on September 12, 2006
I was one of many who heard about Max Brooks' satirical guide book The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead. Being a huge fan of George A. Romero's Dead series of films and just the zombie subgenre in general, I was intrigued by the release of this guidebook. From the first page to the last I was impressed, entertained, and hooked on Brooks' serio-comic take on how to survive a zombie outbreak. One section of the book which really caught my interest and has remained a favorite to reread over and over was the final one which details the so-called "historical" instances of past zombie outbreaks throughout history. From as far back as Ancient Egypt and Rome up to the late 1990's. My only gripe about that section of the book was that it was all-too-brief. I felt that it could've been made longer and even would've made for a fine book on its own. Maybe I wasn't the only one to have wished for such a thing to happen for it seems that Brooks himself might have thought the same thing. His latest book in his trip through the zombie genre is titled World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War and it takes the final chapter of his previous book and expands on it. But instead of using past "historical events" to tell his story Brooks goes into the near future to describe what would happen if the zombies ever did bring the human race to the brink of extinction and how humans finally learned how to fight back and take back the world.
World War Z is a fictional account of a worldwide outbreak of the living dead in the near future and judging from some of the descriptions of places and events in the beginning of the book it won't be too far in the future. WWZ is done in an interview-style format with each chapter consisting of first-person interviews of individuals who lived through the Zombie War from its initial outbreak to it's final battles and mop-up operations. The sampling of survivors interviewed range from soldiers who fought the losing battles in the early going of the war when lack of information, outdated tactics, and illogical reactions to the zombie outbreak contributed to humanity almost losing the war. These soldier survivors explain how humanity became its own worst enemy when it came to protecting its own and combatting the growing ranks of the zombies. Some of the mistakes were unavailable as information on how to combat the zombies were far and few and even then most were unreliable. Some mistakes on the other hand many today would consider as unconscionable as war-profiteers and those willing to put keep a hold on their own power would sacrifice their own people to keep it so.
There's also regular people who survived the war and who made great contributions during the dark days when humanity were pushed into isolated and fortified pockets of resistance as everywhere around them the zombie army grew exponentially. Some of these people were just children when the outbreak first began as rumors and unsubstantiated news reports. It's the words of those children now adults that show how war and conflict really takes the biggest toll on the smallest and helpless. One could substitute the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, The Balkans and even Africa in lieu of Brooks zombie war and this book would still resonate. There's a particular entry of how children left to their own devices to try and survive alone in the wild with zombies all around have turned feral to the point that their capacity to learn and develop into adulthood has become stunted or even halted permanently.
Brooks' novel also puts in little veiled references to the events occurring now in the real world. There's mention of the unpopular war in the Persian Gulf as having a detrimental effect on the morale of troops once they returned home and how this helped make the initial fight to stem the tide of the zombies a losing proposition from the outset. There's also mention of Iran as having acquired a nuclear arsenal and how this leads to an incident early in the Great Panic of the zombie outbreak that speaks volume of what could happen if unstable states acquire weapons of mass destruction. Brooks' also gives a prescient look into a near future where the US and Europe stop being the economic superpowers of the world and step aside for the economic juggernaut that is China and India. All these inferences of today's geopolitical and economical events mirrors what might just come into fruition.
The interview format really gives the book a sense of realism despite the outrageous and fantastical nature of the book. As I read the book I was reminded of Stephen A. Ambrose's books on the men and women who fought during World War 2. Ambrose also used interviews and personal accounts to make up the bulk of his books like in Citizen Soldiers and Band of Brothers. Having a personal take on the events gave his books more emotional impact and really brought the emotions of the conflict to those who never experienced it. The same could be said about Max Brooks' World War Z. Even though it's fictional thru and thru it still made the reader think of how such an event, if it ever came to pass, could be so tragic, disheartening but in the end uplifting as it once again shows that humanity could still pull itself together through all its petty misunderstandings to survive. On a more stylistic point, Brooks' novel shares some similarities to Theodore Judson's sci-fi epic Fitzpatrick's War. Judson's book also tries to chronicle a future war which was shaped by religious and ideological forces. Where Judson goes way into the future of an alternate Earth, Brooks smartly stays to a more forseeable future that readers of his book would most likely see happen; hopefully a much brighter and less-zombified one.
