Study Guide

World War Z Summary

By Max Brooks

World War Z Summary

An unnamed man (we're going to call him the Interviewer) is commissioned to write a report on the Zombie Wars. The report consists of interviews from people around the world, but when he turns it, his boss complains the report is too emotional. (Yeah, we hate those emotions.) The Interviewer decides to take the "human factor" out of his report and rework it as a book. This is that story (in six paragraphs):

The zombie plague starts as all plagues tend to—slow and steady. China has a mild outbreak of zombie that spreads out into the world through various routes: refugees, black market organs, human trafficking, and the undead simply shuffling about. Many countries ignore the news of the dead rising up from the grave with a ravenous hunger for human flesh, but others, such as Israel, take the threat seriously and begin zombie-proofing their borders. (They would.)

But the lack of information and preventative measures means the zombie tide doesn't stay back for long. Before anyone knows it, the undead masses have washed over the entire globe, biting, scratching, and killing all they come across. Governments take defensive measures, but their militaries don't understand their new enemy, leading to disastrous engagements such as the Battle of Yonkers, where America's state-of-the-art martial technology does little to even dent the zombie masses of Manhattan.

Without proper government leadership, lots of people panic. Unoriginally, this event is called the Great Panic. Some try to fight the zombies, others flee with little to no resources, but most just die a horrible death. (That's probably what would happen to us.) Then the South African government calls for a plan by a man named Paul Redeker. The Redeker Plan is cold, calculating, and lacks social niceties, but it buys the South African government the time they need. Other nations have a go at Redeker's plan, and the tide turns.

Learning from their past mistakes, the American government and military focus their attention west of the Rockies. New weapons are crafted, old strategies are reenacted, the populations of the world join forces, and feeling Twisted Sister had the right attitude, decide they aren't gonna take it anymore.

The counterstrike is a long hard road, especially in countries like France where the underground battles read like something from a particularly twisted Poe story. But the humans manage to do what humans do best: adapt and survive.

The world is irrevocably changed from the zombie invasion, but the Interviewer ends his story on one of those bittersweet notes readers are so fond of. Although the people have suffered a great tragedy, they can now pick up the pieces of their lives and hopefully live on in a post-zombie apocalyptic world, which isn't as bad as it sounds. Honestly.