Review of World War Z by Max Brooks

SFFaudio Review

World War Z

World War Z
By Max Brooks; Read by Full Cast
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: September 12, 2006
ISBN: 0739340131
[ABRIDGED] 5 discs – 6 hours

Themes: / post-apocalypse / zombies / military / oral history /

Publisher summary:

The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

I’ve broken my cardinal rule for reading books just before the movie comes out. My rule is not to read the book directly before the movie (at least 1 year before or it must be read after or just wait on the movies). The reason for this is that I want to enjoy the story through both mediums and if you read the book just before the movie, you’ve set yourself up to be a critic – analyzing everything and complaining about every detail that’s inevitably left out, but which is more often than not necessary for the medium. If you read the book at least a year before, at least with my shoddy memory, the movie becomes a happy time of fond remembrances. Oh yeah, I remember that part, so cool! Yay! Happy! In this instance, I hear the movie doesn’t quite follow the book exactly and what else can that mean than that it’s a typical zombie movie. I don’t think I’ve ruined much here.

You know, it could have been partly because of all the hype, but I didn’t love this book. I didn’t hate it either, which makes these the hardest reviews to write, but I think I have a few ideas why World War Z just didn’t work all that well for me.

The Plot

Doesn’t really exist. Yeah, there’s a loose series of events that defines the book, or the Zombie War, but it’s told through interviews with different survivors from different countries. And they’re short too, I even checked this with the book (paper-form). Each interview amounts to a page or two, maybe 5 max. Each tends to discuss a certain important event, which ends up getting referred to by characters later in the book and often mentioned by the one directly following. It’s extremely clever and lets you see how well developed this whole idea is.

It’s extremely clever

Max Brooks has literally thought of everything when it comes to a war against zombies. I thought the same in my reading of The Zombie Survival Guide, and it goes just as well here. EVERYTHING! He goes into why tanks are all but useless against hordes of zombies – because you have to take out their heads! Anything else, and they’ll still shamble and probably even become more dangerous when you trip over them on the ground. The airforce is just as useless because it’s so much money and effort for such a little amount of good. Better spent on a bunch of soldiers with tons of ammo. He even goes into better strategies for fighting this war, why the zombies are such a good enemy – because they don’t need to be bred, fed, or led.

Very clever and not even pretentious about it. Just captivating. And this isn’t the only thing I liked although we’re getting into the middle ground because I didn’t love the audio either.

The Audio

One of the things that got me excited to listen to this on audio was that it’s read by a full cast. That means they’re trying REALLY hard and that tends to be a good thing, especially if you don’t like one or two of the voices, it’s okay, it’s only temporary. With just one narrator, that can really kill a book. I mentioned that this is told through many different people in different countries and they have actors like Rob Reiner, John Turturro, and Mark Hamill. Even Max Brooks himself plays the part of the interviewer. Very cool…just up until the point of distraction. There are so many different countries represented that the accents started to distract heavily from the story. I found myself pondering why the German guy had such a heavy accent on his “R’s” and yet could perfectly pronounce “TH” every time. And this was just the one guy. One of the benefits of a single narrator is that even when they do an accent, it’s easier to understand because English is their primary language.

The audio’s great for the most part, outside of that little niggle about the accents, but one thing I absolutely HATE about it is…it’s abridged!

Abridged

I would probably never forgive myself if I listened to this abridged audio version and never actually read the entire book if I actually thought that mattered. Maybe others are better sleuths than myself, but I can’t find a reading of World War Z that’s not abridged. At the same, after having read the book, the abridged version seems to do enough justice to the entirety of the novel, what with how it is organized, that it just cuts out a few of the interviews. Normally this is heresy, but I can live with it for this one time only.

What I didn’t like

I think the thing that just makes this an okay to good book for me is that while it’s style and organization is unique and highly clever, it also takes away from my ability to care. Without just following one person or a group of people, there’s no attachment to any specific person.

The Movie

After writing the above, I actually do think the movie will make it all better. It seems like it will be following one single person and that’s what this reader needs. The movie comes out in June of this year.

In the end

Let’s just say, if we ever do get into a Zombie War, you better have a copy of World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide on you. Someone’s already gone through the effort of thinking up EVERY situation that can occur, what’s effective, what’s not and put it down in words. No sense reinventing the wheel. While an entertaining idea and clever execution, these were the exact things that made World War Z a book only a mother could love I could never love. It’s worth a read if only to see how in-depth you have not thought about zombies.

3 out of 5 Stars (Recommended with Reservations)

Review by Bryce L.