Brooks' decision to forgo the usual linear and narrative style for this book also allowed him a certain bit of freedom to introduce one-shot characters in addition to those who appear regularly. In a more traditional novel such one-shot characters would seem useless and even unnecessary, but in this interview format it makes more sense since it's really just a collection of personalities trying to describe their own take of the Zombie War they lived through. Some people I know who have read advance reader's copies of the book (I was lucky enough to procure an ARC copy myself months in advance) have said that there's little or no talk of love and relationships in World War Z. I for one was glad that Brooks didn't try to force certain "interviews" where it talks of survivors finding love and relationships during the outbreak, through the war and all the way to the mop-up. This book chronicles tales of survival and horror. As much as a tale of love would've been a change of pace to all the death and horror in the interviews it would've been too drastic a change of pace. I would think that the last thing that most people would have in their minds when trying to survive day-to-day, if not hour-to-hour would be to stop for a moment and have sex, cuddle or other less-than survival behaviors.
All in all, Max Brooks' World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War takes a serious look at a fictional and fantastical premise and event with a serious eye. The book manages to be tragic and terrifyingly sot-on about how the world governments today could fail when confronted by such a horror of tremendous proportions. Unlike his funnier first book on the zombie subject, World War Z shows the flaws and failings of humanity and how it almost led to its extinction, but it also shows humanity's stubbornness in the face of total annihilation and how it could come together in cooperation to not just survive but take back the world. In times of extreme adversity man can be brought to his knees but also show his resilience. A great novel and one that deserves reading from not just fans of the horror and zombie subgenre, but those who enjoy taking a peek into what could be, no matter how outrageous.
on September 30, 2006
Other reviewers are correct that Brooks approaches the problem posed by a zombie issue as a problem to be solved within the structure of modern global politics. In my opinion, the approach of focusing on the response to the zombie plague is more sophisticated and more timely than making an allegory of the zombies themselves.
It was Romero who took the voodoo myth of the reanimated corpse and popularized an idea of the zombie as a vessel for a communicable plague. He identified a fundamental anxiety and created new monster in response to modern anxieties. However, his use of the zombies as a critique of consumer culture isn't as fresh an observation as it might have been in the 70s, which is the most pertinent criticism of the recent "Dawn of the Dead" remake.
To the modern audience, the idea of zombies carries undercurrents of AIDS, biological warfare, and terrorism, and Brooks is one of the first to recognize and tap into that in an intelligent way. He's taken a specialized, genre subject and elevated it here to something that is literary. And while there will certainly be some who will be disappointed not to find the pages filled with endless descriptions of severed limbs and smashed brains, Brooks lays on enough of the biological details to keep the subject from becoming abstract, while keeping his focus aimed on something more significant.
As Brooks envisions it, the zombie plague encompasses the threat of terrorism and global war, natural catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina or the devastating tsunami, and global disease scares like avian flu and SARS.
There are two outcomes of a story about a zombie plague; either it consumes and annihilates humanity, or it is contained by the organized action of something like a government. As a domestic political parable, Brooks doesn't throw any hard punches. He envisions America triumphing over the zombies under a national unity government of both parties, with Colin Powell and Howard Dean as president and vice president respectively.
Powell and Dean are not named but are clearly identified, with Dean providing a narrative, in which he is identified as a "whacko" retired to Burlington, Vermont. He makes allusion to his rising political star and subsequent "meltdown," and mentions the president's military training and Jamaican relatives.
I also think some readers may have misinterpreted the narratives about Israel. As I understood Brooks's narrative, in his "near future" Israel had unilaterally withdrawn from the West Bank behind a security barrier and the Palestinians had declared statehood in the territories. Brooks sees Israel as being the first nation to directly address the zombie outbreak by declaring a national quarantine, effectively made possible by the much-criticized barriers. Certainly Brooks's imagining of these events has a political undercurrent, but I'd see it as a center-right
While early in the book, a showy exertion of American military technology proves useless against the inexorable tide of the undead, but later on, it is the American military that adapts and develops the techniques to defeat the zombies.
Some may find it politically offensive that Brooks approaches the zombies as a problem simultaneously emerging globally, and paints the response to the problem from the perspective of people from various countries. However, the approach to emerging problems like communicable disease, terrorism and climate change as global has been broadly accepted by all but the most polar extremes of the politcal spectrum.
