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World War Z

World War Z


by Max Brooks

World War Z Chapter 8 Summary

How It All Goes Down

Total War

Part 1

Aboard the Mauro Altieri, Three Thousand Feet above Vaalajarvi, Finland

  • The Interviewer continues his discussion with Travis, sorry, General D'Ambrosia in the Command Information Center. And no, you aren't reading that wrong. They are three thousand feet above Finland because the CIC is a blimp, sorry, dirigible.
  • Travis mentions how worried he was when the order came in to attack.
  • He wonders if that surprises the Interviewer, what with all of Hollywood's generals being "egocentric clowns" in dress blues (8.1.5).
  • Truth is Travis was scared to death about sending men to die against two million—count 'em—zombies.
  • Oh, but things only get worse. They couldn't rely on the old rules of war anymore. They had to come up with complete new ones. And when the old rules of war predate history itself, rewriting them proves no small task.
  • Travis mentions that all armies must be "bred, fed, and led" (8.1.9). What that breaks down to is that you have to breed people to fight, feed them so they can keep fighting, and have someone to lead them to and in the fight.
  • Zombies aren't restricted by "bred, fed, and led." They need no supplies other than humans to munch on and resurrect as one of their own members. It was a decidedly unfair advantage.
  • Travis wonders if the Interviewer's heard the expression "total war" (8.1.13). It's the expression used when a country has geared itself for 100-percent, no-holds-barred, hold-on-to-your-butt, warfare.
  • The expression is total bunk, if you ask him. First off, no populace will be 100% in favor of a war all the time. When are they going to sleep? Second, nations have limits: body limits, food limits, resource limits, and on and on.
  • But zombies don't have those limits. They are geared for total war, 100% of the time.

Part 2

Denver, Colorado, USA

  • We find ourselves in the Wainio household. Todd returns to telling us about headhunting days across America.
  • The new army was very different than the one at Yonkers. Whereas Yonkers was all about the shiny gadgets and modern tech, the new army felt like something from a history book.
  • The only vehicles used were to transport ammo and supplies. The BDUs (battle dress uniforms) were interwoven with bite-proof Kevlar but were light and comfy.
  • Their arsenal now was a Lobo for head bashing and a standard infantry rifle for head shooting—bayonet accessory included if you're feeling sassy with your zombie kills.
  • Even their ammo, the "NATO 5.56 'Cheery PIE,'" was better suited for hunting walkers (8.2.5).
  • The army also revised what it meant to be a combat grunt. Physical stamina was still important, but now combatants had to deal with "Z-Shock," or losing your head after seeing so many zombies doing the crazy things zombies do (8.2.6).
  • With this new requirement, the army basically began accepting people from everywhere. Todd's battle buddy was Sister Montoya, a fifty-two-year old nun.
  • Their watershed battle came at Hope, New Mexico, and yes, even Todd thinks that name was a cheesy choice.
  • Todd asks if the Interviewer has seen Roy Eliot's film about the battle because it was nothing like that. No harmonica, no campfire, no kumbaya; just silence and waiting and dread.
  • When the zombies came, Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" began playing to psyche up the soldiers.
  • They fought using the army's "what's old is new" playbook, using lined formations that date as far back as at least the Napoleonic Wars. One line fires; another stands at the ready. When Line A needs to reload, Line B let's loose.
  • When the zombies started coming around the line or at its flank and rear, they initiated a reinforced square, based on the tactics of Raj-Singh (remember that guy?).
  • This time, they even brought ammo for all the graveyard ghouls.
  • The fought that way all night, using searchlights, swapping in new soldiers as others began to tire. The bodies piled up into massive walls of dead flesh.
  • At four in the morning, the zombies weren't hitting them nearly as hard, and the mood lifts. They had won.
  • They use Humvees to push their way through walls of dead bodies. A cleanup crew comes in to do exactly what you'd imagine a cleanup crew should do.
  • Then Todd and the rest of the fighting group marched ten miles east and set up camp.
  • The next day everyone was laughing and telling stories. They still had the entire march across America to go, but as Todd says, "it was finally the beginning of the end" (8.2.47).

