Horror: Zombie Politics (World War Z)

Zombie Politics

(WARNING: THIS POST IS FOR A CLASS ON HORROR FICTION. IT WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS ABOUT THE NOVEL WORLD WAR Z.)

Let me just say to start off that I found World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War to be utterly unbelievable for one main reason: who doesn’t know that zombies have to be shot in the head? Seriously. How is it that so many people in this story were relying on body shots for so long when trying to take out the undead?  🙂

That said, I liked this interesting take on the zombie plague. First, Brooks gave us a series of survivor interviews, catalogued as if they were part a true collection of stories. First-hand accounts of terrible events have always been the most horrific for me, much more than simple narrations. Brooks took the zombie outbreak story and made it feel real.

Also, this book focuses not just on the awful experience of facing hordes from beyond the grave. In addition to what we’d expect in a typical zombie novel, World War Z shows us how the world would be forever changed by an undead pandemic. In many ways, it is a political novel.

It was fascinating to think of the different governments and cultures and how they might react to a global infestation. In our science fiction readings course, we took a look at Red Mars, which took a similar approach. In that novel, instead of simply exploring a brand new planet, characters came to terms with political differences and problems that shaped and hindered their progress. World War Z does the same thing.

Probably because the author meant to mirror true world war stories, the plot seemed quite real. Every country had its own reaction to the outbreak. The ethics and intelligence of each reaction were debatable in different ways. Some governments were quick and cruel. Some were foolish. Some seemed as though they were either egotistical or in denial, or both.

This made sense to me. As individual nations we have some shared ideas about what is right and what is wrong, but as a world we have conflicting cultures in many ways. The difficulty we face in trying to come together as a planet to fight zombie hordes is much greater than we might imagine at first. Brooks took what we’ve seen in real international communications and conflicts, and he applied them to something that could threaten the future of the human race. Fantastic.

World War Z is not a standard zombie novel for several reasons. It’s told as a survival account, which makes it significantly more real and frightening (at least to me). It introduces the politics of a zombie plague, showing readers how the world and its governments will be forever changed by a widespread zombie infection. These two elements are not traditional qualities of zombie novels, but they worked for World War Z. In fact, I found myself wondering why more zombie stories haven’t taken a less traditional approach to turn what has become nearly silly and give it fresh life – pun intended.

But, seriously. Shoot zombies in the head. That’s just common sense.

 

WORKS CITED

Brooks Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. New York: Crown Publishers, 2006.

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2 responses to “Horror: Zombie Politics (World War Z)

  1. I’ve discovered that lots of folks don’t know the basics of how to survive in a horror situation. I get lots of people who say “I don’t read horror” or “I can’t watch horror movies” that, were a zombie apocalypse to come, would be toast inside of an hour. So the whole “aim for the head” thing, not as big a universal truth as we’d like to think. Of course, that’s where I would aim if being attacked by a live person anyway, so it’s kind of a moot point where I’m concerned.

  2. I agree. I don’t read horror or watch much horror, but even I know you’ve got to destroy the brain. I mean…zombie pretty much means the body is already dead, right?

    But mostly I found this book to be an amazing character study in which the zombies were a backdrop to all kinds of fascinating political, social, moral and medical/technological observations. So far above not just most horror I’ve read but most of any genre as to be in a class by itself.

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