World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

full cast recording

It can’t have escaped your notice that there are an awful lot of zombies about at the moment. Just look around you.

No, seriously, Zs do seem to be the flavour de nos jours: on television, in comics, movies, books, politics.

World War Z is the follow-up to Max Brooks’ outstanding book, The Zombie Survival Guide. Previously available as an abridged audiobook, here for the first time is the complete text, brilliantly and compellingly performed by a full and stellar cast (Chris Ragland, Rupert Farley, Nigel Pilkington, Jennifer Woodward, David Thorpe, Adam Simms, Robert Slade, Kris Dyer, Steve Hodson, Avita Jay, Eric Meyers, Davis Brooks, Beth Chalmers, Jeff Harding, John Chancer, David Monteath, and Paul Herzberg). The shortened version simply didn’t do the book justice: you just have to listen to the whole chilling saga from start to finish. And it is an exhausting and cathartic journey.

A feature film based on the book and starring Brad Pitt is set for release in 2013. But the audiobook is the real deal and the film won’t match the dramatic force of the narrative, which Brooks has said was inspired by the Pulitzer Prize-winning oral history of the Second World War, The Good War, by Studs Terkel.

Although the true origins of the zombie pandemic can only be speculated upon (germ warfare gone wrong is always a good bet), the account starts off in China after a young boy receives some kind of bite and starts to show very unusual symptoms. He is the pandemic’s ‘patient zero’. The Chinese government attempts to contain the infection and engineer a crisis involving Taiwan to conceal what is really going on. The infection spreads around the world through the black market in human transplant organs. An outbreak of what is termed ‘South African rabies’ finally alerts the world to the new deadly plague. The rest, as they say, is history – The Oral History of the Zombie War.

Essentially, World War Z is a glorious satire in the style of Swift or Orwell – commenting on the lack of coherent international dialogue, on political ineptitude and on US isolationism. Throughout, scepticism and incredulity are nervously edged out by the gnawing question – could something like this really happen?

World War Z deserves its prizes and its plaudits. The film will doubtless bring more to read the book. But it is the audiobook, giving the personal accounts real voices, that makes this such an outstanding tour de force.

Without a doubt, this will become an audiobook classic.

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