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World War Z is a companion piece to the The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. (Who is the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. Seriously.)

The book is designated satire, as it has a combination of horror, drama, and sociopolitical commentary. It's written as a collection of interviews with survivors and important figures telling the story of a Zombie war that nearly causes the extinction of mankind. In the Z war 'verse, Zombies come about through a virus called Solanum and it spreads in the usual way per the John Russo rules about zombies. The zombies themselves seem to operate following a bit of the Russo rules and a bit of the Romero rules.

More recently, Max has released the short story "Closure, Ltd." in the zombie anthology The New Dead, set in the same style and universe as World War Z. In it, Max interviews the head of a company dedicated to finding closure for survivors of the zombie war - namely, by killing their zombified loved ones. This has now also been published in a (very short) short story collection Closure Limited and Other Zombie Tales which includes another story explicitly set in the World War Z 'verse (The Wall), one which may be and another which is completely disconnected featuring zombies versus vampires.

A Film of the Book has begun filming, with Brad Pitt as the interviewer.

The book contains the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: The pharmaceutical executive... at first.
  • After the End: The framing interviews take place approximately 20 years after the Zombie Apocalypse began, roughly 10 years after humanity retakes the planet. The stories themselves take place during it.
  • The Alliance: After the Chinese government is completely eliminated by rebellious elements in the Chinese military, both rebels and loyalists join forces to defeat the zombies.
  • All There in the Manual: Though it's not exactly necessary to read The Zombie Survival Guide by Brooks, the book does expound on the history of the solanum virus and the ways to combat it. The book itself is given several passing references and is implied to have been made during the initial stages of the outbreak.
  • America Saves the Day: The American president decides to go on the offensive against the zombies to "restore humanity's self-confidence" rather than waiting for the ghouls to rot away. The usual slow-clapping trope is mocked heartily by the South American narrator; the 85 other UN members just stare at him until a recess is called, not voting until the next day. America also helps clear Mexico and Canada, but only after they cleared their own infestation.
    • They also go on to lead the UN mission to wipe out zombies in other countries, as well as provide most of the troops and supplies. The President mentions he could have "Made it an American crusade" but chose not to.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • Class 1: most of the world,
    • Class 2: China is the hardest-hit country in the war, followed closely by Russia; it would be more accurate to categorize these as "extreme Class 1" because they manage to reform stable governments after a few years, but population centers that once numbered in the millions are now counted in the tens of thousands. North Korea probably fits into Class 2, given the theories about what happened there.
    • Class 3a: Much of sub-arctic Canada, Siberian Russia, and Scandinavia (maybe a Class 4 if the animals went too), with Iceland still horribly infested and Finland only being cleared out now. Iran and Pakistan are also in this category thanks to their nuclear war.
  • Art Major Biology: The Solanum virus and the resulting zombies, which survive crush depth and airstrikes and tank shells that should have liquefied any corpse, but only need one headshot. It's lampshaded up and down everywhere. Brooks has said he purposefully took artistic license with these tropes.
  • Ascended Fanboy: The Hikikomori in Japan, who later learns zatoichi skills from a blind man (who was only a gardener) in Hokkaido. In the forest. Surrounded by zombies coming in from the overcrowded cities. They kill lots and lots of zombies, and post war, they're forming up a civilian defense and preparedness organization.
  • Author Appeal/Shout-Out: Iron Maiden. Some of the music blared to improve troop morale and lure Zack into prepared killzones is reminisced about with a certain fondness by the veteran interviewee, who also quotes lyrics.
  • Author Avatar: Brooks himself, although he never mentions himself by name (he did play himself as the interviewer in the audiobook).
  • Arab-Israeli Conflict: Settled by the zombie invasion, by virtue of many involved parties being dead or infected and Israel making peace by inviting in Palestinians previously in Israeli territory, with strict but fair conditions.
  • Autobots Rock Out: Discussed and justified at the Battle of Hope. Every nation that hadn't had their army decimated would use something similar to attract zombies to their location.
  • Awesome but Impractical: Most of the weapons the US Army uses at Yonkers. They use "Shock and Awe" weaponry against the zombies, which is ineffective against them, in addition to a combat system for infantry that allows you to hear and see everything your buddies are seeing. This does nothing for morale when it is stated that the aerial recon showed a horde of zombies millions strong marching out of New York when they were already having a lot of trouble against the front ranks. Also, a soldier is ambushed and torn apart outside a house, and his camera gets all of the action. This stuff, along with a plan that ignores much of the good terrain around--armchair general strategy is completely torn to shreds by the veteran that narrates the story--allows the army to be slaughtered. This happens all over the world, apparently - South Korea had a similar incident.
    • MHTELS (Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser) and Zeus, anti-missile and laser based minesweeper technology, respectively. Terribly inefficient for anti-zombie work, but make for great propaganda footage.
    • Also, the guy early in the outbreak who fights the zombies by strapping on some rollerblades and mowing down zombies with a meatcleaver attached to a hockeystick. He doesn't make it home.
  • Baby Factory: The Holy Russian Empire ends up resorting to these after the war ends.
  • Badass:
