World War Z: Screw The Movie Edition

Wow, great trailer right! Now that I got your attention, kindly get this upcoming movie starring Brad Pitt out of your mind. I want to talk about the novel here. You know, pages, words and stuff.

Just another case on injustice done by Hollywood as per I Am Legend, which I have reviewed before here. My beef is this, two of the GREATEST vampire / zombie horror novels ever written by man, turned into star-driven dull-a-thons which totally destroys essence of the movie. I’m referring to I am Legend by the way, as for World War Z, we’ll know how the movies turn out this summer, though I’m pretty certain I’ll be on the right track.

The NOVEL, World War Z, is absolutely nothing like the trailer. The entire setting is wrong, the entire description of the zombies is wrong, the entire approach to the conclusion of the zombie outbreak is wrong. And that’s just from the trailer, what right do I have to prejudge the movie? Well, let’s just say anyone who has read the novel will know what I’m talking about.

Update: For those more interested in a debate between the book and screen versions of WWZ. Kindly refer to this article on Screenrant.com – World War Z Movie Debate: Too Different From The Book.

 

World War Z

World War Z: The Novel – in a nutshell

Firstly, think Wikipedia. Now think of a Wikipedia about Zombies. Great, Now think of a Wikipedia about a Zombie Invasion that forces humans to learn from their mistakes, adapt to their environment and very methodically, fight back.

What do you know, that already exists – The Zombie Wiki

Now this wiki isn’t exactly the wording in the book, but honestly, it comes pretty darn close in terms of presentation. The novel is essential a fake-mockumentary about how humans handled a zombie outbreak, minus the dramatisation, and minus the character point of views (except one particular storyline about a survivor from Japan).

Horror – Slowly, Surely, Methodically

World War Z is a horror novel. There is no doubt about that, but it’s not about senseless scares or shadows in the night. There are no suddenlys, plot twists or miraculous escapes here. It’s horror comes from the way the writer chooses to feed the information and plot to you – slowly, and bit by bit, letting you savour each zombie lumbering towards you and each human very slowly chewed up.

By the time you finish reading half the novel, you probably learnt more about zombies then all the rest of the Resident Evil movies put together, such is the difference in approach.

The Telling In This Story Works

They say telling a story doesn’t work. You have to express it, emote it instead of simply telling it. Not for Max Brooks. Taking the style of adventure guides and documentaries, he takes the present fiction as fact approach and puts his storytelling high up, away from the action and in a “this is how things went down” manner.

Some of the most incredible scenes in the book are retellings of epic battles that changed the course of mankind. These include the Battle Of Yonkers and the Battle Of Hope, basically the two big pillars in the book that swung the war in favour of whoever won them. He methodical describes the build up to the battle scene by scene, and then proceeds to dissect the action post-mortem, again scene by scene. You literally feel utterly hopeless and depressed by the end of the battle of Yonkers, and liberated and cheering by the end of Hope. And not once did he use emotive writing to create this whirlwind of feelings.

An Excerpt Of The Writing

ADS, that was my enemy: Asymptomatic Demise Syndrome, or, Apocalyptic Despair Syndrome, depending on who you were talking to. Whatever the label, it killed as many people in those early stalemate months as hunger, disease, interhuman violence, or the living dead. No one understood what was happening at first. We’d stabilized the Rockies, we’d sanitized the safe zones, and still we were losing upwards of a hundred or so people a day. It wasn’t suicide, we had plenty of those. No, this was different.

Stripping Storytelling To Its Essence

I don’t think this happened by chance. Max Brooks is able to accomplish this because of the risk he took in planning out the novel. He strips away almost EVERYTHING you ever cared for in a story – characters, emotions, choice, opinions – and presents just the story and nothing else.

P.S: He did leave some bits in, particularly in telling the story of individual survivors.

If you ever read a history book about World War 2, and remember how you felt as you went along with the rise and fall of the Allies, that would be basically what he managed to accomplish in a fictional novel.

For Writers

Even if you’re not a big fan of zombie or war novels. You really should give this book a chance, if only to learn his technical prowess in telling the story – the method to his madness. Not only is the story itself very popular, but the individual scenes themselves became major references and talking points. Don’t believe me? Google them.

For Everyone Else

Please, please, please, for the love of God and all humanity, don’t just wait for the movie and ignore the book. This is a fabulous piece of fiction that brings the “B” grade zombie genre up to the level of Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker in terms of monster fiction. Fifty years from now, when people talk about THE zombie author, it will be Max Brooks, while the movie will wither away with sub-50% tomato ratings.

If I can convince 1% of the people who will spend $10-$15 to buy the book instead of watching the movie. This book will probably shoot back up the bestseller’s list. Book! Book! Book!

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5 thoughts on “World War Z: Screw The Movie Edition

  1. Your totally justified feelings on WWZ echo my own for Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. It seems like the Hollywoodization of great books includes a clause that states it MUST fall far shorter than the reading experience to every viewer.

    Haven’t read WWZ, but its on my short list. The last novel I really sat down to read was called The Last Werewolf. I want to say its the start of a series, but it may have been a middle installment. Regardless, it held its own as a standalone story, and is a decent, recent addition to the modern horror genre.

    • Strangely, that seems to happen only for movies. If you look at the book to TV conversions, all of them tend to do so much better. Even when they play around with the source material like Walking Dead.

  2. If I hadn’t read this post, I wouldn’t even know that WWZ was about zombies! (I had rather assumed the “they” referenced in the trailer referred to aliens!)

    • Yea, you probably based your impressions on the trailer right? Whoever did the monster design for the zombies in the upcoming movie version needs to get his head checked.

      P.S: One reason they might have called them they is probably because in the novel, they were initially thought to be suffering from a form of new strain of rabies, and not the walking dead.

      It’s only in hindsight, which is the PoV of the book, or later in the war (in the novel, the outbreak lasted ten years) when they started being referred to as Zombies.

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