World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
World War Z is as difficult to forget as it is to read, but by no means does that make it a book to avoid. Its unique structure brings life (haha) to an overdone genre by giving it the credibility it drastically needs without withholding the horror that appeals to so many zombie enthusiasts.
– It’s easily the most convincing horror book I’ve read, which, for a zombie apocalypse-esque book, is really saying something.
– The interview structure of World War Z means it isn’t your typical gore-fest but is instead all the more chilling because it feels far too realistic.
– It’s a dry book. Since there aren’t any continuing characters, plots, overarching storyline etc. the fictional accounts in the book have to work really hard to keep up the reader’s interest and for me, quite a few of them failed.
– Most of the accounts are far too short. Though this leaves you with nicely creepy question marks hanging over each account, it’s also pretty frustrating as, just when you begin to warm to an interviewee, their story is over. Some of these accounts didn’t even amount to a full page on my e-reader and this itty-bitty nature of the book becomes tiresome.
I went into World War Z knowing as little about the book as I could other than the often-repeated phrase, ‘it’s completely different to the film’. The oral history structure took me by surprise as I’ve never seen it orchestrated as convincingly and as comprehensively as Brooks has managed to in this book. This credibility is the main appeal of the book for me as I get bored of all the gore in the zombie genre which usually comes at the cost of believability so it was something special to find a book this disturbing in its realism.
That being said, the realism had the double-edged sword of also making for quite dull reading in some parts. A few times I had to force myself to keep on going because I was bored stiff of a particular account but didn’t want to miss any of the story we’re tasked to piece together from fictional interviews. This is often the case with non-fiction oral history – it’s incredibly difficult to weave different accounts together to build-up a bigger picture without being too selective and distorting the picture altogether. So again, its occasional dullness was bearable and gave greater weight to the book. Just bear in mind that it’s not something you’ll likely want to read for long periods of time without a break, nor is it something you’ll want to read before you sleep (it led to some pretty convincing and disturbing nightmares for me!).
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Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
DNF at 63%
I tried so hard to finish this book but it’s been nearly 6 month now and I just can’t tackle how painstakingly dull I find it. Perhaps I read it at the wrong time but I really don’t see what the fuss is over this book and why it is considered such a classic – I really tried to enjoy it just for that reason alone but it just wasn’t enough to stick with it. For what it’s worth, I watched the film and was bored rigid by that as well so it could just be my dislike for the gothic/poetic genre (partly why I’ve given it two stars).
My main irk with the book is that it relies far too much on the idea of vampires alone to sustain the reader’s interest – I just don’t find that enough. It’s this curiousity that it expects the reader to have which lets it down because without it, there’s little to carry the plot as the entire drawn-out interview style becomes boring very quickly.
On a similar note, though the interview style was an initially interesting approach to writing, it didn’t do any favours to help the pacing of the plot. I found I was increasingly irritated by being thrown back to the interview scenes just when Louis’ past was starting to get my attention again.
Another big problem I had with the book was the characters – I found them all either distinctly dislikeable or I just didn’t care for them whatsoever. It made all of the focus on their pasts and all the implied mysteries about their actions just mind-numbing.
All of the above I probably could have put up with for the sake of not leaving a book (especially one with a reputation as high as this one!) unfinished. However, Louis’ constant whingeing about his feelings and his struggle was plain unbearable. If I wanted to read about a stroppy emotional teenager having an crisis over the human condition then I would’ve hunted out some low-rated YA fiction about first-love breakups or whatever. This was not what I expected from the book at all and I was so disappointed by it that it really ruined any enjoyment I could have otherwise pulled from it. I understand that this is quite a common feature of gothic fiction which gave me a little more patience for it but taking it to this extent just seemed unnecessary and as though the author was desperate to meet her word count.
The sole positive aspect the book had for me was the use of description and imagery; they really helped liven up the otherwise incredibly dull progress I made through the novel and there were some truly great phrases hidden in there. There is no doubt that Anne Rice is very talented with words but my initial impression from what I’ve read of this book alone is that this talent is wasted on awful plots and poor pacing.
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