Part 3

Ainsworth, Nebraska, USA

  • Darnell Hackworth runs the last remaining retirement farm for the K-9 veterans of World War Z but declined to speak with the Interviewer. End of chapter.
  • First things first, zombie war K-9s don't get the credit they deserve. All right, great interview, see you later…oh, you're not done yet, are you?
  • He's not. It's time for another fictional history lesson, meaning, at this rate, we'll know more about the fictional zombie wars than just most real wars. Onward!
  • Dogs were first used in the zombie war for triage, a.k.a. sorting injured folk into groups to decide priority of medical aid. Only in this case, it's more like deciding who'll go zombie on you first. Remember the Israeli's use of dogs way back in chapter 2? That's zombie war triage.
  • Since dogs naturally take a fright to the zombie virus and can smell it pre-zombification, they were a great fit for the program.
  • Unfortunately, not every dog was cut out for the stress, and some went straight up ballistic.
  • So, the Americans decided to institute a regular training program to prevent paranoid pooch syndrome.
  • They started young, testing a puppy's ability to keep it together when a zombie was nearby.
  • Then the trainers and the dogs entered a grueling training program with a "60 percent washout rate" (8.3.6).
  • The dogs had somewhere between four and a million and one uses. They could be lures like in the Battle of Hope.
  • They could also be decoys. For example, they could bark on a building's roof to draw the zombies to the upper floors of other buildings. Pretty neat trick that.
  • Mostly though, they were scouts. They went on sweep and clear missions with regular units, sniffing out the undead fiends, so the infantrymen could give them a bonk to the bonce.
  • They also went on long-range patrol. Here, the dogs wore a special harness that had a video uplink, so the guys back at command could map things out.
  • Everybody loved it, except the dogs' trainers. They were always worried sick about their K-9 pals. For Darnell, towns and cities were always the worse.
  • Darnell brings up Hound Town, a city in Oregon barricaded and still filled with ghouls. They used the place to train small breed dogs in urban reconnaissance.
  • A dog limps over to Darnell, and the interviewee pets the old beast.
  • Darnell mentions that pure breeds never cut it because of their neurotic nature and health problems. The dogs had to be mutts, and tough ones since the long-range patrols were difficult.
  • (If your curiosity is piqued, we found more information on the difference between purebreds and mixed breeds.)
  • Zombies were a major threat but so were feral packs of animals. That's why they had to start training escorts to go with the recon dogs.
  • Maze, Darnell's current lap dog, had two escorts, Pongo and Perdy. Both were rock 'em, sock 'em tough. They even took down a few ghouls.
  • The Interviewer asks if zombie flesh is toxic. Yeah, it is, but the dogs were trained to never munch on a zombie. They were trained to knock them over instead.
  • Sure, the program had its fair share of deaths. Sometimes, a dog would trip up and break a leg. If they were close enough, the handler could just go get it.
  • What about those other times?
  • Darnell says they petitioned for little explosive packs for mercy kills, but the word from on high said it was a waste of resources.
  • Darnell gets particularly heated about that, especially considering the "fragmuts" (8.3.34).
  • The Interviewer wonders what those were. Fragmuts was the unofficial name of a program that would have rigged dogs with explosives to act as walking landmines. Not even remotely PETA-approved.
  • The program almost got approval. Almost.
  • It didn't thanks to Sergeant Eckhart. Eckhart was a handler whose dog was on a lure mission and broke its leg. When Eckhart went to retrieve it, an officer tried to stop her, and she emptied half a clip into him.
  • Naturally, they hanged Eckhart in public to maintain discipline.
  • But Eckhart's actions also brought about some changes. For starts, no more talk about fragmuts. Also, handlers were allowed to chase after their dogs. The army even began looking into "statistics of handlers who offed themselves after losing a partner" (8.3.40), and dogs were no longer considered to be disposable hardware.
  • Darnell mentions that all handlers held one fundamental belief: don't mess with my dog. In fact, that attitude is what got Darnell a job with the army in the first place.
  • Darnell had been hiding from the zombies for three months when he came across two guys who had tied a dog up, blood caked on its face.
  • He can't remember exactly what happened, but they tell him he cracked a bat over one of the guys and beat the other one to a pulp.
  • A guardsman pulled Darnell off and cuffed him. Darnell just kept screaming for them not to hurt the dog. The guardsman laughed and said the army had a job for him.
  • As for the dog, he was pretty messed up thanks to a crack on the head, but Darnell found him a home as a ratter—kept a whole family fed that winter on rats alone.
  • Darnell lets the Interviewer in on a little secret: he used to hate dogs. He used to live by a pet store and couldn't understand why people spent so much time on the stupid things. Yeah, he was that guy.
  • Then during the Great Panic, the zombies surrounded the pet store, and Darnell heard as the pets died one at a time. The zombies didn't snatch them up. The water and food ran out, the long, hard and painful way to go.
  • Darnell wonders what he could have done.