BBCR4X: A Canticle For Leibowitz: Fiat Homo by Walter M. Miller Jr.

SFFaudio Online Audio

A new five part abridged reading, with added sound effects, of the first part of A Canticle For Leibowitz, “Fiat Homo”, begins here:

BBC Radio 4 ExtraA Canticle For Leibowitz
By Walter M. Miller, Jr.; Read by Nigel Lindsay
STREAMING AUDIO – [ABRIDGED]
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4 Extra
Broadcast: November 26, 2012
Set in a Catholic monastery in the desert of the southwestern United States after a devastating nuclear war, the story spans thousands of years as civilization rebuilds itself. The monks of the fictional Albertian Order of Leibowitz take up the mission of preserving the surviving remnants of man’s scientific knowledge until the day the outside world is again ready for it.
First published in 1959.

A Canticle For Leibowitz

[thanks Roy!]

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #176 – Fred Greenhalgh’s The Cleansed

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #176 – The Cleansed, Season 1, Episode 1 by Fred Greenhalgh. This is the complete first episode of the Final Rune audio drama series by Fred Greenhalgh followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Tamahome and Fred Greenhalgh himself.

Talked about on today’s show:

Eight episodes in season one, clothing in the apocalypse, Tamahome believed everyone was naked, field recording and all-present cast, portable recorder in South Africa, “audio postcards”, Fred’s past audiodramas, The Most Dangerous Game, Waiting for a Window, “either biblical or Star Wars”, Bruce Willis and Armageddon, conflicting world-views, “is that a turkey there?”, Fred knows how to live off the grid, The Long Walk, Fred loves Stephen King, The Stand tv version, when will we find out what ‘The Cleansed’ refers to?, violence and ideologies, Chatterbox Audio Theater on The Cleansed, like Stephen King, Fred doesn’t believe in a lot of plotting ahead or describing clothes, artist Simon Adams helps, “Paul with a P”, “The Republic is the 1%’ers”, The Cleansed Kickstarter campaign, where does Fred get his food?, the best of both worlds, a post-apocalypse for today

The Cleansed

Posted by Tamahome

Review of We’re Alive: A Story of Survival – Season One

SFFaudio Review

Blackstone Audio - We're Alive: A Story of Survival - the First SeasonWe’re Alive: A Story of Survival – Season One
By Kc Waylan and Shane Salk; Performed by a full cast
12 CDs – Approx. 14.2 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2011
ISBN: 9781455114580
Themes: / Horror / Zombies / Post-Apocalypse / Los Angeles /

This exciting audio drama is based on an immensely popular podcast that has received hundreds of positive reviews and has had over four million downloads—and counting.

Uneven and slightly amateurish, but also fun, mildly addictive and highly listenable, We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, the first season (Modern Myth Productions, LLC) should appeal to fans of the zombie/post-apocalyptic/survivalist genres.

Unlike most audiobooks, which typically feature a single narrator reading text in unadorned style, We’re Alive is an audio drama. It employs a large cast, incorporates a wide range of sound effects, and is scripted in a way that caters to the ear, emphasizing dialogue and interpersonal relationships over lengthy descriptive narrative. Our minds are left to fill in the gory details, and it works. It’s simultaneously fresh and retro, reminding me of what the old radio shows of yesteryear must have been like. We’re Alive was launched and remains an ongoing podcast (check it out HERE) but you can obtain the entire first two seasons from Blackstone Audio, Inc.

The storyline is about what you’d expect: A zombie apocalypse strikes without warning, quickly overwhelming most of the population. Three young Army reservists (Michael, Angel, and Saul) commandeer a humvee and seek out survivors in downtown Los Angeles. After rescuing a couple civilians they find an apartment building, clear it of zombies, and begin to fortify it, rigging it up with a generator and stocking up on food, water, and ammunition. More survivors eventually trickle in and/or are rescued by the group, including Burt, an aging Vietnam veteran who acts and sounds a lot like Clint Eastwood. Soon there’s a small but thriving community holed up in the apartment building.

We’re Alive has a few problems. I had a hard time distinguishing between some of the women. The men are generally given more agency and are more fully developed characters. There are some writing weaknesses, including characters that bicker and bitch over trifles and at times seem more concerned with saving face than staying alive. This creates plenty of distractions and gets the group in more trouble than it should, at first with zombies and later with a greedy, nasty group of human convicts (the “Mallers”). Also, a few of the characters’ skill-sets seem a bit too fortuitous (one of the women is a pro archer — rather convenient).