Several of the ideas are legitimately controversial. Brooks envisions Russia organizing as a sort of neo-Tsarist theocracy, and China pushing back the zombie tide only after a civil war which removes its establishment. Nuclear exchange occurs between Iran and Pakistan, emerging from a dispute over refugees from the plague, and Brooks explains this from the perspective of an Iranian diplomat who wryly suggests that traditional enemies have the diplomatic mechanisms necessary to prevent nuclear war, while traditional allies would not be able to communicate in a dispute growing from a crisis.
The policy, implemented globally, which saves humanity is also disturbing, and Brooks treats it as such. Formulated by a calculating, almost sociopathic former policy-maker from apartheid South Africa, the plan calls for the abandonment of large swaths of the uninfected population to serve as bait to distract the zombies, while the military establishment and necessary personnel retreated to and secured defensible "safe zones."
Perhaps Brooks's most radical position is the notion that the trappings of modern society must be abandoned in this kind of crisis. Professionals from the modern American service economy are re-trained by their former plumbers and housekeepers to perform the kind of tasks necessary in the wake of the zombie induced economic crash.
The military abandons its high-tech weaponry and communications mechanisms in favor of single-shot rifles, revolutionary-era firing formations, highly trained dogs, and multipurpose shovels called Lobotomizers that can be used like axes to decapitate zombies. In Europe, refugees ride out the zombie plague by holing up in old castles and fighting off the undead with medieval weapons pilfered from museums. A brilliant Indian general fights off the zombies by positioning his soldiers in a square formation reminiscent of the ancient Greek phalanx.
Ultimately, Brooks, whose previous book explored a similar theme and managed to achieve humor by taking the hypothetical problem extremely seriously, invites audiences to really treat the idea of zombies seriously by approaching them realistically, both as a military problem and a political crisis.
Like several other reviewers, I read and enjoyed Max Brooks' 'Zombie Survival Guide', but I was skeptical as to whether he could strike gold twice in a row. Much to my satisfaction, the answer was yes.
World War Z isn't so much a novel as it is a collection of very personal recollections of people who have lived through - literally - hell on earth. In a way, it reminded me of news footage of these walls you see where, during a civil war, or natural disaster, people go and leave notes for loved ones, hoping someone, anyone, will see them. Every time I see something like that, it strikes me as hopeless and desperate, but at the same time noble and uplifting. In short, what makes us human. This book gave me the same reaction. I preordered it from Amazon, received it this morning, and finished it about an hour ago. I wish I'd rationed it out a bit, because I didn't want that feeling to end - the feeling of reading the accounts of some of the bravest souls who (n)ever walked the earth.
The only other book I've read that comes close to this in 'feel' is Warday, by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka. But even that is too one-sided; the authors' own opinions and views are clearly dominant. In World War Z, each individual vignette is unique and special; from Tibetan smugglers to dirigible pilots to ex-politicians, each 'interview' has its own distinct voice.
In closing, I'd just like to say that while George Romero may be the father of the 'zombie genre', Max Brooks may well exceed him. Blasphemy? Nope. Just my opinion. One that is hopefully shared by millions of others.
PS: Here's hoping they don't butcher it when they make the movie! :D
I understand why so many people loved this book, but it didn't entirely work for me. The central conceit - that the book is a series of interviews with key survivors of the Zombie Wars - is good, but it makes for a very episodic read.
In it's effect, the book is more like a collection of short stories than a single coherent narrative. Yes, all the interviews are telling the same "story," but the characters and settings never overlap - you get scores of unrelated narrators sharing their own tales of horror.
Thus, there's no build up of suspense or tension over the three-hundred plus pages of this book. Each "short story" has its own dramatic arc. Some work better than others. But, with rare exception, you could delete any one of the chapters in this book without affecting the others, or, conversely, you could add twenty more chapters without changing the outcome. A lot if it is interesting, but it all feels kind of arbitrary.
Lastly, without continuing characters, there's really no one to root for or against. You never get emotionally connected to anyone - the stories can involve you, but they almost never move or inspire or touch you. Compare this with a book like Stephen King's The Stand - which also told dozens of apocalyptic stories, but linked them together in one coherent narrative with consistent characters, and you'll see how much less emotionally involving Brook's book is.
Still, this is a good, gory read. If you like horror, a lot of these stories are morbidly fun with nightmarishly memorable moments. Just keep your expectations low-to-moderate. Max Brooks definitely has talent, and I look forward to reading what he does next.
