World War Z

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World War Z
An Oral History of the Zombie War
Max Brooks



A special thank-you to my wife, Michelle, for all her love and

To Ed Victor, for starting it all.

To Steve Ross, Luke Dempsey, and the entire Crown
Publishers team.

To T. M. for watching my back.

To Brad Graham at theWashington Post ; Drs. Cohen,
Whiteman, and Hayward; Professors Greenberger and
Tongun; Rabbi Andy; Father Fraser; STS2SS Bordeaux (USN
fmr); "B" and "E"; Jim; Jon; Julie; Jessie; Gregg; Honupo;
and Dad, for "the human factor."

And a final thank-you to the three men whose inspiration
made this book possible: Studs Terkel, the late General Sir
John Hackett, and, of course, the genius and terror of George
A. Romero.



It goes by many names: "The Crisis," "The Dark
Years," "The Walking Plague," as well as newer and
more "hip" titles such as "World War Z" or "Z War
One." I personally dislike this last moniker as it
implies an inevitable "Z War Two." For me, it will
always be "The Zombie War," and while many may
protest the scientific accuracy of the wordzombie, they
will be hard-pressed to discover a more globally
accepted term for the creatures that almost caused
our extinction.Zombie remains a devastating word,
unrivaled in its power to conjure up so many
memories or emotions, and it is these memories, and
emotions, that are the subject of this book.

This record of the greatest conflict in human history
owes its genesis to a much smaller, much more
personal conflict between me and the chairperson of
the United Nation's Postwar Commission Report. My
initial work for the Commission could be described as
nothing short of a labor of love. My travel stipend, my
security access, my battery of translators, both human
and electronic, as well as my small, but nearly
priceless voice-activated transcription "pal" (the
greatest gift the world's slowest typist could ask for),
all spoke to the respect and value my work was


afforded on this project. So, needless to say, it came
as a shock when I found almost half of that work
deleted from the report's final edition.

"It was all too intimate," the chairperson said during
one of our many "animated" discussions. "Too many
opinions, too many feelings. That's not what this
report is about. We need clear facts and figures,
unclouded by the human factor." Of course, she was
right. The official report was a collection of cold, hard
data, an objective "after-action report" that would
allow future generations to study the events of that
apocalyptic decade without being influenced by "the
human factor." But isn't the human factor what
connects us so deeply to our past? Will future
generations care as much for chronologies and
casualty statistics as they would for the personal
accounts of individuals not so different from
themselves? By excluding the human factor, aren't we
risking the kind of personal detachment from a history
that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it?
And in the end, isn't the human factor the only true
difference between us and the enemy we now refer to
as "the living dead"? I presented this argument,
perhaps less professionally than was appropriate, to
my "boss," who after my final exclamation of "we
can't let these stories die" responded immediately


with, "Then don't. Write a book. You've still got all
your notes, and the legal freedom to use them. Who's
stopping you from keeping these stories alive in the
pages of your own (expletive deleted) book?"

Some critics will, no doubt, take issue with the
concept of a personal history book so soon after the
end of worldwide hostilities. After all, it has been only
twelve years since VA Day was declared in the
continental United States, and barely a decade since
the last major world power celebrated its deliverance
on "Victory in China Day." Given that most people
consider VC Day to be the official end, then how can
we have real perspective when, in the words of a UN
colleague, "We've been at peace about as long as we
were at war." This is a valid argument, and one that
begs a response. In the case of this generation, those
who have fought and suffered to win us this decade of
peace, time is as much an enemy as it is an ally. Yes,
the coming years will provide hindsight, adding
greater wisdom to memories seen through the light of
a matured, postwar world. But many of those
memories may no longer exist, trapped in bodies and
spirits too damaged or infirm to see the fruits of their
victory harvested. It is no great secret that global life
expectancy is a mere shadow of its former prewar
figure. Malnutrition, pollution, the rise of previously


eradicated ailments, even in the United States, with
its resurgent economy and universal health care are
the present reality; there simply are not enough
resources to care for all the physical and psychological
casualties. It is because of this enemy, the enemy of
time, that I have forsaken the luxury of hindsight and
published these survivors' accounts. Perhaps decades
from now, someone will take up the task of recording
the recollections of the much older, much wiser
survivors. Perhaps I might even be one of them.

