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World War Z book cover


World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is a 2006 apocalypic horror novel by Max Brooks.

The novel is a collection of individual accounts, where the narrator is an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commission ten years after the fictional ZombieWar. Other passages record a decade-long desperate war against the zombie plague, as experienced by people of various nationalities. The personal accounts also describe the social, political, religious and environmental changes that resulted from the war.

Plot SummaryEdit

The beginning of the war was characterized by isolated outbreaks originating in China (and evidence of their existence suppressed by the Chinese government), then moving further west. The virus spread through infected refugees and infected organs on the black market (of which China is the world's largest provider). As the outbreak grew through Africa, Solanum, the virus which causes humans to become zombies, was first referred to in the public eye as "African Rabies." This time period was characterized by a combination of denial and profiteering.

Part of the reason that the U.S. government was in denial about the zombie threat was that the current president was facing re-election, and the administration did not want to cause a panic by making the fantastic-sounding claim that a zombie plague was spreading, as it might only upset the elections. The United States President at the time had succeeded another president who had served two terms in office and conducted an unpopular "brushfire war" which left the nation with anti-military sentiment.

Many government military and intelligence organizations had begun to identify the threat at this point, but world leaders largely dismissed the possibility of a large scale outbreak or the presence of a virus that would reanimate the dead. Leading into the first winter after these initial zombie outbreaks, the infestations were still relatively contained, because zombies slow, or even freeze stiff in frigid weather. Most people were still in denial over the true nature of the reports of zombies, and thought it was just a new strain of rabies. A corrupt pharmaceutical developer named Breckenridge Scott sold a "vaccine" for the zombie virus, called Phalanx, earning a massive fortune. However, Phalanx was only a vaccine against real rabies, and was nothing more than a placebo against the zombie virus. Phalanx did keep the population from panicking during this first winter, and even helped start a restoration of the U.S. economy.

Meanwhile, groups of special forces referred to as Alpha Teams were deployed by the U.S. government to combat isolated infestations. Although the exact actions of the Alpha Teams were sealed for secrecy even a decade after the end of the war, they were highly efficient during these early months at combating the zombie outbreaks. Thus, through the winter the general populace thought that the situation was under control, they were safe with the vaccine, and it was not too much cause for concern. However, the Alpha Teams were only meant as a stop-gap measure until the regular army could make a full-scale war mobilization, a massive undertaking which was never ordered because of denial at the true nature of the zombie threat, and because the United States populace was unwilling to make a massive military buildup against something so fantastic-sounding as a zombie plague.

However, the zombies began spreading faster again with the return of warmer weather, and the Alpha Teams were pushed well beyond the limits expected of them. By spring, a female journalist broke the news to the public that Phalanx was a placebo and useless against the virus and that infected corpses were really reanimating as mindless cannibals. While this did finally alert the public to the truth, it also heralded the start of the North American Great Panic. The only nation to take effective measures against the spread of Solanum at first was Israel, which enacted a voluntary quarantine very early on.

The Great Panic refers to the time of mass hysteria and breakdown of society surrounding humanity's realization of the reality facing zombies. The Panic began earlier in nations with first contact to the Zombies (such as China, and the nations of its smuggling trade routes). Africa's poverty stricken conditions also accelerated its Panic greatly. Refugees escaping from the light in China helped to speed up the rate of eating in other nations. At the same time, the Zombies were beginning to outnumber the living in Africa and India. The Great Panic would eventually sweep the globe.

Because of the level of denial that the USA was in over the nature of the zombie threat through the first winter, the American public was more or less just as unprepared. No large-scale warning was made, and due to the media-as-big-business culture in the United States at the time, many news outlets had treated warnings of the zombie plague as simply another disease outbreak like Ebola or SARS outbreaks of previous years. After the initial "buzz" about it wore off the media simply stopped reporting about it and moved on. Soon, the number of zombies was increasing exponentially. In May, a female reporter finally broke the news that the zombie epidemic was real, and that Phalanx was just a placebo and not a real vaccine against the zombie plague. Genuine mass panic and widespread anarchy set in, with "wannabe Rambos" shooting anything that moved, and doing as much, if not more, damage as the actual zombies.