Part 4

Siberia, the Holy Russian Empire

  • The Interviewer meets Father Sergei Ryzhkov in a Russian shantytown.
  • Father Ryzhkov wants to explain to the Interviewer how Russia became a religious state, more specifically how he started the trend.
  • As it had been in the past, the greatest enemy Russia faced during the zombie wars was winter. Seriously, Russia gets cold.
  • They also had to deal with a war on two fronts: zombies coming from the Ural Mountains as well as Asia. Oh, and did he mention lack of war production and food? Because you can add those to the list of woes.
  • The only advantage was that Russia kept all its Cold War stockpile of weapons. Father Ryzhkov mentions his rifle division looked like extras in an old propaganda flick with their outdated rifles and machine guns.
  • Their causality rate was high, mostly due to faulty ammo rounds being older than the people firing them. They also lacked the military tactics of other countries or the BDUs or the suicide pills.
  • How about we just sum this up in two words? Bad times.
  • When it came to soldiers being infected, there was just one solution, a bullet. But who was going to pull the trigger?
  • At first, the officers did it, but they eventually couldn't shoulder the responsibility. Some became alcoholics, others committed suicide, and others grew reckless.
  • A Major Kovpak just vanished, and this guy was no joke. He fought in many major engagements before the Z wars. When the zombies advanced, he actually asked for a return to action. For him to bug out was a huge hit for the Russian defense.
  • They called it the Second Decimation (8.3.13), only this time it was one of every ten officers being killed.
  • To alleviate the Second Decimation, they decided to have the infected soldiers kill themselves. Brilliant! Only not really.
  • Now, we come to Father Ryzhkov's role in this debacle.
  • He no longer believed in his own religion although he did the job required of him: collecting family letters, saying a prayer, and providing a final drink.
  • Then one day he had five boys lying on cots, all infected, all soon to be suicides. He said the prayers, took the letters, and gave them some vodka. He even provided cigarettes for the COs.
  • Then he began to feel his body tremble. The soldiers put their pistols under their chins and began to count down, but before they finished, Father Ryzhkov drew his own pistol and killed one of them.
  • He felt God commanding him to stop the sinning, to keep these souls from hell. If the officers couldn't do it, and a soldier killing himself was sinful, then those who took up the cross should shepard their souls to the Lord.
  • The act became known as the "Final Purification," and like planking or anything neon-colored, the fad caught on. Russia's path toward a religious fundamental state had begun.
  • The Interviewer wonders if there is any truth that Father Ryzhkov's philosophy was "perverted for political reasons" (8.4.19).
  • The Interviewer adds that the president promoted himself to head of the church, and rumors are flying about priests becoming death squads who assassinate people under the guise of purifying them.
  • Father Ryzhkov doesn't know anything about that.
  • A small child comes to the door and speaks frantically to the old priest in the local language. Father Ryzhkov excuses himself and leaves with bible and pistol in hand.
  • (As you'll learn in journalism school, when someone picks up a bible and a pistol, the interview is officially over.)

