Instead of the usual read-then-watch sequence when it comes to film adaptations, I first saw the movie before the book. What motivated me to read the book is the wish to relive that tide-changing part when Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) gambled on his hypothesis that the virus acts as a parasite – something that only thrives on a healthy host – in thorough detail that only a novel depiction would satisfy.
But I was wrong. The book and the film turned out to be entirely two different stories. It just so happened that the film took for reference some of the details in the book that’s why it’s based from the book and not an adaptation. Clear?
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War Author: Max Brooks Genre: Horror, Post-Apocalypse, Fiction Year Published: 2006 Publisher: Crown
Basically, Brooks’ novel is a collection of interview vignettes of different people who survived the zombie apocalypse. Unlike the film which holds the point-of-view of Gerry Lane, each interview account in the book is told in a gripping first-person that’ll make you forget you’re reading a fictitious story.
His ideas and depiction of characters are too realistic that you’ll impose yourself in the situation and empathize. Imagine people mercy-killing their children and leaders having to give false hopes to keep everyone’s soul in one piece. It is a portrayal of war culture in the guise of a zombie story.
One of my favorite parts in the book is the interview that tackles the Re-education Act. In this system, the more educated you are, the higher money you make, the more helpers you can hire so you could focus on making more money — the more useless you are. Because during the apocalypse, no one needs an educated deskbound mouse who’s used to paying someone else to do dirty jobs. What the world needs are physical laborers — someone who could fix structures that houses survivors, someone who’s used to carrying weight worth a dozen dead, someone who could keep chimneys clean and keep survivors from freezing. Here, the maid you used to yell at is suddenly your boss and you’re being taught to efficiently wash dirtied wraps and outfits so soldiers wouldn’t die of bacterial infection.
Actually, I find myself so gripped with these details. It could be scarier than the living dead to find all those years you toiled to get a comfortable life get thrown away by an unexplained force of nature – as if a tsunami has engulfed your dreams, your path, and your means.
But I also like how Brooks inserted a positive spin on how some people started to find a deeper fulfillment in their new responsibilities. Like with a previous white collar worker who became a chimney cleaner; instead of describing his job as something uncomfortable, he answered with a welcoming “I make people warm.” There began a series of strong self-accreditation in the community because people started to see their concrete contribution. It’s heart-warming to read these parts.
Also, there are a lot of other interesting things in the book like the Redeker Plan, the improvised lobotomizer, the Quislings, the awesome patrol dogs, the successful Battle of the Five Colleges, and the brilliant military tactics & formation all not found on the film. (See the other cuts from the book here.)
*I have to note that the zombies in the book are not blessed with mutant-like speed and it could take days for the infected to turn here.
The thing that bugged me when I was reading the book was THERE’S NO ANTI-VACCINE OF ANY SORT that makes zombies ignore you! (Imagine my face on the last page!) But that is also the beauty of the book; that it didn’t choose to resolve things for good. It remains hopeful yet endlessly alerting.
Though the film bore little to no semblance to the book, I still think it is equally great. If you want thorough revealing of human nature and life ironies with painfully researched details, read the book. But if you’d rather jump into a fast-paced action with catching emotional drama without information overload, watch the film version by Marc Forster.
But the best choice is to do both. 😉