By August, New York City had been overrun, and zombie outbreaks were happening in towns all across the U.S.A. Desperate to crush the zombies and restore the public's faith in the government's ability to control the situation, half of the U.S. military was deployed at a choke point in Yonkers, New York. The zombie horde from New York City, numbering in the millions, was lured out towards them. The subsequent Battle of Yonkers was a cataclysmic disaster: a river of Undead utterly overwhelmed the U.S. military due to poor planning. Organized response to the zombies collapsed, mass chaos and retreat set in, and within three weeks the surviving elements of the U.S. military fled west of the Rocky Mountains to establish a new defensive perimeter, abandoning the eastern two thirds of the country. Other nations suffer similar defeats and entire the human race was now in genuine danger of being completely overrun.

The salvation of humann civilization came in the form of the Redeker Plan. It was developed in South Africa by an ex-Apartheid government official named Paul Redeker and copied by other nations. It was determined that not everyone could always be saved, because of lack of resources and dangers of infection. "Safe zones" were established for some civilians and cleared of all zombies by military personnel. However, some of these safe zones were actually false safe zones, designed to relieve pressure from the actual safe zones. They would be set up and supplied in other sanctuaries, to draw zombies away from the safe zones and allow the people there time to regroup and reorient. In many cases false safe zones were developed in unsustainable positions. Hundreds of thousands were lied to and sacrificed in this manner.

During this time immediately following the Great Panic, the focus was on the restructuring of the United States government, military, and civilian population. Many military tactics were changed in light of the new foe, and new tools of war and industry were invented and implemented by the U.S. government. The seat of the government was moved to Honolulu, Hawaii. Once the Western United States is declared adequetely fortified from the mega-hordes of zombies, it is determined that humanity need only wait out the zombies, as they will eventually all decay, lose locomotion, and be more easily disposed of. However, a growing movement argued that the reclamation of land and the extermination of zombies was vital to the common spirit of all humanity. From Honolulu, The United States began to plan its counter-offensive against the global zombie horde to reclaim territory and to rekindle morale. 

The United States military began issuing new weapons specifically designed to eliminate zombies.  The new standard issue weapon was the Standard Infantry Rifle, or SIR, which sacrificed rate of fire for accuracy, ease of manufacture and reliabillity, along with a new type of incendiary ammunition, Pre-modern warfare infantry squares became a predominant tactic against the living dead. Battles consisted of the unit forming rank and file and luring the zombies into their prepared killzones. They fired on the horde as they cross a series of range markers, eventually forming a wall of dead zombies that the others have to climb over. Once zombies started to appear from multiple directions (as they almost always did), the troops would form a square shape around their vehicles, as to protect the center. This method was developed in India by General Raj-Singh, who attempted to use a square to face off thousands of zombies in India, a successful tactic until his troops ran out of ammunition and were overrun. These new tactics were first employed on a large scale in the United States at the Battle of Hope.

Eventually the United States managed to recapture its entire territory by forming two lines of infantry that stretched across the United States and marching across the country. The Road to New York, as the campaign was called, lasted roughly three years. After this was done the U.S. military helps the Canadian and Mexican forces retake their countries. In Europe all of the major powers manage to retake their countries, though the borders are changed as various criminals European countries had dumped into infected areas had wound up creating their own nations. Russia reconquers its territory, with the exception of parts of Siberia, but suffers a vastly higher casualty rate than the U.S. and Europe due to woefully inadequate supplies and equipment. North America is cleared of zombies ten years after the beginning of the war. When China is cleared of zombies two years after that, Victory in China Day is declared, bringing an end to the Zombie War.

Despite major combat operations ending the zombie threat was far from gone with some areas still overrun. Most of the areas still infected are in the north or in the mountains, where the undead are frozen solid during the winter months and must be mopped up during the brief thaw each year. Another major area of infestation is in bodies of water, where millions of undead still exist and occasionally make it to land. These heavily infested areas are known as White Zones. The most heavily infected area other than the ocean floors is Iceland, due to a pre-war lack of military resources and an abundance of refugees, infected among them. The entire nation was eradicated.

World War Z significantly altered the geopolitical and economic landscape. In particular, many national governments collapsed, and the political ties between certain nations grew stronger. The environmental effects of the war also continue to affect the world, with many animals being hunted to extinction and a nuclear exhange between Iran and Pakistan greatly affecting the environment.

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