PrintE-mail Written by J.D. Gillam

Review: World War Z – The Complete Edition – An Oral History of the Zombie War / Author: Max Brooks / Publisher: Random House / Release Date: Out Now

Issued just in time for the cinema release of the Brad Pitt starring film comes an unabridged audiobook of Max Brooks' best seller, originally published in 2006. Amazingly, some of it has already started to date.

There are some inherent issues in turning an oral history of a fictional war into an audiobook. Whereas similar projects based on real-life battles, such as The Good War, which was an account on World War II and the inspiration for Brooks to create his book, are engrained with memories and heartbreaking stories, World War Z just compounds the issues that it had in its print format.

It has stayed true to the original printing and there are some stunning moments, no more so than the recollection of an Air Force pilot who is left stranded in a zombie-infested swamp and is led to safety by a mystery person on their radio. There’s a real sense of urgency in this segment specifically. The problem is that most of the remaining ‘interviews’ come across as stagnant or sterile, without any real weight to them. It may have diluted the impact that the original book had to include sound effects, seeing as the ‘interviews’ are conducted long after the events, but some of the voices are so dull, you may find your mind wandering.

It gets bogged down occasionally by being too techy at times and whereas the book had to advise when an interviewee did something, when you can hear the character sighing, we don’t need to be told that they sighed.

Some of the voice acting is competent and some is almost laughable. Gone are the star names from the 2007 abridged version, replaced by voice actors who do this as their trade. The problem is that this comes across as a read-through and nothing more. We should feel the anger, anguish and fear that these people were supposed to have, but in most cases we don’t. Brooks doesn’t get away from it here, lending his voice to the main interviewer, which makes the lack of gravitas even more galling.

This is worth getting if you haven’t read the book yet, or would prefer to sample the source material before the film probably ruins it for everyone this summer.

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