*** SPOILERS BELOW!!! ***
If you love zombie lit but are getting bored with viscera and nihilism, this is a great antidote. Brooks has taken his ironically deadpan "Zombie Survival Guide" and made a whole world out of it. Pretending to be an oral history of humanity's struggle against Romero style zombie hordes, this book has a cast of dozens, most of whom speak for only a few pages before yielding to other voices. As a result, we get a truly international view of the great crisis, and the situation and responses faced by people in a variety of settings.
Generally, this works and works well. Zombie fans will be delighted by the variety and unique sets of questions Brooks addresses - what would an armored company do to fight zombies? What happens to zombies in cold weather? What would happen in Korea and Cuba? Traditionalists will be happy at the slow mindless zombies, but they may perhaps miss all the visceral gore common to the genre, as Brooks does not get too messy. This is a fine choice, as if you want messy there are many, many zombie novels available that are based on anatomy texts, but few that manage to be this creative and panoramic.
Some have commented on Brooks' "leftist" politics. This complaint to me is a non-issue. Some US characters do state that disillusionment over Iraq left the US civilians and military incapable and sluggish to respond to the initial zombie plague, but this is not harped upon and the US military and populace do indeed bounce back soon enough. He also does have an Israel / Palestine solution result from the plague, but we see only very little of the end result, and the rockiness of the path towards a two nation solution is portrayed clearly (complete with an Israeli civil war). Brooks also has a clear Howard Dean stand-in become US President, but unless you are a Dittohead, this will probably be only a minor irritant.
More seriously, Brooks has been accused of an anti-military viewpoint and some Amazon reviewers accuse him of only showing "politically correct" characters in a heroic light, with white male soldiers and other authority figures being shown as inept or malevolent. This is an utter calumny, and some of the only narrators with multiple speaking roles are white male US Army soldiers. The Army's initial response was bumbled as shown, but the reasons for the tactical and strategic failures are clear and realistic and the military soon comes up with effective new strategies, which the soldiers heroically and intelligently implement. Many of the most heroic protagonists in these pages are soldiers of different nations, and the hard choices, psychological and physical suffering, and heroism of these characters comes through clearly and fairly.
The occasional statements about right wing militias seizing control of parts of the US and then not freely handing them back to the government are minor plot points and again are not inconceivable. Left wing citizens do not have the firepower or fortified compounds that some extreme right wing folks have, and the same guys that have bunkers and assault rifles stockpiled also are not very friendly to Big Government. Hardly an unrealistic scenario! And along the same lines, Brooks' solution to the zombie plague is very Big Government with centralized micro-management of resources, citizens, and strategy. This strikes me as again being not overly ideological, and also logical and realistic as many real world crises of large scale and complexity (especially in the 20th Century) were solved in the same way.
Finally to address another review complaint, the UN does take over the eventual wrap-up campaign against the zombies, but this is only after most nations have cleared their countries using their own troops under national sovereign command. The UN is only conducting campaigns in those parts of the world that have been too devastated to conduct their own campaigns or are too isolated or large for nation state operations. Again, not leftist so much as it is pragmatic and realistic.
Sorry to go into the "politics" of zombie wars so much here, but the unifying theme of most criticism of Brooks is that he is too left-wing. As I hope I've shown, I disagree with that assessment and most importantly these politics such as they are have no main bearing on the plot of quality of the book.
Finally, the best things about "World War Z" to me are the quality writing, the surprises of the plot and scenarios, and also the poignancy of the emotional impact. As stated above, the experiences of the combat soldiers are deep and moving, and other sections like the struggle of a pilot trapped behind "enemy lines" and best of all, the K-9 handler's tale are brilliantly done and add both pathos and innovation to portrayal of human experience during the Zombie Plague.
The only poorly done section of the book struck me as the Japan part, with a computer nerd hero who is literally glued to his PC until zombies break down the door. He fumbles his way to escape, discovers a katana, and becomes a samurai ginsu machine, slicing and dicing his way through undead hordes. Finally he meets a wise old sensei who also happens to be blind and an impressive master of zombie fu in his own right. The wise old guy helps the ex-nerd become a warrior monk and the two found an order of swordsmen to save Nippon... Other than a guest appearance by Godzilla and / or giant robots, there is little that could be added to this section to make it seem more cartoonish and cliched, perhaps a sign that Mr. Brooks is capable of wedging his tongue a bit too firmly into his cheek, to the point where his story-telling is impaired. But this is maybe 10 pages out of 400, and the good stuff far outweighs the bad.
