at the time. I didn't know at first only an abridged one was out (those make no sense to me ).. I think I found mine either just after I saw the movie or before. Would highly recommend the full version!

Happy reading, I probably dig this out again in a couple years:)
(Excuse any spelling errors right now haha, on my phone)
Profile Image for Jason.
137 reviews2,345 followers
July 17, 2013

The first time I ever saw that chat acronym my brain immediately registered zombie. Is that weird? I mean, I figured out pretty quickly that the acronym is nothing more than a joke, a mere play on words (so to speak) made at the expense of lazy n00bs whose left fingers slip off the shift key in an attempt to type, “OMG!” But somehow that initial association has stuck with me, as even now when I see someone type it (and usually it’s Ceridwen, Queen of Internet Memes, doing it ironically), I think of the undead. Or when I’m walking alone at night and hear a scraping shuffle and a familiar guttural moan, and some cold, rotting fingers fall lazily onto my left shoulder, my immediate reaction is never anything short of an instinctually exclaimed, “ZOMG!”


So yeah, this rating is no accidental slip of the Apple trackpad; World War Z really is 4-star material. Instead of presenting a been-there-done-that narrative wherein a group of protagonists fall prey to a zombie epidemic, whose lives change with shifting priorities, whose outlook becomes fundamentally survivalist, and who ultimately learn to cope with their situation and depend on themselves and each other to combat the swarms of undead infesting their world, Max Brooks takes a different tack. Here, we get Bolaño-style interviews with key political and military figures from across the globe who are involved in the conflict, along with individual accounts of those who have survived the epidemic. It is a cross-sectional human-interest look at what occurred at the onset of the epidemic, who failed to heed the warning signs and why, who was responsible for its spread and how, and what the world did—both on a grand scale as well as in Joe the Plumber’s backyard—to tackle it.

And tackle it they do. Essentially a “current events” book, this is not meant to project the possibilities of a distant future. It is the here and now of a planetary disaster with painstaking attention paid to the details of not only the epidemic’s spread, but also to the practical logistics encountered on the path to its defeat. The stories are short, but effective. And like Bolaño’s interviews, there is a uniformity in their voice (even with interviewees hailing from different countries), which could be seen as a failure on Brooks’s part, but it nonetheless worked for me. Brooks has a lot to say in this novel, from opinions on American foreign policy to a belief in the indefatigable spirit of humanity, and—ZOMG!—he says it well.
Profile Image for Amanda.
282 reviews313 followers
January 27, 2013
I have biblio-cooties.

There. I said it and I accept it. Because the majority of my friends really, really loved this book. And I fear they will reject me now that they know that it did little to nothing for me. I shall have to sit alone in the library, other readers keeping a wide berth for fear of contagion, but I cannot tell a lie and I stand by my pronouncement: Hi, my name is Amanda and I did not enjoy World War Z.

In the past, I have ripped into books I disliked with a gleeful, almost maniacal abandon, and so there are some who may suspect that I will do so here. But this is an entirely different case, for World War Z's fault is not that it's a bad book. It's well-written, it's got an intriguing conceit (the tale of the zombie apocalypse told in journalistic hindsight from the perspective of those who survived), and some imaginative scenarios (sure, we've all thought about zombies on land, but what about zombies underwater?).

In fact there's no fault at all here other than the fact that, as far as undead ghouls go, I'm Team Vampire. I've never really found anything that frightening about zombies, other than a certain "Eww" factor that compels me to think about how I need to stock up on hand sanitizer and wet wipes in a zombiefied world because they're leaving nasty bits and pieces everywhere. To me, there is nothing more frightening than intellect coupled with either undeniable evil or with moral apathy. Since zombies are basically husks driven by a biological imperative instead of conscious thought, they're not my monster of choice. The only zombie flicks I've enjoyed have been Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland. Humor + zombies = a win. Horror + zombies = not so much.

So I knew going in that this was likely a swing and a miss, but it had received such rave reviews that I couldn't resist. I thought the journalistic style might appeal to me, but few of the voices were clearly differentiated enough for me to connect with any one character. There were 3 or 4 stories that really engaged me, but not enough to enjoy the overall experience. What was really frightening, however, is that Brooks does an excellent job of showing how ill-equipped we are globally to deal with any type of rapidly-spreading contagion. He also captures the fear and panic that comes out of facing an unknown. Particularly in first world countries, we are so complacent with "knowing all the answers" and controlling everything that the mental toll of facing a problem we can not solve would be just as damaging as the physical threat. Brooks does an excellent job of realistically portraying this.

So, I'll say it again: not a bad book. Just not for me. Now I'll go sit in my corner and wait for someone else to catch biblio-cooties. It shouldn't be long. I just have to wait for someone to write a 1 star review of an Orson Scott Card or Janet Evanovich book and my transgressions will be forgotten.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
Profile Image for Stacia (the 2010 club).
1,045 reviews3,981 followers
June 26, 2013
Doing something in reverse bit me in the butt this time. I started the book but didn't get very far in before seeing the movie.

What I thought the movie was going to be :

What I actually got :

Damn, those zombies were fast.

Yes, I am only doing all of this to amuse myself, for the rest of you probably see my self-perceived cleverness as silly. But World War Z the book was a series of interviews, so of course my mind goes right to Brad Pitt's other role having to do with interviews...what was I to do???

Anyway, let's get back to the point. If you are expecting the book and movie to match up, you'll be completely frustrated.

WWZ the movie : action packed, time on the run, most of it told in one person's PoV.

WWZ the book : the complete opposite of that. No joke.

Anyhoooo (help me, I'm turning into my mother), after I got back from the movie (which was quite entertaining, btw) and picked up the book again, I was all WHAT THE EFF? Is this the same thing?

So I put it down for a couple of days. You know, to clear my head and all that.

Then I picked it up again. And read it for real. And it wasn't bad.

I really wish I'd read it first now because the warped not-alike movie was more entertaining, and it hampered my ability to get into the book the same way that I might have before. But what can you do?

Oh yeah. Right. Don't watch the movie first. That's what you can do.

Or do watch the movie first, if you have no desire to read a book in which much of it is about the retelling of events, interview style. If you'd rather just start out your time with people on the run from zombies, I'd gather that the movie is a safer bet.

Was this supposed to be a book review? Because I don't think I said much about the book, did I? I thought the book was okay but can't really say why. It was all over the place. The jumping around between viewpoints isn't my favorite style of story-telling, especially when you can't get a feel for who is telling the story/giving the recollection.

I felt sort of detached because of the writing style. I'm sure that it works for a lot of people, but it didn't completely work for me. This was good enough that I was able to get through it, but there's nothing compelling enough to make me want to re-read it or even recommend it.

Movie Grade : B (even with failing to stick to the book)
Book Grade : C (even though it was more unique than the movie)

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