    • Badass Israeli - the State of Israeli is literally the *only* country to take the initial reports of the zombie threat seriously and respond to them competently. This is attributed to a deliberate policy of considering every potential threat to Israel after the Yom Kippur War, no matter how ridiculous it might sound. The sheer level-headed planning and logic which Israel employs puts the botched reactions of all the world's major superpowers to shame. Israel's response is to build a massive structure out of reinforced concrete surrounding its entire border - aptly dubbed "The Wall" - like a modern Great Wall of China. In order to convince the world that they're honestly not trying to hold onto contested territory, the Wall is built on the old 1967 border lines, abandoning the West Bank and Jerusalem (Jerusalem isn't geographically very defensible). Then, they try to warn the world by presenting a detailed report on the zombie threat to the United Nations General Assembly. Finally, they announce that they'll let any Palestinians within the Wall if they go through medical screening first, again to try to convince everyone that this isn't a trick (few believe them anyway, but this arguably prevented an open war with the Palestinians). It is generally presented that Israel is virtually the *only* country to survive the Zombie War relatively intact (barring some isolated islands like Cuba). Of course, they did have to face an Israeli Civil War when the ultra-orthodox Jews got upset that they abandoned Jerusalem, but the IDF triumphed over the rebels because the ultra-orthodox do not participate in compulsory military training. Presumably such arguments about whether to abandon this territory died down during the first year of the zombie epidemic, when entire countries started collapsing and zombie hordes numbering in the millions seethed outside the Wall.
    • The Otaku becomes a Badass after his Bedsheet Ladder escape and finding a rare high-quality Imperial Japan-era katana. Besides this, anyone who survived to dictate their story post-war has to exhibit some level of badass. Especially the Yonkers vet, who carries about a fifth of the entire plot with his stories (and was voiced by Mark Hamill in the audiobook!).
    • The Indian general Raj-Singh, who had to be clubbed over the head and dragged into a helicopter by his men in order to get him to abandon New Gandhi Park. He also demonstrated the effectiveness of 18th-Century infantry tactics against the undead. He also sacrificed his life to save countless others by detonating explosive charges by hand, thus sealing off the Himalayan safe zones from the undead horde. Unfortunately, he's got a tarnished reputation due to everyone believing he ran from New Gandhi Park, but many people are trying to reverse this reputation.
    • Lt. Col. Christina Eliopolis managed to fight her way through zombie infested territory with nothing but a handgun and a two-way radio the person on the other side of which may or may not have even existed.
    • Tomonaga Ijiro. Despite being blinded by the Nagasaki bombing, he can battle zombies, teach his new apprentice how to fight, and still find time to honor the spirits who may be offended during all this.
    • The book also mentions a nun that defended her entire Sunday school with nothing but a candlestick and later takes part in the Battle of Hope. Never Mess with Granny indeed.
    • Three hundred college students from Claremont, instead of running for the hills fortified a college campus into a pseudo-medieval city, planted gardens, dug wells and managed to hold off almost ten thousand zombies.
  • Badass Boast: "We might be facing 50 million monsters, but those monsters would be facing the gods".
  • Bedsheet Ladder: The Otaku in Japan escapes from his high-rise this way (he lampshades it, and says it was the only way to leave his flat without having to fight a bunch of zombies with no useable weapons), and nearly kills himself doing it, after slipping due to high winds and losing his grip - and ironically, saving his life by throwing him into the room of an old World War Two veteran who still had his military-issue katana in the room. Averted, as he only goes the length of one sheet at a time, and has to loot every good sheet he can find to compensate for the apartments that are locked, infested, or both, and his scrawny nerd body wasn't meant for climbing.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Toyed with, and justified.
    • Some African communities react to The Virus the same way they reacted to AIDS in Real Life; raping virgins, amongst other idiotic rituals. Unsurprisingly, this caused more infections.
    • India and the U.S. also get hit with this, with large numbers of Indians making failed pilgrimages to Varanasi in hopes of being cured by the waters, turning it into a massive White Zone, and Christian sects believing that the Rapture was happening, and engaging in such behavior as deliberately exposing themselves to the zombies.
    • On the more secular side, there's some overzealous environmentalists (it's hinted they're pagans, though) attacking towns (booby trapping trees and poisoning water supplies). Both, however, were rare, and were only widespread due to alarmism.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • A quiet father goes Papa Wolf on his own son in order get him to go with the rest of the Palestinian family to the Israeli quarantine zone instead of blowing his life away by becoming a suicide bomber.
    • A suburban housewife allegedly tearing a zombie's head off to protect her children, and an old nun described as 5 foot, 100lbs defending her Sunday school class from a horde with an iron candlestick taller than she was (who later joins the Army!).
  • Berserk Button: Never hurt a dog in front of Darnell Hackworth. It doesn't matter if he's suffering from a fever, the rickets, and dangerously underweight, he will tear you a new one. Hackworth comments on it, saying that he hated dogs until he was forced to listen to puppies starve to death in a nearby pet shop.
    • Do not attempt to harm Mary Jo Millar's kids. At least, not if you want your head to remain where it is.
  • Big Applesauce: The Battle of Yonkers was to intended to stop the zombies pouring out of it. Later it gets referred to as the Hero City.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Humanity's eventual triumph over the zombies comes at great cost - two-thirds of the human race dead, vast swaths of the ecosystem devastated due both to the zombies and human carelessness, the seas and the Arctic zones remaining perpetual battlefields.
  • Blood Knight: T. Sean Collins, the mercenary. He realizes that he is "addicted to murder" and will eventually either kill himself when he runs out of zombies to kill or face losing control and slaughtering actual people.
  • Boom! Headshot!: A necessity in this case, and part of the initial failure by human militaries - most notably, the US Army at Yonkers - to repel the initial waves of undead is that human soldiers are trained to hit the center mass with repeated shots, not the head with one hit.