Although this is primarily a book of memories, it
includes many of the details, technological, social,
economic, and so on, found in the original Commission
Report, as they are related to the stories of those
voices featured in these pages. This is their book, not
mine, and I have tried to maintain as invisible a
presence as possible. Those questions included in the
text are only there to illustrate those that might have
been posed by readers. I have attempted to reserve
judgment, or commentary of any kind, and if there is
a human factor that should be removed, let it be my



Greater Chong Qing, The United Federation
of China

[At its prewar height, this region boasted a population
of over thirty-five million people. Now, there are
barely fifty thousand. Reconstruction funds have been
slow to arrive in this part of the country, the
government choosing to concentrate on the more
densely populated coast. There is no central power
grid, no running water besides the Yangtze River. But
the streets are clear of rubble and the local "security
council" has prevented any postwar outbreaks. The
chairman of that council is Kwang Jingshu, a medical
doctor who, despite his advanced age and wartime
injuries, still manages to make house calls to all his

The first outbreak I saw was in a remote village that
officially had no name. The residents called it "New
Dachang," but this was more out of nostalgia than
anything else. Their former home, "Old Dachang," had
stood since the period of the Three Kingdoms, with
farms and houses and even trees said to be centuries
old. When the Three Gorges Dam was completed, and


reservoir waters began to rise, much of Dachang had
been disassembled, brick by brick, then rebuilt on
higher ground. This New Dachang, however, was not a
town anymore, but a "national historic museum." It
must have been a heartbreaking irony for those poor
peasants, to see their town saved but then only being
able to visit it as a tourist. Maybe that is why some of
them chose to name their newly constructed hamlet
"New Dachang" to preserve some connection to their
heritage, even if it was only in name. I personally
didn't know that this other New Dachang existed, so
you can imagine how confused I was when the call
came in.

The hospital was quiet; it had been a slow night, even
for the increasing number of drunk-driving accidents.
Motorcycles were becoming very popular. We used to
say that your Harley-Davidsons killed more young
Chinese than all the GIs in the Korean War. That's
why I was so grateful for a quiet shift. I was tired, my
back and feet ached. I was on my way out to smoke a
cigarette and watch the dawn when I heard my name
being paged. The receptionist that night was new and
couldn't quite understand the dialect. There had been
an accident, or an illness. It was an emergency, that
part was obvious, and could we please send help at


What could I say? The younger doctors, the kids who
think medicine is just a way to pad their bank
accounts, they certainly weren't going to go help some
"nongmin" just for the sake of helping. I guess I'm
still an old revolutionary at heart. "Our duty is to hold
ourselves responsible to the people." Those words still
mean something to me...and I tried to remember that
as my Deer bounced and banged over dirt roads the
government had promised but never quite gotten
around to paving.

I had a devil of a time finding the place. Officially, it
didn't exist and therefore wasn't on any map. I
became lost several times and had to ask directions
from locals who kept thinking I meant the museum
town. I was in an impatient mood by the time I
reached the small collection of hilltop homes. I
remember thinking,This had better be damned
serious. Once I saw their faces, I regretted my wish.

There were seven of them, all on cots, all barely
conscious. The villagers had moved them into their
new communal meeting hall. The walls and floor were
bare cement. The air was cold and damp.Of course
they're sick, I thought. I asked the villagers who had
been taking care of these people. They said no one, it
wasn't "safe." I noticed that the door had been locked


from the outside. The villagers were clearly terrified.
They cringed and whispered; some kept their distance
and prayed. Their behavior made me angry, not at
them, you understand, not as individuals, but what
they represented about our country. After centuries of
foreign oppression, exploitation, and humiliation, we
were finally reclaiming our rightful place as humanity's
middle kingdom. We were the world's richest and
most dynamic superpower, masters of everything
from outer space to cyber space. It was the dawn of
what the world was finally acknowledging as "The
Chinese Century" and yet so many of us still lived like
these ignorant peasants, as stagnant and superstitious
as the earliest Yangshao savages.

I was still lost in my grand, cultural criticism when I
knelt to examine the first patient. She was running a
high fever, forty degrees centigrade, and she was
shivering violently. Barely coherent, she whimpered
slightly when I tried to move her limbs. There was a
wound in her right forearm, a bite mark. As I
examined it more closely, I realized that it wasn't from
an animal. The bite radius and teeth marks had to
have come from a small, or possibly young, human
being. Although I hypothesized this to be the source
of the infection, the actual injury was surprisingly
clean. I asked the villagers, again, who had been