Audiobook Review: World War Z: The Complete Edition: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

14 05 2013


2013 Zombie Awareness Month

World War Z: The Complete Edition: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Read by A Full Cast (See Full Narrator Credits After Review)

Random House Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 8 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: World War Z is a brilliantly conceived and executed novel full of small bits of wisdom, stories of heroism and villainy, and one of the best accounts on the true cost of war that I have ever read, despite being a fully fictional account. This updated Complete version is a delight, full of wonderful performances from a variety of actors who capture the international feel that the Abridged version sorely lacked.

Grade: A+

Note: There seems to be a lot of questions about whether this edition truly is Unabridged. After checking things out, I learned that while all the characters from the original novel appear in this novel, parts have been removed making this not a truly Unabridged audiobook. This audiobook is based on the new Movie Tie In Version of the book. For me, who hadn’t read the original in almost 7 years, I didn’t notice the cuts, but for some hardcore fans of the novel, this may not be the case. This does not affect my ratings, because I still enjoyed this production and believe you will to. Just beware, if you will only settle for the absolutely completely 100% Unabridged version, than you may be disappointed.

I’m not really sure if you can call a book that is less than 10 years old a true classic, yet, if you could World War Z would be a great example. While Zombie fiction has been around for years, the Zombie Apocalypse subgenre has really hit its stride over the past 10 years. I first read World War Z when it was originally released in Hardback, in 2006. It was that same year when I transferred jobs, and began transitioning from a more print intensive reader to an audiobook listener. I remember that first day, when I was still unsure about audiobooks, I had chosen two to listen to Stephen King’s The Mist, and the original abridged version of World War Z. I found the Mist to be pretty much an over produced multicast audio drama which is something to his day that I still can’t seem to get into. World War Z was another story in itself. I was blown away by the quality of the narration, and found it cool to hear so many recognizable voices like Alan Alda and Rob Reiner, but I was also left sort of cold. I think a big part of it was that I had only just read the book a few months before. Yet, the major issue I had with the audiobook was the abridgement. I didn’t have any issues with what was included, but I sort of felt like I was at the movie version of a book I loved, where I kept waiting for my favorite scenes, and they never came. For years now I have been hoping for an unabridged audio version. When I first hear they were making a movie starring Brad Pitt, I had two thoughts. First, Brad Pitt would never be THE star of THE World War Z. Why would you bring in an A List actor to play the role of a guy basically conducting a series of interviews? I knew that no matter what happened, the movie would not truly be an adaptation of this book. Yet, my other thought was, maybe now they will make an Unabridged Audiobook. Well, the gods of audio heard my cries, and now, here it is, a fully Unabridged Audiobook of the Modern Zombie Apocalypse classic World War Z.

In World War Z, author Max Brooks is compiling the history of mankind’s successful war against the Zombies after his governmental report is sanitized of all but a bare recitation of the facts. To do this he travels across the globe from China, where the outbreak began, to America, where the push against the undead took stride, gathering personal stories of the key figures and moments in the Z War. World War Z is a brilliantly conceived and executed novel full of small bits of wisdom, stories of heroism and villainy, and one of the best accounts on the true cost of war that I have ever read, despite being a fully fictional account. This is really the brilliance behind World War Z, it feels genuine. It feels exactly like it advertises itself to be, an oral history of a zombie war. The thing about Zombie fiction is often their attempts to find reasonable scientific or mythological answers for every aspect of Zombies often simply make the tales even more unbelievable. Max Brooks never attempts to explain the zombies, and how they function, he just allows his characters to tell their tales, admitting when they don’t know or understand something about the undead beyond how to kill them. It’s a tale of people, vulnerable and often broken people, devastated by an enemy they really never truly understand, forever changed in the wake of the destruction but managing to find a way to succeed. World War Z is a rare apocalyptic tale, because it is a truly global one. Brooks explores the Zombie apocalypse as a global war, showing how different cultures, ethnically, politically and culturally dealt with their own zombie problems. This was one of the biggest problems with the abridged audio version. Much of the international feel was stripped away from the tale, losing some of the far reaching aspects of the narrative. With the new material, it just feels much more complete, and just a bit more terrifying. Honestly, in the nearly 7 years since I last read World War Z I had forgotten just how good it is. I was amazed at these small bits of wisdom and insight that appeared throughout the book. There are many people who list this novel as a classic of Post Apocalyptic fiction. Re-experiencing the tale through the now complete Audiobook just reinforces that belief. World War Z is great fiction.