  • Boring but Practical:
    • The "Lobotomizer", a versatile and efficient zombie disposal device developed during the war, is made from scrap metal from all the abandoned cars.
    • The Sandlers: a MOS in the reorganized American Army, whose whole job is to reload magazines for the guys on the firing line. Without them, the 18+ hour firefights during the march East would be impossible.
    • The Resource-to-Kill Ratio: Boring but Practical as strategic doctrine. Leads to the mothballing of most of the USAF, the demechanization of the Army, and the abandonment of polymer for rifle stocks.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Heavily subverted. A major contributing factor to the devastating defeat at the apocalyptic Battle of Yonkers is because the generals in charge never even bothered to consider how much ammunition their forces would need for sustained fire. A major plot point of the novel after this is the "Resource-to-Kill Ratio", how the survivor enclaves have to make the maximum use of their limited ammo production capacity. By the Battle of Hope, vehicles are only used to bring in cases of ammunition by the truckload for the infantry. See "Hollywood Tactics" below.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: A number of British people who were holed up in castles did just that, sitting on large stashes of combat-tested and provenly efficient beheaders and skull-smashers.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Todd Waino describes this happening to him and his fellow soldiers(both literally and metaphorically...maybe) in every section he's interviewed in except the final one.
  • Britain Is Only London: Avoided. British supreme command is relocated to Scotland. Conwy, Wales served as the base of the reclamation of Great Britain. The defence of Caerphilly Castle in South Wales is also mentioned.
  • But What About the Astronauts?: They all were exposed to deadly levels of cosmic radiation due to their voluntary prolonged stay in space and the sole survivor died days after giving his interview. They did it so they could maintain the satellites in Earth orbit and allow the surviving people and nations of Earth to stay in contact, share information, and fight back.
  • Cassandra Truth/Elephant in the Living Room: The Warbrunn-Knight report
  • The Captain: Captain Chen
  • Celebrity Survivor: Lots of fun is had with this. One of the soldiers that Todd Wainio served with was a former pro wrestler, and another one may or may not have been Michael Stipe. A pre-war film director also finds work shooting propaganda movies for the government. And then, of course, there's the celebrity fortress on Long Island...
  • Cool but Inefficient: Both played straight and subverted - the Battle of Yonkers used Shock and Awe techniques, but Zombies cannot be shocked or awed. Later in the book, they filmed laser weapons and their effects because, although they didn't do much against the zombies, they were excellent for survivor morale.
  • Corrupt Church: During the war, the Russian Orthodox Church took over the job of executing infected, as the officers, especially those who had gone through the decimations, often found themselves pushed over the edge by having to kill their men - or got decimated themselves. Eventually, either the church started abusing its power or the government took control of it; either way, Russia ends up as a totalitarian theocracy.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Breckenridge Scott, who openly gloats about fooling most of the population into believing his rabies vaccine was a cure.
  • Crazy Prepared:
    • The Apartheid South African government had a contingency plan worked out in case of a revolt of the native African population, one version of which went so far as to detail which locations and people would be declared lost causes, and included the nuclear option. This plan, Paul Redeker's "Orange 84", would be retooled into the "Redeker Plan" and was adapted into a Zombie Survival Plan by South Africa's black government, and later copied by other countries.
    • The otaku/hacker (otakuer?) was looking for information online about zombies for e-prestige, and when it came time to face reality, he found he had all the knowledge he needed.
    • While researching for the novel, Max Brooks interviewed representatives from various police departments, emergency responders, and Homeland Security regarding the best way to defend against a zombie attack. According to Brooks, almost all the people he talked to had put at least some amount of thought into the subject, as it is a common scenario used to train people to think about disasters.
    • The celebrity mansion. Not that it mattered...
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: The traditional start of Kondo Tatsumi's day, before he Took a Level In Badass
  • Death by Materialism: The celebrity mansion/fortress on Long Island. They're overrun not by zombies, but by desperate survivors who had seen all of the supplies that they had flaunted through their live Internet and television feeds. It honestly never occurred to them that this was informing thousands of other people, who wanted to save their families, that they had this fortress. Directly commented on by the mercenary recounting what happened, who says he frequently wonders why the heck they didn't just stay where they were, without broadcasting it on live TV and Internet. His theory is that maybe they really could not keep quiet about it, that "celebrity" was an inner switch they just couldn't turn off.
  • Did Not Do the Research: In-universe: There was the big-name rapper who had an AK-47 with a grenade launcher, and he loved to go on about how it was an exact replica of the one from Scarface. The bodyguard narrating "didn't have the heart to tell him Sr. Montana used an M16."
  • Dirty Communists: A lot of the blame for the Z-War is directed at the "ChiComs"; from exporting black market organs that actually came from either zombies or infectees and smuggling infected persons out of China, to disguising the zombie hunts as crackdowns, to swelling the zombie herds with Zerg Rushes, to bungling evacuation efforts, to attempting to destroy the global satellite network with a debris storm, the Chinese do a fairly good job of screwing things up. Of course, Eagle Land wasn't at its best either - see The War on Terror for more.
  • Disability Superpower: One unusually Troperrific chapter features a samurai with Daredevil-type blindness surviving alone in the woods. He was blind as a result of being a Nagasaki survivor, and became a Badass simply by running away into the woods so that nobody would have to think about the useless old gardener that nobody likes. Using a spade to kill the zombies and politely thanking them for making so much noise before he did so just makes it better.
