World War Z

So it’s probably bad form to comment on a book that you haven’t finished reading yet but I CANNOT resist writing about Max Brooks’ novel World War Z. Let’s set aside for a second the fact that the zombie genre is endlessly fascinating to me and most humans. Personally, as an organic chemist and dedicated list maker, I love considering just the logistics of apocalyptic scenarios, and that everyone is forced to use any and all skills they’ve gathered (graduate school has given me a high tolerance for despair and that could be key to my survival).

Zombie box for blog

Our lab’s immediate reaction upon learning that the new packing peanuts were edible. (Photo credit: Andrew Perkowski)

The novel is ingeniously structured as a collection of interviews from survivors of a 10 year zombie epidemic, with minimal input from the interviewer. I was skeptical at first, pointing out to a friend that I couldn’t possibly get into a book with no recurrent characters with whom to attach emotionally. Upon actually starting the book, I found the format extremely clever and instructive because it allowed the author to explore every interesting detail, dilemma and angle in a very streamlined fashion. Setting up a narrative that follows a single group of people limits the realm of possibility for what they themselves could be exposed to, and forces third person observations of any other intriguing situations.

Fighting against an enemy that needs no food, rest, or supplies with unflagging (nonexistent) morale, and whose numbers literally grow stronger as your own become depleted is no small feat. So far the stories lean towards acts of human triumph and kindness, which is more than fine by me. Leave unpleasantness to the local news, science fiction is at its best, in my opinion, when it challenges us to imagine what mankind can achieve in the face of overwhelming hopelessness.