Sunday, January 14, 2007

World War Z

I love the premise and it's not a terrible book, but it's just not worth the effort to finish. I've read about half of the book so far, and here's what I think.

First, it's supposed to be an "oral history," right? I have no problem with that. It's broken up into a bunch of 3-4 page vignettes. I have no problem with that. But, it's either an oral history or it's not. There are a few vignettes that really read like an oral history, but most are just stories written first person. I mean, complete novel-style writing, little to no interaction with the interviewer, just a teensy story from the first person.
Second, it's the politics. He doesn't knock you over the head with it, but it's pervasive enough. It seems like World War Z is his liberal Jewish fantasy. I have nothing against liberals or Jews (I'm a big supporter of Israel) but what, exactly, is the bigger fantasy-- that the dead come to life, or that the one nation who foretells the disaster is Israel, and their solution is to withdraw from all their settlements, withdraw from Jerusalem, and open their borders to all Palestinian refugees, most of whom are too foolish and suspicious to actually take up Israel on their offer? The Bush bashing is very subtle and, frankly, acceptable, but it's there nonetheless. Now I'm reading some chapter about recreating FDR's New Deal--
"If my father had been alive, he probably would have laughed at my frustration. He'd been a staunch New dealer, working closely with FDR as comptroller of New York State. He used methods that were almost Marxist in nature, the kind of collectivization that would make Ayn Rand leap from her grave and join the ranks of the living dead. I'd always rejected the lessons he'd tried to impart, running as far away as Wall Street to shut them out. Now I was wracking my brains to remember them."

The upper class survivors are all, to a man, completely worthless and unskilled in the "new" economy, and are retrained by the blue collar masses to do the things they couldn't-- fantastically ridiculous things like repairing houses and having gardens. I can see the point-- there are few machinists and gunsmiths, that would be a real problem and is a great thing to add. But to him, it's the entire upper class that is completely worthless:
"You should have seen some of the 'careers' listed on our first employment census; everyone was some version of an 'executive,' a 'representative,' an 'analyst,' or a 'consultant'...The first labor survey stated clearly that over 65 percent of the present civilian workforce were classified F-6, possessing no valued vocation...In short, we needed to get a lot of white collars dirty...Anyone F-6 but physically able became unskilled labor: clearing rubble, harvesting crops, digging graves."

If there had been any contrary stories so far, to give the impression that these were just survivor opinions and not the author's, I might have been able to finish it, but there haven't and I really don't have any faith that there will be at this point.

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