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Search tags: an-oral-history-of-the-zombie-wars
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review 2017-10-10 16:40
Historical anachronism happens fast
This is the Way the World Ends: An Oral ... This is the Way the World Ends: An Oral History of the Zombie War - Keith Taylor

This poor novel had the bad sense to be published in August, this year of our Lord 2017, though, presumably, it was written earlier. EVEN SO, at the very moment of publication, it was already woefully historically anachronistic. I'm going to blame this, like so much else, on the Trump administration, and the unbelievable chaos and unprecedented violation of governmental, social, and ethical norms that we've seen in this fine country, the US of A, since then. Writing near future science fiction is an unbelievable bitch.

 

This is what got me. So, This is the Way it Ends is avowedly a love letter and a riff on Max Brooks' World War Z, which is also glossed with the subtitle An Oral History of the Zombie Wars. The writer here, Keith Taylor, notes in his introduction how taken he was by the retrospective and documentary feel of World War Z, and how, after expecting a raft of novelists to take up the style, he decided to fill the gap when no one did. This is the Way it Ends is successful in this Brooksian ventriloquism for the most part, and it you like this sort of thing, then this is the sort of thing you'll like. (Well, other than a metatextual spin wherein Keith Taylor, current novelist, inserts himself inside this fictional narrative as "Keith Taylor," the documentarian for the novel. His intro dragging on fictional zombie narratives was way too clever-clever. It's the kind of thing that's fun to read to your wife after you write it, but shouldn't make it into the final draft.)

 

Like Brooks' novel, this one takes place a dozen odd years after the initial zombie outbreaks, after humanity has gone through the meat grinder of a full on zombie apocalypse and come out on the other side, shaky, diminished, but still standing. This is the section that got me: a centrist Republican, one who shepherded the US through the zombie wars, tells a story from mid-2019. Apparently, there are outbreaks happening all over Europe, and there's more and more worry about the zombie threat. At a bipartisan meeting, a reporter asks if maybe the US should close its borders. A democrat steps up, and in an act of partisan showboating, begins reciting the Emma Lazarus sonnet that is carved into the statue of liberty. "Give us your tired" etc. At this point everyone goes nuts, freaking that closing the borders is evil, and certainly no sane (or not evil) person would suggest such a thing. The Republican president is rueful: if only those stupid liberals knew better. 

 

So here's the problem with this. First, let me tell a joke: at an intersection with four corners, on each corner stands an individual: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, a centrist Republican, and an alt-right nutjob. Someone drops a case of money into the center of the intersection. Which individual gets it? The alt-right nutjob, because the rest of these beings are purely fictional. Second, Trump already tried, and has been moderately successful, in implementing his Muslim ban, just recently adding to the seven Muslim-majority countries he's put on the shit list. Though the courts have put on the brakes a little, public outcry was nowhere near uniform. In fact, I think I was in a minority for thinking that was self-defeating and cruel, in addition to racist. The Trump administration is working hard at curtailing literally all immigration, legal and illegal, and we don't have anything near a zombie fucking outbreak to point at, though you wouldn't know it from some Brietbart articles, boy howdy. No one reads sonnets anymore; those are for effete liberals and they are decidedly not in charge. Third, what is this word, "bipartisan"? I do not understand this strange concept. 

 

In some ways, this anachronism is adorable, and it dovetails into some blindspots Brooks had in WWZ. The farther Brooks gets from his worldview, the less compelling his narratives get -- the American housewife one is a big fucking mess, but then I have a whole thing about the housewife in fiction. Ditto with Taylor. As a native Brit with a Mongolian wife who spends a lot of time in Mongolia and Thailand, his grasp on pan-Asian politics is pretty great. Americans? Yeah, not so much. I'm not picking on him here though. I'm not sure I understood (even as someone who purported to at least a modicum of wokeness) how unbelievably racist and isolationist the United States is until the last election. And that election technically didn't involve zombies! 

 

Except it totally did and we're all going to die. The horror of reading horror fiction for me these days is in how unscary it all is. It's nowhere near as terrifying as considering a malignant narcissist who considers Nazis "fine people" starting World War 3, the one that will kill us all, while tweeting on the shitter one Sunday morning. In the words of Mira Grant, rise up while you can. 

 

 

 

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review 2017-09-27 20:27
Audio Much Better Than the Trying to Read the Book
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War - Max Brooks

I have to say that a lot of people suggested that I listen to this book and what a great idea. I have to say that some of the voices sound a bit too stereotypical to my ears, but I really did enjoy listening to the so-called Zombie wars. 

 

I will say that you really do have to listen to this book. It doesn't work well at all as a written novel. I had to switch over since I almost DNFed it at one point. Reading interviews and questions and answers doesn't work in the long term. Your brain after a while just doesn't care and you find it hard to concentrate. Or at least me. When I have to read through Congressional transcripts it's the worse. I like to listen to congressional meetings or attend in person cause you don't get to hear the nuance in people's voices. 

 

I liked hearing about the so-called Patient Zero and how the virus spread and all of the places on the Earth that was touched. It was so scary reading about how the young boy's body was falling apart. I even got a little bit sick here and there listening to how cords had gone through his body to the bone. How cold his skin had gotten and how his blood now looked. When we hear about how the governments of the world even had a zombie protocol though it was surprising to me. 

 

I did think the narrator (who was Max Brooks) was not that great. He sounded so weird to my ears. I think certain statements/questions he asked needed more passion in his voice or more feeling. It just felt like he was reading the phone book to me sometimes. 

 

I was thrilled to figure out that one of the voices was Mark Hamill. He is the best! 

 

I will say though that I wanted to read more about what people did when the outbreak happened, how they managed to get through it. This was definitely an oral history, but I felt like it was missing parts. 

 

I did love the thinking that went into this by Max Brooks though. Cause it didn't even occur to me that zombies can just exist in water. That they don't need to breathe, so they can just hang out on the bottom of the ocean floor...forever. That the cold will stop them so heck move to a colder climate. Still not dead, but not real active anymore either. I also love how we learn about different things such as protocols, laws, how the world changed and new countries were formed, etc. 

 

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