The story also uses zombies that break sharply with most undead traditions. Some have a rudimentary intelligence, at least one can talk and strategize, and at times they are directed by some unseen controlling force to capture and carry away their victims rather than consuming them. While I’m not a strict zombie purist, these traits lessen their scare factor and weakened them as a threat. Zombies are at their best when they’re relentless, merciless eating machines; take away that characteristic and they become caricatures. There’s even some species of large zombie monsters lurking in the background, though they’re not described well and it’s impossible at least through season one to determine if they’re a large zombified animal or a creature of pure fancy. In short, if you’re a zombie purist, or expecting undead in the Romero mold or new Dawn Of The Dead style, be prepared for a lot of “rule breaking.”

But We’re Alive also has plenty of good things going on, enough to give it my recommendation. Most of the characters grow on you and the voice acting is reasonably good. There are enough plot twists and turns to keep you guessing. There’s a hardly a dull moment—when not fighting the undead or the Mallers, the survivors are fighting amongst themselves, often chafing against Michael’s inflexible never-question-my-orders military style of leadership. Ex-lawyers and teachers find themselves growing vegetables on the rooftop, serving as quartermasters, or standing guard duty, with inevitable grousing and dereliction of duties. As the survivors’ supplies start to dwindle, they’re forced to take increasingly dangerous runs for food and ammo into the “hot zone” of zombie and looter-infested downtown L.A. There’s also a larger backstory about the hows and whys of the zombie outbreak that’s still unrevealed but will undoubtedly be a part of latter seasons.

While it lacks the moral/philosophical questions and hardcore grittiness of The Walking Dead, We’re Alive is nevertheless fun stuff and I’m looking forward to listening to season two.

Posted by Brian Murphy

There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury

SFFaudio Online Audio

Set in either 2026 or 1985, this story – the tale of a lonely house in California is the first that sprung to mind after I heard about Ray Bradbury’s death this morning.

Part of The Martian Chronicles, but first published in the May 6th, 1950 issue of Collier’s Weekly, the entire text of Ray Badbury’s classic There Will Come Soft Rains is viewable at UNZ.org:

Colliers, May 6th 1950 - There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury

Here’s a printable |PDF|.

Audiobooks:

Lively Arts - Burgess Meredith Reads Ray BradburyThere Will Come Soft Rains
By Ray Bradbury; Read by Burgess Meredith
1 |MP3| – Approx. 18 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Lively Arts
Published: 1962
Product #: LA 30004


CAEDMON There Will Come Soft Rains and Usher II by Ray BradburyThere Will Come Soft Rains
By Ray Bradbury; Read by Leonard Nimoy
1 |MP3| – Approx. 15 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Caedmon
Published: 1975




Radio dramatizations:

Dimension XDimension X – There Will Come Soft Rains
Adapted by George Lefferts; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 29 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: NBC
Broadcast: June 17, 1950


X-Minus OneX-Minus One – There Will Come Soft Rains (and Zero Hour)
Adapted by George Lefferts; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 30 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: NBC
Broadcast: December 5, 1956

There’s only a snippet from the beginning of this one…

BBC Radio 4There Will Come Soft Rains
Adapted by Malcolm Clarke
1 |MP3| – Approx. 2 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4
Broadcast: May 11, 1977

Wally Wood’s depiction of the house from the comic adaptation in Weird Fantasy #17:

Weird Fantasy #17 - There Will Come Soft Rains - adapted by Wally Wood
There Will Come Soft Rains...

Video adaptations:


There will fall soft rains by DublinBen

There Will Come Soft Rains from Peter Cotter on Vimeo.

Fallout 3 homage:

The original poem:
And finally, part of the inspiration for the story, here is the Sarah Teasdale poem as read by Ruth Golding for LibriVox: |MP3|

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #157 – AUDIOBOOK: The Syndic by C.M. Kornbluth

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #157 – The Syndic by C.M. Kornbluth, read by Mark Nelson.

This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (6 Hours 20 Minutes) comes to us courtesy of SciPodBooks.com and WonderEbooks. The Syndic was first published in Science Fiction Adventures, December 1953 and March 1954.

Come back for our next episode (SFFaudio Podcast #158) to hear our discussion of it.

Here’s the etext |RTF| (Rich Text format).

The Syndic by C.M. Kornbluth - illustrated by Sussman
The Syndic by C.M. Kornbluth - illustrated by Sussman
The Syndic by C.M. Kornbluth - illustrated by Sussman

Posted by Jesse Willis