All in all, I think this book is brilliant and highly recommend it. The innovation of Brooks's plotting is pared to an optimistic pragmatism that stands in stark contrast to the bleak nihilism of most zombie books. Human society and its components, humans, are ultimately shown to be resilient, intelligent, and even noble. The usual zombie books (c.f. Brian Keene's gore encrusted potboilers) usually show humans being as bad or worse than their ghoulish opponents, with human institutions like governments and armies collapsing into non-existence or brutal predation of ordinary civilians. Brooks dares to think differently and his book is a breath of fresh air.
Brooks gets the details right, tells a fine story, and makes the Zombie War seem very real. Zombie fans need to read this, and non-genre fans with some familiarity with the zombie plague concept will also probably enjoy this. No significant flaws, many many virtues!
on September 13, 2006
The thing that made Max Brooks' first book, the Zombie Survival Guide, work well was that it took itself so deadly seriously. After just completing World War Z, I have to say that Brooks has a real potential to turn the whole zombie genre on its ear by incorporating the same type of dead serious dialogue about the completely unimaginable (masses of hungry, reanimated dead) into the kind of conversational tone you would have with friends and family after struggling through something horrific.
I won't dwell on the the horror aspects, and neither does the book really. Sure there's gore and truly gut-churning images throughout, but it's more about how individuals adapt and survive chaos than zombies chomping on innards. This survival is framed in a world that's very real sounding, and contains so many parallels to how one would imagine current governments, corporations, and societies would respond in the face of complete annihilation. Brooks demonstrates more of an understanding of this than many genre writers would ever be capable of. Certainly the best zombie book I've read and one of the better horror books I've read in years, it's also an exciting work of fiction in and of itself.
And yes, it could make an incredible movie too.
on May 5, 2007
The world is quickly getting overrun with zombies. They bite living humans; those humans eventually die and are reanimated at zombies themselves. The only way to kill them is to separate their brains from their bodies. Cutting off all their limbs or disemboweling them won't do it; they'll keep dragging their bodies along, in their continual quest for warm bodies to snack on.
This is the basic problem in World War Z. Which brings up the first point of anatomical puzzlement (one of very few): if the brain is vital to keeping the zombies going, then wouldn't severing their spine also do the trick? The book makes it a point to note that a human body is just a bunch of meat with a command-and-control unit attached, and once that c-and-c unit is gone the body is, too. But command-and-control isn't much good without a way to get messages from the general to his troops, so to speak.
Getting hung up on that kind of detail, though, would doom this book. And in any case, Brooks is very good at tying up the loose ends. The zombifying virus changes the bodies' chemistry somehow, so that they also don't need food or water. For that matter they don't need oxygen, leading to what I found one of the most effectively terrifying images throughout the book: swarms of zombies lying on the ocean floor, their undead hands glancing off nearby swimmers, or pulling unlucky ones down. By the time of the book's writing (it's a look back at the Zombie War, after humanity has started to win against the zombies), there are millions of zombies lurking beneath the waves, and the next generation's children have long since learned to stay away from the water.
What are the consequences of a zombie takeover? Brooks takes us around the world to answer that question. Borders are hastily closed off to outsiders, leading to a few missile exchanges and eventually all-out nuclear war between a couple of the combatants. People get in their cars and head out into the hinterlands, quickly running out of gas and abandoning their vehicles on the side of the road. (This leads, coincidentally, to one of my moments of disbelief: as it turns out, the zombies do not have the complicated motor skills to open car doors. Hence if they die in their cars, they cannot get out. As far as I can tell, Brooks invents this constraint to motivate one particular, highly effective, scene midway through the book. But again, we set aside our disbelief and move on.) They head for the sea and take any boats they can...but the zombie virus has already infected some of them, and of course there are those murderous zombies waiting below the sea in shallow water to drag the boaters down.
Others head for the north, where the zombies freeze motionless during the winter. They're trained to expect that someone will come and save them, so they act like the German army invading Russia and don't plan for the winter; they expect the zombie problem will be licked by then. Consequently many of them freeze, and [follow your Jack London imagination].
Brooks is mostly great at visualizing where the story should go. As my friend Chris (who encouraged me in the strongest terms to read World War Z) says, Brooks could probably write a 600-page book in place of this smaller one. The longer story would expand on places where Brooks had to rush: he was forced to pack an entire world's worth of zombie stories, spread over 10-odd years of fighting, into 340 pages. So I don't fault him a certain economy of style, with any clunkiness that that caused.
