After a long hiatus of vacation, it is time to talk about zombies. I have never really liked zombies for monster stories, there are so many issues, like the fact that something that spreads via biting is perhaps the worst way for a disease to spread. From an author’s point of view, you cant just infect large amounts of people by having unknowingly infected walking through an airport… very convenient for flu pandemic stories, but Zombies… Also there is the problem that as corpses they should decay into static threats very quickly in summer heat. I always say that the way to survive the Zombie apocalypse is to lock the door and let the sun do the work. if everyone did that, there would be no zombie hordes to knock the doors down.

But upon reading this post from Michael Totten (Not even zombies can save the middle east) He is talking about the international griping that Israeli’s are portrayed positively in the movie World War Z, and this line stuck out “Most of the kvetchers are tired and predictable, are they’re over-reacting. World War Z is a popcorn movie. It doesn’t even pretend to be a serious geopolitical film. The novel is complex and brilliant.” that coupled with this piece of information: ‘In the film version, Israel is one of only two countries that survives the initial zombie outbreak. The other is North Korea. Pyongyang pulls out the teeth of the entire population in 24 hours, making it impossible for the virus to spread. But Israel is not a totalitarian police state. The Israelis survive the initial wave intact because they have a clever intelligence tool at their disposal that no other country in the world possesses.’ made me want to read the book. The horribly accurate portrayal of what a totalitarian regime like N. Korea might do in a zombie outbreak made me curious. And the Kindle edition was only ten dollars.

Well, I must say that the book is complex and brilliant. What I found most impressive was the strong feeling of reality, that countries were behaving in a manner consistent with both the individual cultures of the countries and with the commonality of human nature. (What follows might be construed to be mild spoilers… but its a zombie apocalypse story, of you can’t predict 80% of what will happen, you need to pay more attention to what you read. Also, despite the general framework of the zombie apocalypse story being generally as expected, the story is unique, another discussion for another time.)

The outbreak starts in China. Why China, well because this solves the problem of spreading the zombie disease. Also, because it works really well. If the outbreaks had started in Topeka, Kansas, it would have died in Topeka, Kansas. everyone for hundreds of miles is armed, and everyone would know what to shoot on sight like everyone used to know about rabid dogs in short order. However, China is all about fact suppression and secrecy, the government’s power depends on it, an lo, the author uses the truth about the world to further the story. the story is fragmented, but essentially, China had an all out epidemic without anyone really knowing. China even starts a small shooting war to give reasons for its zombie suppression teams reasons for their movements. Also, in the real world, the source of most black market organ for illegal transplants is China… any guesses to a disease spreading mechanism? Also, for a long time in the story, China is undergoing the epidemic and its neighbors are absorbing refugees not knowing anything… So at least some of the zombie spread is reasonable.

Another interesting incident in the story is the result of about 5 million Americans fleeing to Cuba, the infection of freedom that they bring. There is a line that says:

‘Freedom isn’t something you have for the sake of having, you have to want something else first and then want the freedom to fight for it. That was the lesson we learned from the Nortecubanos (the Americans who fled to Cuba). They all had such grand dreams, and they’d lay down their lives for the freedom to make those dreams come true.’

Anyway, the story is also exciting and interesting. It is rather episodic being a ‘compilation’ of ‘interviews’ rather than a linear plot, however the interviews make up a well formed plot, with humankind as the protagonists and zombies and selfishness and chaos as the antagonists. If you enjoy apocalyptic type stories, I think this one plays on the same field as  Alas Babylon and The Postman. I guess I will have to give the movie a try too, and see if it is a decent popcorn film…


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