Zombies. These nightmarish ghouls popularized in the 1968 movie “Night of the Living Dead” have spawned a whole genre in cinema and literature that was taken to a new level in Max Brook’s book “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.”
“World War Z” is not a new book. In fact, it was published in 2006 but it has remained a popular book to fans of the zombie genre. Brooks wrote a unique multi-voice narrative set in the aftermath of a world-wide zombie outbreak.
“World War Z” is written as the notes of a United Nations investigator who is writing a post-war report on “The Crisis” that nearly annihilated humanity from Earth. These notes, as explained in the introduction to the book, are not meant to be a judgement or commentary by the investigator but rather a re-telling of what happened according to eyewitnesses during the 12-year war.
Brooks manages to create a narrative of a fictional event and tell it through the eyes of different people, with different backgrounds, who have different interpretations and perspectives of how “The Crisis” came about.
The book begins with a visit to China, the general region where it is believed that the outbreak began, then moves to Russia, Israel, Europe, Japan, Europe and then eventually North and South America. Through the different narratives, it becomes apparent that there is now a distrust of government because many have tried to hide their failures to contain the spread of the outbreak.
The world economy has been destroyed and former global superpowers have been reduced to the level of other developing nations. Actors, athletes and other celebrities that survived in the United States are forced to learn trades like housekeeping and metal work in order to be useful in a new society where luxury was an idea from a world that has come and gone.
Advanced military technology, such as lasers and non-lethal combat tactics, were proven useless and soldiers worldwide are now equipped with modernized swords and axes. What was once a world of technology has been replaced by a worldwide agricultural based society where farming is considered the most advanced skill that anyone can possess.
“World War Z” is a far cry from Christian literature because of the subject matter, language content and overall tone. However, what sets this book apart from the rest of the zombie genre is the slightly optimistic ending and some of the critiques that can be drawn from reading this book.
Different cultures value different things. Whether it is nationalism, religion, technology or power, these ideals were put to the test in this book.
In one chapter, Palestinian refugees were looking for a place for refuge. Israel was the first country to effectively quarantine their borders and were offering refuge to neighboring nations. One of the narratives details a Palestinian initially blaming the outbreak on Israel, then eventually realizing that some problems go beyond race and religion when Israeli forces successfully save his family and provide them a safe home for the duration of “The Crisis.”
As Christians, it is important to know and understand differences in people from various parts of the world. The American army could not beat the zombies until they fought on their level. Advanced technology was useless, but slow, methodical repetition is what eventually beat back the zombie threat. In the same way, “westernized” Christians cannot expect western Christianity to be the norm at a global scale. Christians should strive to know and understand people and meet them where they need to be met.
To put things in perspective, zombies are real. People walk around not knowing they are spiritually dead.