World War Z – Max Brooks

My mates know my weakness for disaster movies and a couple of weeks ago a good friend asked me if I had seen World War Z. I hadn’t, so I remedied that the following weekend and very much enjoyed it. Another very well read friend told me to check out the book that the movie is based on as she thought it was miles better. She wasn’t wrong. I raced through the book in a night and have since recommended to lots of people.

World War Z takes the form of an oral account of a plague that infects the world’s population and turns the infected into zombies. The book is compiled by a fictitious United Nations agent who interviews survivors of the Zombie War, from government officials, scientists and military personnel to members of the general population.

Zombies are not a subject that generally attracts me to a book or film as it conjures up ideas of schlocky horror movies and bad genre fiction. But the zombies are the only unbelievable element in this book. Everything else is utterly plausible, from the way the governments ineffectually try to control the initial outbreak, to the mass panic that ensues once the zombies have invaded every continent, and the frantic efforts to find a cure.

The film differs from the book in that it focusses on one main character, played by Brad Pitt, and therefore shrinks the scope of the book and makes it more personal. I think the film suffered as a result and I would love to have seen it produced as a faux-documentary to reflect the style of the book. As Brooks has said in interviews, the movie relates to the book in name only. Once a writer signs over the film rights that is where their input ends and the production company will hire a screenwriter with a pedigree to adapt the book. Fans of the book were disappointed as several key scenes were left out of the movie, but that’s often the risk with seeing a film adaptation of a novel you loved.

Here’s a reddit interview with Brooks from a few years ago, where he discusses his work and the movie. (And if he reminds you of anyone, it should help to know that his parents are famed actors Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft.)

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