    • Another interview has a wheelchair-bound man taking up zombie defense patrols— crawling zombies trying to attack him from behind get his (perfectly mundane) wheelchair instead of his legs.
  • Dying Like Animals ...or not dying in some cases.
    • Bats - It's widespread denial that allows the zombie plague to grow to epidemic proportions.
    • Sheep - The people who buy into the rabies vaccine that a sleazy pharmaceutical manufacturer put out with FDA approval.
    • Weasels - the aforementioned sleazy pharmaceutical manufacturer who puts out the vaccine for rabies. Also the government officials who did know what Solanum was, but passed the vaccine anyway because they wanted a placebo to hush people up.
    • Chickens - The freeway full of stopped cars, in addition to other mass evacuations.
    • Ostriches - those who can't handle the idea of family and friends turning into zombies and hold onto the undead things, hoping for a cure.
    • Boars - Yonkers. Military strategy included equipping soldiers with flashbangs. Also the Chinese Government, sending conscripts en masse against the Zombies, essentially feeding them to the hordes.
    • Plague Rats - those who try to pass themselves off as healthy, even though they're infected and are going to turn into zombies.
    • Wolves - the Crusoes and LaMOEs -Last Men on Earth. The crazy/lucky/bad-ass survivors who are found years after being cut off from civilization.
    • Jackals - The Quislings - unfortunately for them, zombies know that they're faking.
    • Turtles - Many survivors take over castles in their home countries. Sometimes, due to ignorance, poor planning or choice of location (a distinction is made between 'castle' as a medieval-style fortress, and 'castle' as a glorified mansion, such as Versailles) or apparently insufficient willpower, these are overrun, but the vast majority manage to make it through. They even made a movie about one.
  • The Emperor: (Actually the Russian word for 'Caesar') of the Holy Russian Empire. It is implied he's Vladimir Putin.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: The Indian Engineer who is forced into guarding the mountain pass during the Indian evacuation notes the mass amount of monkeys also fleeing. He later gets pissed on after a general detonates the roadside bombs, blocking off the road.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Dogs could detect Solanum infected and would freak out. Certain dog breeds were used to hunt zombies, and to attack and kill them where humans could not easily get in/out.
    • The Israeli government employs them to screen refugees
  • The Extremist Was Right: The Redekker plan is a fine example of this trope.
  • Film of the Book: Due for release in 2012.
  • Film Within A Novel: Victory at Avalon: The Battle of the Five Colleges. See above. Also Anacapa, Mission District, Dos Palmos, and Fire of the Gods, the latter pretty much Backed by the Pentagon and the first of Wonder Weapons, which were Based on a Great Big Lie since the technology they depict is not actually useful for eliminating zombies but amazing for public morale. All directed by Roy Elliot, Steven Spielberg's Captain Ersatz. There's also Hero City, directed by Martin Scorsese, of which there were two versions: one, which was pure propaganda, and the other which showed humans being total cunts.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Ever wonder what it felt like to be the mook? Ask Todd Wainio. The US Army brass made MOPP-4 chemical warfare gear the infantry uniform of the day at Yonkers, hoping to create the appearance of a uniform horde of military killing machines, ready and able to mow down the shambling horrors. Of course, to the actual troops on the ground, the result was "The boss is making me wear all this hot, heavy, movement-restricting junk. Clearly they've never tried aiming a rifle wearing this mask, or changing a magazine wearing these gloves, because this makes my job twice as hard."
  • Genre Blind: The American general officers in command at the Battle of Yonkers take this to an extreme.
  • Genre Savvy: This is why there's a self consciousness when the author and others in the story use the word "zombie." They never believed them to be real until it happened.
  • Global Currency: Due to the way things go, Cuban pesos become the most accepted currency in the world, in places that aren't on a barter economy.
  • Grande Dame: The Queen of England the United Kingdom is an example of the more heroic version of this trope.
  • Green Eyed Red Head: Sharon.
  • Heel Realization: The guy narrating the celebrity mansion story realizes that the people attacking are human, not zombies.
  • Helicopter Blender: A helicopter pilot tries this at the Battle of Yonkers. The pilot is spoken of with praise, and did at least manage to kill quite a few zombies, but the damage his rotors sustained caused him to quickly crash.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Paul Redeker, who spent his whole career engineering how to save the elite white population of South Africa from a populist black uprising through sacrificing "unnecessary" citizens in a patently amoral, emotionlessly logical, and detailed survival plan. Then the zombies show up. But it's when he's embraced by Nelson Mandela that his emotional isolationism cracks and he embraces his own humanity. He also goes crazy and asumes the name Xolelwa Azania.
    • Lots of soldiers in the US Army suffer from this. One was a professional wrestler who broke down after smelling perfume that reminded him of someone he knew. Another man reached his abandoned home outside of Chicago and shot himself. The heroine of the Battle of Five Colleges - Sergeant "Avalon" - survived a battle against 10,000 zombies and stoically led a squad during the offensive to reclaim the American heartland, only to finally breakdown after seeing, of all things, a turtle.
      • It's mentioned that turtles are almost equivalent to unicorns due to being so slow - perfect zombie chow.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Subverted with General Raj-Singh. He tries to do as such... only to be bashed over the head by his men to force his retreat. Later double-subverted when the Indian Army attempts to blow up the mountain passes to the Himalayas Safe Zone, the explosives fail to go off. Raj-Singh goes back, on his own, and detonates the charges manually.
    • Played straight with the ISS crew.
    • The German "Rapid Reaction" Force that was ordered to "hold to the last".
    • The US Special Forces that were para-dropped into zombie-infested areas to help beef up the "Blue Zones".