Part 5

Aboard USS Holo Kai, Off the Coast of the Hawaiian Islands

  • Inside the Deep Glider 7, the Interviewer and Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Choi—henceforth known simply as Michael—do their shoptalk beneath the big Pacific waves.
  • Michael's war never ended. Why? Because there ain't no rest for the wicked.
  • Actually, now that the surface is under control, Michael and his people must deal with the twenty to thirty million zedheads down in Davy Jones' locker.
  • Back in wartime, Michael used an Atmospheric Diving Suit to fight the zombies under the water. He claims it made him look like "Robby the Robot." And while we're here, a tip of our hat to Max Brooks for that awesome shout-out.
  • The technology practically went extinct with the invention of scuba, except for really deep dives since they required "to enclose your whole body in a bubble of surface pressure" (8.5.10). The bends and decompression sickness just sound no fun at all.
  • In fact, the submersible he and the Interviewer are in now acts exactly on the same bubble principle.
  • These ADSs were perfect for water combat as they act like suits of armor. The zeds could grab and bite all day long, and the ADS would remain secure. Added bonus: they came with forty-eight hours of emergency life support. Scuba suits got nothing on these bad boys.
  • They even came equipped with lights, video, sonar, and weapons. At first, their weapons weren't the best, but then a zombie swarm hit an oil rig while its workers were performing repairs.
  • The underwater fighting wasn't fatal for the divers, but it was difficult. Since the ADS is basically armor, the operator can't feel anything in the outside world. And the more zombies he punches into chum, the less his visibility.
  • The oil rig guys refused to return to work until their escorts, the ADS team, were better equipped. They got the good stuff after that.
  • They also expanded their operation. They worked beachhead sanitation to help marines get ashore. They also helped in harbor clearing, which was like clearing out a city of cars, boats, and planes underwater.
  • Sunken ships were the worse for Michael. Aboard a vessel called the Cable, the floor caved in beneath him and he found himself drowning in the critters.
  • They reached the bottom, and Michael shined a light on a swarm of zombies trudging across the bottom. Michael tagged them to receive information on their migration patterns.
  • Michael wonders aloud how the zombies manage to survive so far underneath the ocean. Their cloths have disintegrated thanks to the saltwater. The pressure and temperature should have destroyed them long ago. But here they are all the same.
  • He mentions to the Interviewer that this'll be one of the last manned recon dives before moving to Remotely Operated Vehicles or ROVs.
  • The Interviewer asks if there is validity to Congress's arguments. Michael says it wouldn't really help limit human casualties since the ADS divers only lost one man, Chernov, and he only died because he got drunk and passed out on a tram line.
  • No, ROVs may be cost effective, but they are not better than a human pilot. That's why Michael sticks around. His experience and instinct have yet to be duplicated by a silicon chip.
  • When they do, Michael will never go in an exosuit again. He'll pull an Alan Hale from Action in the North Atlantic (who, by the way, was pulling an Odysseus).
  • He'll put an oar on his shoulder and walk inland until someone asks him what the thing on his shoulder is. Then he'll settle there.

Part 6

Quebec, Canada

  • Andre Renard starts his interview by letting the Interviewer know everyone else is a liar. Yeah, take that world.
  • No one had a harder campaign to fight than those who fought beneath Paris. Just like the Resistance in World War II, the zombie resistance found itself fighting the undead throughout the Parisian underground.
  • Checking in with Reality: Max Brooks's description is pretty dead on. Paris's underground is filled with service tunnels, catacombs, and old tombs, but that's just the start. "Canals and reservoirs, crypts and bank vaults, wine cellars transformed into nightclubs and galleries. Most surprising of all are the carrières—the old limestone quarries" also twist and turn throughout the Parisian depths. Best of all, mass graves have created entire rooms walled with skulls and bones of the long dead (source).
  • Several civilians went into the Parisian underground to escape the undead, and Andre can't blame them. Without Radio Free Earth to inform them and the Great Panic in full force above ground, the crypts and catacombs must have seemed like a safe haven for the quarter of a million panicked souls.
  • But when the tide turned, Andre and his guys had to clear out their zombified remains.
  • The experience was awful. It was dark, dank, and stank. Few managed to snag night vision goggles, and they always had more flashlights than batteries to make them work.
  • The air became "toxic with sewage, chemicals, rotting flesh" and the gas mask filters had long expired (8.6.7).
  • They lost their way constantly. Their maps were pre-war, so everywhere you went, you could never be sure if you were going in the right direction.
  • The acoustics played tricks on you. In the dark, a scream or zombie's moan came from every direction simultaneously.
  • Even if you managed to find your way through all that, sometimes you'd arrive at your destination to only find the remains of your friends.
  • Wow, that sounds pretty dismal, doesn't it? But wait, there's more —
  • No firearms. None. The air was flammable, so they do what they could with air carbine pistols. They even had to be careful with melee weapons, just in case someone struck stone and the spark set the air ablaze.
  • Their clothing was dangerous. The heavy stuff caused men to tear off their gas masks from sheer exhaustion in a fight. The fumes often killed them before they got to the surface.
  • Even water became their enemy. The summer rains collected in the tunnels, hiding holes large enough to swallow a man. With the heavy gear, it was a death trap. It also hid the zombies.
  • Sometimes, they'd have to call in scuba guys trained specifically to fight in the water-logged tunnels. Andre says these scuba specialists had the loosest survival rating of anyone.
  • They lost 15,000 people in three months. And what for? So the country could have heroes again.
  • And they got them. When the underground fighters broke into the hospital, the one squad found itself against 300 zombies. The last voice they heard over the radio was Andre's brother.

