Zombie movies break the conventions of other types of horror movies. While most horror movies rely on our fear of the dark and fear of being alone, zombie movies try to scare us in our own comfort zone. They occur in broad daylight and in city centers, shopping malls, hospitals, all the places we normally feel safe. One technique zombie movies almost always employ is the TV newscast. By using the credibility of the news, this again enforces the existence of the unbelievable into the everyday world. In World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks employs all the classic zombie movie techniques to take the supernatural and incorporate it into the natural world.
Brooks takes many of the fears we face in today's world as well as the strategies that our leaders have developed to prepare for them and transfers them to the zombie menace. Instead of being shocked by the thought of zombies, the populace just shrugs them off as another over-hyped media scare tactic, like SARS or the Bird Flu. Once the zombies begin to sweep across the earth, the world's governments all begin to fall back on cold war era nuclear strategy, namely securing areas that are defensible and sacrificing the civilian population for the sake of long term human survival.
Military strategy has always focused not on wiping out the enemy, but breaking his will. Break an army's will and victory will soon follow. However, a zombie army has no spirit to break. Every casualty on the human side is another recruit for the zombie army. The zombie army never sleeps, never eats, never goes insane at the horrors of the battle around them. The world becomes a hopeless place where day to day survival is all that matters against an enemy that never weakens. Survivors with advanced degrees and corporate titles, struggle to adjust to a world where only the gunsmith and farmer matter.
But in the darkest moments, humans always find hope. Whether it is a documentary film maker, capturing images of even the smallest human victory over the zombies and traveling from town to town to play it in front of weeping audiences, or the beaming of radio signals around the world with messages of hope and skills for survival; the humans begin to see a chance at not just surviving, but regaining control of the Earth.
Max Brooks has not written a conventional novel. We do not follow a set group of characters from the first hints of zombism to their darkest moments of despair to final victory. Instead, we get snippets of the lives of characters from around the world. They may tell us about the first time they saw a zombie or what they did to win the war, but we only hear of one instant in their lives. Each snippet plays out like a climatic scene from a movie but then that is it. We never know what the characters did next or where they came from originally. Even though each character tells their story in only a few pages, their stories are so riveting that we are already attached to them. Max Brooks' World War Z/i] is a superb addition to the canon of zombie lore.