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World War Z

World War Z


by Max Brooks

World War Z Chapter 3 Summary

How It All Goes Down


Part 1

Langley, Virginia, USA

  • The Interviewer heads to his home turf of America to talk with the director of the CIA, one Bob Archer. Once again, we don't so much get James Bond as Matt Damon from The Good Shepard. Oh well. We'll still take Matt Damon.
  • Archer begins by discussing how the CIA really operates. It's not the all-knowing, world-puppeteering Illuminati all those conspiracy theories make it out to be. Sure, they want you to think they are, but truth is they don't have the funding.
  • Due to these limits in funding and assets, the CIA can't look into every whisper that comes its way. Instead, it focuses on the dangers "that are already clear and present" (3.1.4).
  • The Interviewer asks him about China, and how the plague originated there.
  • Archer lays out the story: China knew they couldn't hide the fact that they were doing sweeps across their entire country. When you're as large as China, such things are kind of obvious.
  • Instead, they hid the fact that they were sweeping for zombies by pulling a bait and switch.
  • Using the political unrest of the Taiwan Strait, they had the CIA convinced World War III was about to happen, diverting the organization's attention away from World War Z's actual beginnings. (Note: never play Risk with these guys. Also, never conduct a land war in Asia.)
  • Things got worse when the United States government began what Archer refers to as the "Brain Drain." Basically, the administration blamed the CIA for the last brushfire war and cut their funding. Anyone with a "brain" got a job somewhere else, "draining" the CIA of human intelligence resources.
  • Brain Snack: Brooks will make several mentions to this "last brushfire war" throughout the novel. A brushfire war is basically a small military conflict that doesn't qualify as a full-blown war. It's possible this unnamed war could refer to the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, or, you know, a completely fictional war.
  • But did Archer really know what was really going on in China.
  • Archer had his suspicions. He eventually told someone in a position of authority those suspicions and got … a transfer to Buenos Aires. Oops.
  • What about the "Warmbrunn-Knight" report?
  • Sure, Archer read it, but he feels it didn't matter much really. Right after he was transferred, Israel told the world about their quarantine. The information was all there plain to see; it was just a question of who would do something about it.

Part 2

Vaalajarvi, Finland

  • Every year when spring arrives, flowers bloom, baby birds chirp, and a new batch of zombies unthaws from its prison, ravenous for human foie gras. With the arrival of the zombies comes hunting season. We'll leave you to figure out what happens next.
  • Travis D'Ambrosia, Supreme Allied Commander, talks with the Interviewer during hunting season.
  • Travis admits mistakes happened, and the American people were let down by the military, but he wants people to know why those mistakes were made.
  • Problem number one: the idea of real-life, honest-to-goodness zombie outbreaks was unbelievable. Sure, all the Joint Chiefs had their suspicions, but who wants to be the first person to seriously bring up the question of zombie defense?
  • Exactly.
  • As for the Warmbrunn-Knight report, Travis didn't read a copy until two years after the Great Panic—the zombie outbreak equivalent of reading the book after you've written the essay.
  • Even then, it was pretty much dead on with the proposal the Joint Chiefs sent to the White House already.
  • So, what happened?
  • Travis says the White House loved Phase One, which called for Special Forces being sent into a zombie-infested area to do what Specials Forces do.
  • That phase went incredibly well. The problem was Phase Two. The White House thought Phase Two was weaksauce.
  • Phase Two required "a massive national undertaking, the likes of which hadn't been seen since the darkest days of the Second World War" (3.2.21).
  • Unfortunately, the American people were war weary after the last bushfire war. It wasn't that America had lost, but the war had been harder and more drawn than it should have been and didn't end with the definitive touchdown, end zone dance Americans prefer in their victories.
  • Add to this the price tag such an undertaking would have attached to the American taxpayer, and it became obvious that this "generation [of Americans] had had enough" (3.2.25).
  • But those zombies haven't had enough!

Part 3

Vostok Station, Antarctica

  • Next on the Interviewer's list is Breckinridge "Breck" Scott. He's one rich guy who's been leasing a bio-dome in Antarctica from the Russians since the Great Panic. Yeah, he's bio-dome rich.
  • Scott begins his interview by discussing the truth of economics. The gist of the lecture is that fear churns the economical machine: "Fear of aging, fear of loneliness, fear of poverty, fear of failure" (3.3.3). Kind of jerky? Absolutely. Truthful? Well….
  • Back in the pre-Great Panic days, Scott first heard they were calling the zombie infection "African rabies" and he saw gold in dat der diction.
  • He met with some friends, played some golf, and proposed going into business selling a vaccine for actual rabies. Since people thought zombies and rabies victims were the same thing, he knew they'd buy the stuff in bulk.
  • The Interviewer asks about the FDA's regulating power, but Scott just laughs the notion away. The FDA was too business friendly and Congress too much in need of a cure-all to stop him. He even got the president to give a speech in his favor.
  • The Interviewer wonders if Scott knew the drug, Phalanx, wouldn't work, but Scott counters that all he said was it worked against rabies, and it did, and everyone was calling it "African rabies," so…what's the problem, again?
  • The Interviewer asks Scott about the damage he caused, but old Scotty boy has a counter for that too. After all, he didn't know the zombie threat would go so far. Besides, he never lied, technically.
  • In the end, Scott claims he didn't sell safety as much as the "the idea of the idea of safety" (3.3.23). He protected people from their fears.
  • In fact, he argues that the Great Panic was the result of people being told his drug didn't actually work against zombification.
  • The Interviewer ends his interview by asking Scott if he takes any personal responsibility. Care to take a guess as his answer?
  • Nope! Scott only did what anyone else would do and try to get his own slice of the cash pie. The only people to blame are the sheeple who handed over their money and safety without bothering to do the research.