  Most of them knew they were in it for the duration. Not all of the Blue Zones remained safe. Some were eventually overrun. A lot of heart. All of them.

    • The French soldiers who cleared the Catacombs of Paris, particularly the soldiers who died at the battle for "The Hospital".

  One squad against three hundred zombies. One squad led by my baby brother. The last thing we heard before the radio went silent was his voice on the radio: "On ne passé pas!"

    • The US President, probably an expy of Colin Powell. As his Vice President would later recall:

  "Do you know he never tried to find out what happened to his relatives in Jamaica? Never even asked. He was so fiercely focused on the fate of our nation... I don't know if great times make great men, but I know they can kill them."

  • Hollywood Tactics: In-universe: The Battle of Yonkers goes straight past this and into holding the Idiot Ball. Using anti-vehicle weapons against a massed human-wave attack. Being honestly surprised that they ran out of ammo for even the anti-tank weapons after half an hour of continuous fire. Only having one line of defense. Wasting resources and energy to build cover (blasting tank bunkers out of parking lots, even!) against a force without weapons. Not putting soldiers in positions of overwatch. Not totally securing the combat zone. Reserving artillery until the enemy is in sight of said infantry line. Firing all your artillery at the initial small groups of zombies instead of letting the lighter guns handle them. Keeping the Air Force completely shut out until one emergency bombardment. Not following up on the airstrike after it wiped out a good portion of the horde. The grunts were not pleased.
  • Hot Sub-On-Sub Action: A rogue Chinese sub faces off against a Loyalist sub.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Various cases of people doing what they needed to do to survive...including some pretty grisly stuff.
  • Idiot Ball: In-universe: Most governments in the early stages, but especially the U.S. armed forces.
  • I Have Many Names: The Redeker Plan, the overall human survival strategy, later gained nation specific monikers, such as the Chang Doctrine.
  • Immune to Bullets: Unless you get the zombie with a good headshot, it isn't gonna work. It'll keep coming.
  • Improvised Weapon: The genesis of the Lobotomizer, which was a lifesaver for the headache the government had to go through in terms of budget since it could be made from the plentiful and useless automobiles sitting around. Several other creative methods are also mentioned.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. Very much so. Played semi-straight with the Ferals, children who grew up without society, language, and their parents.
  • Israelis With Infrared Missiles: The first official zombie warning and action plan come from Israel. As a consequence, Israel also manages to deal with the zombie invasion much better than many other nations, despite having a short civil war.
  • It's the Only Way to Be Sure: When the Battle of Yonkers goes disastrously awry, the city is flattened with a thermobaric bomb. It doesn't work.
  • Ignored Expert: The authors of the Warmbrunn-Knight report were one example.
  • Kill'Em All: The Ukrainian method for dealing with mobs of potentially-infected refugees is nerve gas. This revolts the troops that thought they were there to escort refugees into the safe zone-until some of the gassed refugees got back up as zombies.
  • Kill It with Fire: Not the best way to kill zombies (due to them stumbling around and lighting other stuff on fire, plus long lag time), but definitely the best method for disposal.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The White House Chief of Staff at the time ignored the report on zombies, inadvertently condemning millions to death. When the writer finds him, he's working at a "Biofuel Conversion Plant". Specifically, he shovels shit for a living. So he has the same job with a pay reduction.
  • Last of His Kind: Averted - the military encounters hundreds of self-proclaimed Last Men on Earth (or LaMOE, pronounced "lame-o"), during the reclamation of the infected zones. They were crazed survivalist sorts who didn't want to go back to society. The military had a different term for people who just survived and didn't fight their reintegration - "Crusoes".
  • Laughing Mad: Breckenridge Scott, the Corrupt Corporate Executive who sold the ineffective drug Phalanx starts giggling about halfway through his interview and doesn't stop.
  • Let's Read: Here.
  • Loud of War: Subverted when each country plays some sort of music to draw in the zombies to their firing boxes, Africans use drums, Scots use bagpipes, Americans use "The Trooper".
  • Mama Bear: When Mary Jo Miller's daughter was nearly eaten by a attacking zombie, she ran up and literally tore its head from its shoulders WITH HER BARE HANDS!
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Metsfan, the conjuration of a frightened mind, or the goddess Metis herself?
  • Military Alphabet: Designation of some weapons and tactics against the undead.
  • Mission Control: Christina Eliopolis, the former fighter pilot-turned-C130-pilot who goes down, is helped by a "Skywatcher" (military personnel and civilian volunteers who are dropped to help direct the military's supplies to stranded bases and cities) to safety.
  • Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: Turns out her radio was broken from the moment she hit the ground. Though this is a non-hostile example of this trope.
  • More Dakka: The Army takes this approach at Yonkers, throwing every kind of weapon they had into the setup. This includes weapons meant for use against hard targets such as bunkers and tanks, and weapons that are great for inducing fear or debilitating wounds over large numbers of soft targets. Unfortunately, with zombies there's only two ways to make a kill: destroying the brain or completely obliterating the body. The latter was achieved in bulk--Todd explains that "It was a meat grinder, a wood chipper..." until the guns ran out of ammo (also to Todd's disgust: the brass apparently believed in Bottomless Magazines, and had spent logistical time and effort on bringing in useless junk such as field latrines and bridgelayers to this urban battlefield instead of bringing in ammo) and more zombies simply stepped over the liquified remains of the first rank. Not enuff dakka.
  • New Media Are Evil: Lampshaded. The interviewer asks the pharmaceutical exec why people didn't hear from alternative media. The exec says that anyone from such media would be dismissed as crackpots. The book was published in late 2006, and even then, people would have posted the zombies on Youtube and Flickr the second they got an Internet connection. Thousands of people would definitely make CNN sit up and take notice. There's a grand total of one blog mentioned in the entire book, though it's implied alternate media was on fire with this stuff.
    • Averted in the case of the otaku. 2ch/2chan had been busy.
    • The general implication that Max Brooks gives, is that those of us on the internet tend to drastically over-estimate the extent to which "New Media" had penetrated into the general population.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: Americans refer to the undead as "Zack", and the Europeans refer to them as "Zed": a take-off on how Germans would be called "Jerry" in World War II, or Viet Cong would be called "Charlie" in the Vietnam War. Zombies are also referred to as "Ghouls", frequently shortened to "G's", similar to how the Viet Cong would be called "VC". The reformed US military's new battle doctrine is described as trying to "out-G the G", which is a reference to a quote about US strategy against the Viet Cong. The Japanese call them "Siafu", which is their word for the African driver ant, due to their swarming and all-consuming nature.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Sharon, whose terrifying, heart-rending story is made even more so by her sheer lack of comprehension about what she's describing, and her innocent glee at being allowed to do a (frighteningly accurate) impression of a zombie.
  • Nightmare Fuel: In-universe:
    • The sailors on a Russian signal interception ship listening to the last frantic transmissions from South America. All of them end up committing suicide.
    • "If I ever had a recurring nightmare, and I'm not saying I do, because I don't, but if I did, I'd be right back in there, only this time I'm completely naked... I mean I would be."
    • Sharon's story about how the church she was holed up in as a child was overrun and some of the adults KILLED some of their own children in order to save them from the zombies. Her own mother tried to kill her, but another woman (who lost her daughter to zombies) shoots the mom and tells her to run. She spends the rest of WWZ "feral," running from zombies and bereft of any other human contact. All this told by a VERY broken young woman with SOUND EFFECTS thrown in.