I’ve decided in this review to focus on the new material, instead of simply rehashing everything. The new Unabridged Audio version has over 6 hours of new materials recorded by some well known names, as well as some cult TV show stars. Among the shows represented are Battlestar Gallactica, Firefly, Star Trek; TNG, Voyager and Deep Space 9, and Heroes. One of the reasons this audiobook was so well suited to celebrity narrators was that the whole story was told in first person POV, where they could truly become the characters they were voicing. Many of these performances were stunning. For me, Nicki Clynes reading of Sharon, a traumatized woman retaining the personality of the four year old who witnessed a zombie attack on the church, was the highlight of the production. It gave me chills when I listened, and still does when I think about it even now. Nathan Fillion gave an emotional reading of Stanley MacDonald, a Canadian military man whose witnessed account of a horrific zombie slaughter is dismissed by his commanders. Fillion has this low rumble in the back of his voice that you can hear slowly begin to break as the stress of the character is pushed to the extreme. Two of my favorite POV’s that were criminally left out of the Abridged versions were also wonderful to hear. Kal Penn reads Sardar Khan, a young Indian soldier who finds himself at a pivotal moment trying to hold back a zombie incursion on a narrow bridge, long enough to get the civilians to safely. Hip Hop artist Common give a strong performance in one of the most memorable scenes, as Darnell Hackworth, former dog handler during the push to take back the country. There were so many excellent performances, that if I mentioned them all, then I would run out of space. So, I will only mention that Max Brooks  does an excellent job in his role as, well Max Brooks, the interviewer. There was even one really funny moment where he has a comical reaction to an interviewee’s snide remark about the American Zombie Survival Guide that provoked a laugh out of me.  I’m not sure if this title, which blends a new and old material will be eligible for an Audie Award next year, but it should be. World War Z is a wonderful production and a triumph for all involved.

Full Cast Credits

Max Brooks as Max Brooks
Nicki Clyne as Sharon
Bruce Boxleitner as Gavin Blaire
Simon Pegg as Grover Carlson
Brian Tee as Hyungchoi and Michael Choi
Henry Rollins as T. Sean Collins
Frank Darabont as Roy Elliot
Common as Darnell Hackworth
Kal Penn as Sardar Khan
Alfred Molina as Terry Knox
David Ogden Stiers as Bohdan Taras Kondratiuk
Nathan Fillion as Stanley MacDonald
Denise Crosby as Mary Jo Miller
Ade M’Cormack as Jacob Nyathi
Paul Sorvino as Fernando Oliveira
Parminder Nagra as Barati Palshigar
Rene Auberjonois as Andre Renard
F. Murray Abraham as Father Sergei Ryzhkov
Martin Scorsese as Breckinridge “Breck” Scott
Masi Oka as Kondo Tatsumi
Ric Young as Admiral Xu Zhicai
Jeri Ryan as Maria Zhuganova

Alan Alda as Arthur Sinclair
Carl Reiner as Jurgen Warbrunn
Jürgen Prochnow as Philip Adler
Waleed Zuiater as Saladin Kader
Dean Edwards as Joe Muhammad
Michelle Kholos as Jesika Hendricks
Maz Jobrani as Ahmed Farahnakian
Mark Hamill as Todd Wainio
Eamonn Walker as David Allen Forbes and Paul Redeker / Xolelwa Azania
Ajay Naidu as Ajay Shah
John Turturro as Serosha Garcia Alvarez
Rob Reiner as “The Whacko”
Jay O. Sanders as Bob Archer
Dennis Boutsikaris as General Travis D’Ambrosia
Becky Ann Baker as Christina Eliopolis
Steve Park as Kwang Jingshu
Frank Kamai as Nury Televadi and Tomonaga Jiro
John McElroy as Ernesto Olguin[