Part 4

Amarillo, Texas, USA

  • Grover Carlson, former White House chief of staff, collects dung for fuel while talking with the Interviewer.
  • Unlike so many others, this guy actually read what he calls the "Knight-WarnJews report"—see what he did there? (3.4.2). Seems he was less than impressed.
  • Why? To use his words, it was "typical alarmist crap" (3.4.4). He said the "Warmbrunn-Knight" report blew the whole thing out of proportion while the White House gave a realist, measured response, a.k.a. the Alpha teams.
  • They also produced educational videos for state departments and put up a page on the Department of Health and Human Services's website. Yes, a whole page.
  • As for Phalanx, they knew it was a fake, but they were thankful for the way it calmed the population. As for a real drug, well, how long have we been trying to cure cancer and AIDS?
  • The truth? The people couldn't handle the truth, especially considering it was an election year. The administration would have committed political suicide had it told the American people hard, not better, times were ahead.
  • The Interviewer asks if they even tried to solve the problem.
  • Carlson responds that you can't really ever solve problems like crime or poverty. The best you can do is hope to keep the voters happy long enough to vote for you.
  • The Interviewer wonders about law enforcement requesting federal aid during the outbreaks.
  • Well, sure they did—but since they were always asking for federal aid anyway, why would this time be any different?
  • Moving on. Carlson admits they never had to initiate a cover-up since the news media did it for them. The big news companies people actually listened to weren't interested in the zombie stories.
  • Those that did report were only listened to by eggheads and "pansy, overeducated know-it-alls" (3.4.27).
    Basically, the Interviewer says, the administration's position was to ignore the problem despite all warnings to the contrary?
  • Carlson tells him to grow up while throwing another heap of dung into the wheelbarrow. Snap!

Part 5

Troy, Montana, USA

  • The Interviewer travels to Troy, a "'New Community' for the 'New America.'" The houses here are built on stilts and each one comes with a retractable staircase. Also included are such luxuries as solar paneling, shielded water wells, watchtowers, and a steel-reinforced gate (3.5.1).
  • We're sold on the concept, but do we have to provide our own 50 caliber—or are those provided for us?
  • Here, he meets with former housewife and expert zombie decapitator, Mary Jo Miller.
  • Mrs. Miller's story begins as we imagine our own zombie stories will. She's worried about her stock portfolio, Aiden's need for a math tutor, and Jenna's need for soccer cleats. Thankfully, Panda Palace had dinner covered.
  • The Interviewer asks if she watched the news, but Mary Jo just caught a few tidbits every morning: celebrity gossip, sports, real Good Morning America junk news. As for radio and the Internet—the radio was just for music and the Internet, well, who uses the Internet to learn stuff?
  • Sure, there was some discussion about the attacks. An acquaintance, Mrs. Ruiz, even bought a cabin in Alaska, but Mary Jo just assumed it was classic, middle-class overreacting.
  • She did suspect that her children began to show unconscious signs of worry, but it was nothing a scribble on a prescription pad couldn't handle.
  • Too bad their insurance didn't cover it because they were already on Phalanx.
  • Oh, and her husband, Tim, bought a gun. He even knew how to use it.
  • The whole zombie thing slipped into the back of her mind as one more thing "to worry about, every month […] a new nail-biter" (3.5.17).
  • One night, their dog started barking as did the other neighborhood dogs. Aiden heard something, and then, BAM, zombie through the sliding glass door.
  • The kelp-garbed zombie (they lived near San Diego at the time) attacked Tim, and he yelled at Mary Jo to get his gun.
  • Then Jenna screamed. Mary Jo rushed into her daughter's room to see a zombie sticking through the window, tearing at her daughter's hair.
  • Mary Jo says her recollection of the events is a little fuzzy, but from what she's told, she went Buffy the Zombie Slayer and ripped the thing's head clean off. Zombie Lesson #1: Don't screw with mommy.
  • Tim rushed into the room, gun in one hand, dog leash in the other. They hopped into the car and were gone.

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