  "I won’t let them get you. I WON’T LET THEM GET YOU!”

    • If you keep an eye on the other interviews with Americans, you learn that parents murdering their children to keep them from the zombies was apparently a frequent phenomenon. So were feral children.
    • The possibility that the person bearing your loved one's name is actually just a random person with very good plastic surgery, if you hire "Closure, LTD" to find their zombie corpse.
    • The 'Ferals', kids that were all alone, traumatised and somehow managed to survive. Years after the outbreak, the clean up soldiers keep finding them, and they still have the minds of kids - if they're lucky. Most acted a lot like rabid gorillas.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: None were named, but Ruben Studdard, Paris Hilton, Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Maher (Mr. High Fructose Corn Syrup), and Ann Coulter were all at the ill-fated celebrity bunker. Ruben and his agent get blown up by a hand grenade.
    • Howard Stern survives the war, and even gets his radio show back on the air after civilization is restored.
    • Geraldo Rivera goes down at Yonkers. He at least had the token dignity that he was trying to defend himself with a revolver when he got swarmed by the zombie horde; a lot of the other reporters and celebrities died like cowards.
    • The wartime President and Vice-President are implied to be Colin Powell and Howard Dean, and the pre-war President's Chief of Staff appears to be an angrier Karl Rove (his name is given as 'Grover Karlson', just to make absolutely sure you realize who he is). Meanwhile, Barack Obama is mentioned in passing as having been the first choice for Vice-President of the bipartisan wartime U.S. government, but he was passed up because the idea of both the President and Vice-President being black was too much for some people to bear.
    • Todd Wainio states at one point that he had a squadmate he swore to God was Michael Stipe, but was never able to get the man to admit it.
    • Nelson Mandela has a brief cameo, though he is only referred to as Rolihlahla, his original given name.
    • Martin Scorsese is implied to have made a masterpiece film about the Battle of Hope, but he's only referred to as "Marty."
    • "Roy Elliot" seems to be an expy of Senor Spielbergo. He actually really helps the war effort by making morale-boosting propaganda movies, initially just using his own hand-held cameras to make documentaries funded out of pocket, similar to the kind that got us through the darkest days of World War II.
  • Noodle Incident: There are many, since the book is written as if the reader survived the events, and these are assumed to be (in)famous events everyone knows about. Particularly chilling references are given to battles like "Black Hills" (where the Americans first destroyed rebellion strongholds - it's implied these were the ones that split away due to the massive, and harsh, shifts in Government the US had to undergo - normal Americans, mind you) and "Zhitomir" (where the Ukrainian government apparently tried and failed to use nerve gas to stop the zombies). Other references appear to be this until they are elaborated on later in the book. For example the "Battle of Yonkers" and the "South African war plan" are mentioned in passing since early in the story, so when the chapters finally arrive that start with characters stating that their interview will give an eye-witness account of Yonkers, or the details of the South African (Redeker) plan, you're filled with dread at what they're about to reveal.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party The northern Canada wilderness. Yum.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: One of the survivors tells a story about watching a stag film at his friend's bachelor party post-war. The lead actress is having sex on the hood of a BMW Z4, but the survivor can only think about what a shame it was that no one builds cars like that anymore. Immediately Lampshaded.
  • Not So Different: The zombies swarm and devour every living creature they encounter. Guess what the waves of refugees fleeing to the North Canadian wilderness do with the available resources?
  • Not Using the Z Word: They used words like "Zack," "Zed," "Z," and "Zed Head." When the word "zombie" was used, it was with the sense of how awkward and weird it was to use it, because zombies are movie creatures, but the creatures encountered by the survivors of World War Z could not really be described by them in any other way.
  • Old Media Are Evil: And a large part of the blame for the ignorance of the public about the true nature of the 'rabies' infected and the subsequent Great Panic goes to them.
  • Old Shame: A decade after the official "end" of the war, the Department of Strategic Resources chief is still kicking himself over "Project Yellow Jacket", a pie in the sky plan to use plane launched, satellite guided micromissiles to kill the zombies. It was a massive waste of cash and materials, and produced nothing in the end.
  • One Degree of Separation: If you pay attention, the narrators of various sections often unknowingly reference one another. A good example would be T. Sean Collins, who mentions that a man in his zombie-killing unit eventually had enough and went home. That man, Stanley MacDonald, had been interviewed earlier in the book. It's also implied that the sword Kondo Tatsumi finds belonged to his sensei Tomonaga Ijiro's older brother, though Ijiro's narrative says he has no idea what became of him.
  • One-Man Army:
    • One of Todd Waino's sections mentions a soldier who was a former pro wrestler. "He was a monster with a two grand body count, an ogre who'd once picked up a G and used it as a club for hand-to-hand combat."
    • The blind Japanese gardener, before the Otaku comes along.
    • The nun, who protected her Sunday school class for nine days with nothing but a giant candlestick.
