Sunday, October 28, 2007

I hunger

I have absolutely no idea why I didn't have this book on my radar sooner.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, delivers exactly what you'd expect.

"You got your post-apocalyptic survival tale in my zombie horror! No, you got your zombie uprising in my alternate-history war memoir!" I picked this up on a lark at Maple Street Books, and almost missed it. Cat wanted a new crosswords book, and I was just noodling around. On our way out, World War Z leapt off the shelf at me, demanding to be read. I pretty much read the whole book in one sitting, stopping to eat. No, not brains.

This is a strong buy reco, especially if you like zombies, war, alternate history, speculative fiction, or any kind of post-apocalyptic tale- and it's all presented seriously. What would happen if we found ourselves in the middle of a real zombie plague? I found the tale very compelling- as an "oral history," the narrator is collecting tales from people across the world, assembling the whole narrative in chronological order.

Evidently, the (sadly abridged) audio version has a whole host of character actors reading the different parts, adding to the verisimilitude. I might check it out from the library, or obtain it on the 'tubes.

I haven't picked up a book in too long. Partially this is my fault. I mean hey, they have these things called libraries, you know? But when you've got your entire library in boxes in the attic, you don't really have the opportunity to stroll past the shelves and let something catch your eye. I've spent a good amount of time jsut thinking about reading a particular scene in a particular book.

I need to read this one again.

1 comment:

Randy Shipp said...

Having been assigned two great collections of oral history last semester (The Good War by Studs Terkel and Patriots by Christian Appy), I found that the verisimilitude of World War Z was a bit lacking. It wasn't the author's fault, exactly. I mean, it was a weakness of the form. In a real collection of oral history, say Appy's Patriots, there's no need to spell out every bit of the historical events that form the context for the speakers' stories; we all know (or should), for instance, that there was a Vietnam War and that it didn't go as well as many Americans might've hoped. In World War Z, I thought there were a number of instances where, since the reader has NO memory of the Zombie Wars (see? something we can all be thankful for!), there's a certain artificiality to the stories, as they spell out in an expository way things that just wouldn't have appeared in a real oral history.

Additionally, it bugged me that there were so many references to "the last brushfire war" or to "the certain doctor from the Northeast who had a promising presidential bid cut short by a certain embarrassing display of emotion." Come on. We know what you're talking about. It feels forced to obfuscate all this stuff. Either leave it in the story, or admit it's not necessary and change the "backstory" to avoid having to make such literary backflips.

So, I hated it, right? Nope. I thought it was very, very cool, and I can't wait for the movie. I just thought that the choice of form, while critical to the coolness of the book, presented the author with some challenges that I think he was only partially successful at overcoming.

Randy...

P.S.-- A friend recently turned me on to Shelfari.com. Have you heard of it?