WWZ starts as Lord of the Flies on a global scale, with governments and individuals all huddled around the same campfire. "Fighting the last war" fails: all the high-tech weapons the U.S. military has stockpiled with zest count for naught, and we have to return to shooting bad guys between the eyes with pistols or lopping off their heads at close range. Our sedentary American lifestyle fails, and those who build things with their hands for the rest of us are suddenly our superiors. Had Brooks kept this arc going throughout World War Z, it would have been perfect.
As it is, I'm afraid it degenerates into what Chris calls a "war procedural" -- though Chris's claim is that WWZ never reaches this point, whereas I claim that it does. The last half of the book is "grunts" talking about the details of which particular bit of ordnance they threw at the bad guys, and how their tactics changed, and oh my god the military acronyms. So many acronyms. Brooks has read too much Tom Clancy; I have as well, which is where the nausea of recognition came from. Had he made the single decision to not interview a single soldier in the final half of the book, the book would have been saved from disappointment. As it is, I left it feeling let down: not upset at having read it, but also not inspired to reread it.
on December 27, 2007
I find that the "interviews" in this work are an interesting angle to portray a ficticious event set in current times, in a modern form of media/press. Idea was good. But I found myself wanting to "just finish the book off" about 1/3 to 1/2 way through. As mentioned before in a previous review by another person, the dialect of the characters interviewed is all the same. Sort of like if a bad actor played many different roles without engulfing oneself in their culture or socialogical background. One other minute critique I have is that, just when the interviews are getting interesting, they end and another starts. It could just be me though.
Overall, its an interesting book, and if you enjoy short stories you might be more into this than I, since there is a lot of start/stop with the interviews, although they all focus around a central theme. If you are looking for horror, Id look somewhere else.
on September 13, 2006
I bought World War Z yesterday morning (I'm on vacation) and couldn't put it down until I turned the final page last night. It inspired me to write this, my first Amazon review.
I've always like apocalyptic fiction: "Dies the Fire," "The Stand," "The Postman," "Alas, Babylon," "Lucifer's Hammer," etc. This book moves to the top of the list. The utter serious tone of Brook's writing, coupled with his innovative narrative structure makes this book read like a legitimate history. Further, he deftly inserts real world characters and events into his plot, while never specifically naming them, which, for me, heightened the work's realism.
And the action is gripping.
Another reviewer mentioned that the work lacked some of the drama usually associated with these types of works, ie relationships and sex. That is true, sexual relationships are totally left out of this book. But human drama is not. Whether it's the reformed South African military planner, the Chinese submarine captain, the Canadian artic survivor, Brooks convincingly captures the emotions and mentality of people surviving a major crisis.
My one complaint is that everyone interview are "the good guys." I would have loved to have read accounts of survivors of some of the "rebel areas" or of war lords...or even survivors of the isolated pockets.
It will be fascinating to see what type of movie emerges from this
on April 2, 2010
I've been hesitant to write a review of this book. It would appear that many people outright hate it while others think it is the greatest zombie book ever. It would also appear there are strong feelings toward opposite opinions. I will endeavor to give my honest review regardless..
I thought it was... disappointing.
As many people on here have pointed out, it is very left leaning politically. This didn't really bother me as I've liked many a book that leaned one way or another. That's not what I care about in fiction and I tend to just tune that sort of thing out.
I'm not sure if this book would have much of a following or would have even been published if MB was not Mel's kid as the writing is amateurish at best. It would appear MB did very little research or preparation before writing this book as it has many glaring errors in the facts department.
My main problem with this book is it lacks structure and cohesion that is required to tell a great tale. What we're left with here is a pile of notes on different people in a binder. Much of it appears to only make it into the book as padding.
His characters DO seem to speak with one voice and we are left with only a couple of good ideas in the book that an editor should have told MB to go back and develop. The blind monk story should have been more developed as should have the kid escaping the building even though both are a little cliché. I can forgive the cliché as MB is new to the genre but most of the rest of the book was unmemorable and dull.
I'm afraid that since MB's first foray into fiction has been so well accepted by the masses that for so long have been programmed to have the short attention span of a fly, that he will fail to develop any great skill in writing. I'm not asking he develop a Tolkien level of detail in his writing. Just some level of detail would have been nice.
I understand there's been a lot of trouble developing this into a screenplay. I understand why. Can anyone who's read this book remember one character's name without looking one up? I can't honestly say I'd recommend this to anyone. Other opinions will vary.