  • Papa Wolf: A guy does this to his own son in an interview near the beginning. The kid, who was Palestinian, was against their family going to Israel, going on a rant about how his parents could go and "be the yehud's whore" if they wanted and loudly declaring his intention to become an insurgent. His dad stares at him as he finishes his tirade and begins beating the living shit out of him, screaming all the while, and the next thing the kid knows, they're on their way to Israel and he's sobbing like a bitch.
  • Posthumous Character: General Raj-Singh, whose rediscovery of 18th century infantry tactics helped win the war years after his own death.
  • The Power of Rock:
    • The strategy for fighting back against the zombies is to form a defensive position, then draw them over open fields with loud music. Each country uses some variation on their traditional war songs — the Scottish use bagpipes, for example, and the South African Zulu chant and bang combat knives (The Sou'frican equivalent of the K-BAR is referred to as an assegai) against rifle butts. The Americans' choice? Among other songs, "The Trooper", which makes things doubly ironic because Iron Maiden is obviously not American and they use a Zombie as a mascot, along with the singer dying at the end of the song.
    • The documentary of the Five Colleges featured a young woman who sang to pep up her fellow students for combat. She later shows up in the army under the nickname "Sergeant Avalon", after the movie.
  • Pretend We're Dead: Doesn't work. The Quislings (people who have been driven insane by the Zombie Apocalypse and start to believe that they are zombies, and moan and shamble accordingly) are attacked along with everyone else.
  • Primal Fear: Some people were so completely disturbed by the horrors of seeing zombies in such massive numbers, not to mention the trauma of having to run from or kill loved ones, that they would lie down to sleep and just die, their will to live completely gone at the idea of having to live in a world like that.
  • Properly Paranoid: Israel. The Israeli agent interviewed even said a degree of paranoia was already the Israeli intelligence's unspoken policy, because, thanks to their enmity with their neighbors, paranoia was a survival skill. They were the only ones who actually took the threat seriously and took steps to defend against it before their country was completely overrun.
    • The Israeli agent's American colleague, Knight.
  • The Quisling: A psychological disorder here: it's another human psychological response to living in the Uncanny Valley and dealing with Primal Fear at all times. The human mind snaps and goes "if you can't beat 'em, join em," and the still living human begins to behave like a zombie him/herself. This offers no defense from actual undead, though. Many Quislings were so realistic that early news footage of zombies eating Quislings led to people believing that the zombies eat each other. While the zombies actually can tell Quislings from real zombies through various criteria, humans can only tell by a) shooting them and seeing warm blood come out, and b) seeing if they blink.
    • Even worse, quislings that bite people don't make them zombies. Which means a lot of people used Phalanx, the completely fake anti-zombie medicine, got bit by a quisling, survived, and thought the medicine worked. There's also the danger of getting infected by their complete lack of hygiene - solanum is toxic to other microbes, but a living human who hasn't washed or changed clothes or brushed their teeth for more than a year is, understandably, a hotbed of filth.
    • Perhaps even more worser, once Phalanx was exposed, some people may have been bitten by them, assumed they were zombies, and killed themselves afterward when it was unnecessary. One interviewee mentions this almost happened to a squadmate before it was pointed out--and then he nearly dies of mundane infection from the bite anyway.
  • Reality Ensues: During their exile, the Chinese submarine crew discovers a number of vessels that are dead and abandoned because the people fleeing on them made no preparations for long-term survival at sea, the American zepplin pilot watched highways full of people fleeing the cities with no plan, and in some cases attempting to flee to cities that others are fleeing from, and an entire segment is dedicated to the panicked flight to Northern Canada. The first two could be seen as a Take That at the Romero Dawn/Day/Land of the Dead movies, which ended with the protagonists driving/ flying / sailing away from the zombies with no real plan.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Arthur Sinclair, head of DeStRes (Department of Strategic Resources)
  • Redshirt Army: Played straight, deconstructed, then subverted.
  • The Remnant: All of humanity to a degree, especially when the various versions of the Redeker Plan are in effect, but the clearest example is the United States, which is pretty much reduced to the Pacific bordering states and scattered enclaves.
    • A more straight example is the Chinese Politburo holed up in Xilinhot during the Chinese Revolution.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules: T. Sean Collins, highly paid mercenary, abandons the celebrity "hideout" when it becomes clear that the building is coming under attack not from zombies, but refugees, including women and children.
  • Selective Obliviousness: In "Closure, LTD.", it's not that people don't mind that the supposed corpse of their loved one is someone else; they just don't care. It's symbolic, and that's all that really matters.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the characters Brooks interviews in the book tosses out a line from one of his father's movies, The Producers.
    • Near the end, two Marines play a skit from "Free to Be, You and Me", another of his father's works.
    • Jessika Hendrick's father (the family that drove up to the north in the first wave), sure seems to be described as if he's Mel Brooks.

