(review originally posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com/14039.html)
I've heard a lot about this book. The general consensus is that this novel is essential zombie fiction, and that it's really, really good. I'm also very familiar with Brook's other book, The Zombie Survival Guide, which is also very successful. Despite all this, I tried to keep my expectations low to avoid disappointment. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about.
The structure of the novel is not what I expected it to be: it's a bunch of stories, all fairly short, and almost all told by different people and their experiences with the zombies. We follow one character (who remains nameless), who interviews all these people. We never get to know the interviewer though; he's there solely to be a medium between us and his interviewees.
This structure made the novel read like a documentary. It was kind of scary how... realistic this book felt while still talking about something as unreal as zombies. A lot of what transgresses in this story are things that seem like they could very well happen if were to ever have a zombie apocalypse. I was a little (pleasantly) surprised at the grittiness and rawness of it all actually. Brook's Zombie Survival Guide is in the humor section of most book stores, so I was semi-expecting this book to be more in that vein, but it's really not. It's frikken dark, and mostly depressing (though it's not ALL depressing. There is a lot of hope and feel-good-ish moments to be found here.)
The stories and the characters are all extremely varied, from just normal civilians trying to survive, to CIA agents and other higher ups, to people of the military, and many more. This variety presented all kinds of different angles to the war, which only added to the realism that permeated it. I was really glad that we didn't just read about people from the USA, or just North America even. We get to read different account from people all over the world.
This structure really worked for me. It was nice to read about people's experiences from the war after the fact, instead of reading about people trying to survive. That's something that's been done to death. It was also nice getting all the different stories, instead of just following one group of people trying to survive, which has also been done to death.
Brooks also managed to keep all the many voices in his novel fairly distinct from one another. I mean, I obviously don't remember every story, or every interviewee, but they all felt like different people. This, of course, was very appreciated.
The only problem I had with the novel lies with me. While all the stories are told by completely different people, you do have to pay attention to certain terms, events, and remember the names of some important people, because other stories make references to them (which makes perfect sense of course.) I read this while traveling on a bus at night, and as such, probably wasn't paying as much attention as I should've been, so when these terms and names came up in later stories, I wasn't exactly *confused*, because I knew I HAD read them, I just couldn't remember their significance. Again, my fault, but something to keep in mind when reading.
Final Verdict: This is a solid book. The structure of having a bunch of different stories told from all kinds of people in the aftermath of the zombie war really worked for me, as it presented all kinds of different angles and views of it, and showed all kinds of roles people played within the war. The many voices of all these characters managed to stay distinct, and each story felt like it was covering something different; I never felt like I was retreading the same path. The stories themselves had their ups and downs of course, but the overall quality was consistently good. The style of the novel gave it a distinct "documentary" feel, which I found refreshing after watching/reading/knowing about so much zombie stories about watching a group of people survive the onslaught. I think this is a must-read for any fans of zombie fiction, and for those who aren't, or who are newbies to the genre (like myself), this is a great place to start.