Part 7

Denver, Colorado

  • Todd Wainio sits in the outfield. Since no flyballs will be coming his way, he invites the Interviewer to stand with him and converse.
  • Todd's journey across the America and through the zack hordes continues.
  • The trek was slow as they reclaimed territory inch by inch, zombie by zombie.
  • They used a system called FAR or force appropriate response. You halt at a zombie threat; decide whether some soldiers, a platoon, or company should deal with the threat; and then you go a head hunting.
  • But urban warfare really, really slowed them down. The idea was to surround a city, call the deadheads, and then take them out.
  • The problem proved to be suburban sprawl. If you've ever been to the Boston or Los Angeles areas, you'll know what Todd's talking about when he says it's hard to tell where one city ends and another begins.
  • And it wasn't just zombies out there. Because then it'd be too easy, right?
  • There were Quislings too, and if a feral human decided to fight, it could be faster and more dangerous than anything else in the wasteland.
  • Feral packs were the only thing worse than a feral human—guess our housecats got big and mean in the absence of their beloved Meow-Mix.
  • An attack from a feral cat is gave Todd the scar across his cheek. Three huzzahs for body armor.
  • But the BDUs protected against more than just grumpy cats. People still inhabited the wasteland and not just ferals either.
  • Some regular Joes had been left behind when the USA moved west of the Rookies, and now they had LaMOE (last man on earth) complex. That is, they became a little too used to being king of the rubble pile, and they didn't want to give it up.
  • In Chicago, a high-powered slug almost dropped Todd. Obviously his body armor saved him.
  • They discovered the slug came from a group of LaMOEs who had held up in a tower and weren't giving their Mad Max style kingdom up for anyone. Tanks, grenades, and rockets were taken out of retirement in for that bit of extermination duty.
  • But the list of threats continues to grow. Next on Todd's list is snow. While the snow made the zombisicles easy to crack, it also hid them, meaning they could be over stepping enemies they'd have to fight later.
  • Did we talk about isolated zones yet? No? Let's do that.
  • Zombies were still trying to siege these zones, and they all were difficult fights. Todd remembers the Comerica Park/Ford Field skirmish with a million Gs. It was the only time he thought they might be truly overrun.
  • The Interviewer asks what the reaction was like. Todd says mixed.
  • The military zones had a lot of ceremony to go with them and sometimes serious one-upmanship, guys not letting on how hard they had it because of Rambo syndrome.
  • On the other hand, the civilian zones couldn't have been happier to see them. Mostly. Some were pretty upset that the military didn't get there sooner.
  • The Interviewer asks about the secessionist zones, but Todd never had to deal with them. The military had a special unit for dealing with the rebel scum.
  • What about questionable survival methods? Once again, Todd never had to deal with it. People tried to tell him all sorts of stuff, wanting to get it off their chests, but he always told them he didn't want to know. He had his own problems to deal with.
  • In fact, the soldiers on the road to Hero City had countless problems. Sickness became a big one. Stuff they thought humanity had stamped out returned with Spanish flu.
  • Plus, the booby traps. People laid mines and all sorts of nasty surprises on the journey west.
  • Todd lost a buddy to a trip-wired shotgun shell.
  • The buildings themselves proved a hazard. Todd lost his lover to a building simply collapsing around her.
  • And we conclude this list of horrors with psychological trauma.
  • Imagine always finding places filled with skeletons where people fell to starvation or disease or just gave up. Todd once broke into a church where all the adults killed the kids first (sound familiar?). Such things stick with you.
  • The soldiers held it together for a long time, but eventually they just had to break down. Todd knew a professional wrestler who could take it to a zombie with the best of them. One day, he took a whiff of some perfume, and the smell triggered something in him. He just started bawling.
  • Another guy lost it when he came across his own home.
  • In Portland, Maine, two guys took some skulls and started doing a skit with them. Todd made eye contact with the company psychiatrist, Dr. Chandrasekhar, wondering if these guys had gone nuts. The doctor just shook his head and that really scared Todd.
  • But then one day, his squad leader, Sergeant Avalon, saw a turtle, and Dr. Chandrasekhar lead her away. Seems she was Sioux, and the turtle was an important symbol in her culture.
  • Todd was promoted to squad leader afterward. By the time he reached Yonkers, he was the only one in the group left from Hope.
  • As he passed the remains of the battle, he couldn't feel much of anything. As he boarded the barges, he looked over at Dr. Chandrasekhar. The doc just shook his head. Todd had made it.

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