 "He was a gentleman in the most literal sense - he was a gentle man. Short, bald, a pudgy face that turned red when he laughed, he was the king of bad jokes and cheesy one-liners."


  We're still at war, and until every trace is sponged, and purged, and, if need be, blasted from the surface of the earth, everybody's still gotta pitch in and do their job.

  • The Siege: "The Hero City", all those other little "holdouts", and the defense of the Five Colleges in California.
  • Stealth Pun: Presumably unintentional. For readers in countries where the third ordinal number and the final letter of the alphabet are even remotely similar in pronunciation.
  • Strawman News Media: Type 4. A LOT of people got infected or trapped by infected because the media didn't sit up and pay attention until it was too late. At the very least, it's repeatedly mentioned no one would believe zombies rose from the dead until they were knocking on their door.
  • Straw Vulcan: Paul Redeker, who firmly believes that empathy only inhibits human progress.
  • Take That:
    • Against himself - one interviewee (Barati Palshigar, starting from page 194 for the Three Rivers Press edition) comments on Brooks' survival guide being useless because it was written by an American, for Americans... and thus not a whole hell of a lot of good to people living in vastly different cultures and environments (believe it or not, not every country will allow you to have an assortment of firearms and blades lying around the house just in case the dead rise). It's also dismissed (after a fashion) by Todd Wainio, complete with a masturbation joke.
    • There are also plenty of Take Thats toward obvious celebrities, usually highly-obvious copies of contemporary celebrities, including a a thinly-veiled Karl Rove, Bill Maher, Ann Coulter, Paris Hilton, and various movie stars and musicians.
    • The Rove-surrogate is found literally shoveling manure.
    • Also against other zombie literature, in a metafiction manner - it's repeated several times that there were rampant rumors that the zombies were fast (the 28 ... Later series, the remake of Dawn of the Dead 2004), supernatural/demonic (Evil Dead, Doom, et cetera) mutating (Resident Evil), intelligent (Romero's later movies), or trainable (ditto), and there were many attempts to quell these rumors.
  • Tank Goodness: Subverted and averted. At Yonkers, the tanks aren't carrying appropriate ammunition - anti-tank kinetic darts are worth fuck-all against the living dead. Later in the war (in America's case at least), tanks get mothballed because the resources required to use them (i.e. fuel and ammunition) don't equate to a higher number of dead zombies than, say, an infantry platoon would.
    • Played straight in the army's reclamation of rebel enclaves in territory they're recapturing.
    • Also played straight by the Russians, who use anything and everything they can against the undead, which includes running them over with obsolete tanks.
  • This Is Reality:
    • The CIA director points out that they didn't and never had anything close to the resources people think they do. Waino also points out that the movie made about the Battle of Hope was unrealistic.
    • Actively subverted by the filmmaker, who points out that when 'reality' is a zombie-infested nightmare of bleakness, misery and hopelessness where simply going to bed one night and subconsciously choosing never to wake up ever again becomes the best option, a movie being 'unrealistic' is not the worst thing in the world if it also gives people enough hope to build a better world.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Jessika Hendricks telling the interviewer how people (including her own family) had packed horribly. She showed him a trash heap filled with DVDs, video game consoles, laptops, and other useless stuff that they couldn't be able to use. Such sloppy preparedness led to a lot of people dying that first winter at the Canadian settlement. And then they started dynamite fishing and cutting down all the trees for fire.
    • The enclave of celebrities who broadcast their easily-overrun "fortress" to nearby urbanites who were either fleeing the zombies, infected or both. You do the math.
    • The guy on TV whose plan of attack was to rollerblade at the zombies with a meat cleaver attached to a hockey stick and cut off the zombies' heads. He gets dragged into a sewer by his ponytail and then ridiculed by Paris Hilton.
    • From a military standpoint, the utterly USELESS BITS OF CRAP that the US Army uses at Yonkers. The narrator outright states that most of that stuff was there to impress the media. They had the soldiers wearing bulky HAZMAT suits that made it difficult to reload, ignored terrain advantages, and didn't give the army the ammo that it needed to actually put up a decent fight.
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: Land Warrior, Chinese nuclear subs and Comanches are deployed, the Chinese have a Space Station (though it turns out it's not much but an orbital denial system in case things had heated up on the ground), and computers have voice-typing. One of the previous wars is heavily hinted as having been the Iraq War, and fuel-cells are used on boats, though it's apparently a recent post-war invention.
  • Uncanny Valley: People couldn't handle living there 24/7. See Primal Fear above.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Gee, thanks China. If the Chinese government hadn't tried to cover up the plague, rather than sharing information with the rest of the world, billions fewer people would have died. Also the malice of the Chinese space station designed to blow up and cause Kessler syndrome, denying space to humanity for decades and taking out out most existing satellites.
  • The Virus: Solanum.
  • Voice of the Resistance: Radio Free Earth.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: "Metsfan," the (possibly imagined or divine) Skywatcher that helped the downed pilot Christina Eliopolis get picked up in a white zone.
  • The War on Terror: Not mentioned by name, but cited as a reason the Z-War hit so hard and without warning; described as "a brushfire war" that the CIA had "been ordered to justify" and later "became a political liability", it ultimately resulted in massive purges to America's intelligence network - they couldn't defend themselves without violating national security, so most of them left just when spies were needed to penetrate Chinese secrecy.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In-universe: North Korea. No one knows what happened, no one wants to know, out of fear that they've been zombified if the theory that they're underground by now is true.
  • White Man's Burden: 'Rich Man's Burden' in "Closure, LTD" is the reason Thomas Kiersted chose to take up his line of work.
  • Wild Child: Sharon.
  • You Don't Want to Die a Virgin, Do You?: The former guard of the Long Island fortress manages to escape, but as he does he witnesses two people he thought were supposed to be political enemies (implied to be Bill Maher and Ann Coulter) "going at it" like there was no tomorrow. Which, for them, there wasn't.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Part of the US anti-zombie defenses after the war is airships. Zeppelins can theoretically fly low enough and slow enough that snipers on board can pick of zombies one by one; they're more fuel-efficient and can cover long distances, both of which matter when you're trying to recover vast swathes of contaminated areas, they're airborne and thus safe so long as they stay that way, and your speed doesn't have to be very fast when the enemy's top speed is "shamble".
  • Zerg Rush:
    • The zombies, particularly massive chain-swarm battles like Yonkers. A massive human-wave attack in which individual zombies are utterly expendable, and using superior numbers soak up all of the humans' heavy ammunition, then just keep on coming. At the height of the war, the continental United States east of the Rocky Mountains is swarming with 200 million zombies, each of which is its own self-contained fighting unit. In contrast, the ~100 million or so surviving humans west of the Rockies are a support base for the small fraction of humans actually serving in the new military (its not as if babies and the elderly can fight). So the actual odds are truly something like two hundred to one.
    • Also, the Chinese military's entire strategy up until the Revolution. Russia also attempted this... and was a tad more successful. The difference was that the Chinese attempted simultaneous zerg rushes against every city in the country, not establishing Safe Zones to use as a springboard for later offensives. The Russians actually did establish a Safe Zone east of the Ural Mountains, walled off all of their major cities, and then cleared each city one by one, using zerg rushes. The Chinese Politburo used zerg rushes because they were stubborn fools who refused to change tactics, while the Russians used zerg rushes mostly because their military was so antiquated and poorly armed that they had little choice.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: naturally.
  • Zombie Gait: It's mentioned a handful of times that you're better off in the streets, where you can easily outrun Zack, than in a bottlenecked building.
  • Zombie Infectee: Many stories included the infected trying to hide their infection, and the methods used to detect the infection.
    • Averted, however, in many stories where people were accidentally infected and completely at terms with what this meant, including one story where a man believed he had been bitten by a zombie who turned out to be a quisling. Ironically, he almost died of a staph infection as a result.