Audio Book Review: 'World War Z: The Complete Edition'


world war zI don't recall if Max Brooks' World War Z was a smash hit when it hit bookstore shelves in the fall of 2006, but it's safe to say that it has quickly become one of the most beloved tomes in all of zombie fandom. There are of course tons of fantastic novels that deal with the zombie apocalypse, but none had taken the concept as seriously as World War Z. Bolstered by a fantastic realism that only comes with tons of research, the book claims to be "an oral history of the zombie war," which basically means this: the world has already ended, and this book is the document of humanity's undoing.

I'm of the firm opinion that "serious" horror is the most effective kind, and that's why World War Z still holds up after two or three readings: it's serious. It feels real. If you wanted to you could approach WWZ like it's a new version of Orson Welles' War of the Worlds faux-apocalypse. That's how convincing, realistic, and darkly fascinating the book is -- if you play along it FEELS real -- and I daresay the audio version is pretty damn special in its own regard. The 2007 audio version of World War Z was a (very) abridged rendition that ran about six hours and earned quite a few accolades despite being, well, monumentally truncated.
This new audio edition (which also bears the ungainly subtitle "Movie Tie-In Edition") still doesn't offer an unabridged version of Max Brooks' book, but it does add more than six more hours back into the mix. This new cut is basically the older version combined with a big stack of new chapters, which means some of the "in-chapter" cuts found in the original audio book are retained here. I'm pretty sure that made sense. Anyway this new version is over twelve hours of wonderfully realistic zombie coolness; the (very) few omissions are of course annoying, but if you focus on what's here instead of what isn't, you're in for a dozen fun hours of aural pleasure.
Those who already own the original audiobook will remember the particularly excellent chapters narrated by folks like Mark Hamill, Henry Rollins, Alan Alda, John Turturro, Jurgen Prochnow, Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner, and a dozen lesser-known - but no less talented - voice performers -- but this new version raises the "geek quotient" in the most appealing of ways. New chapter "interviewees" include Nathan Fillion, Simon Pegg, Alfred Molina, Denise Crosby, Frank Darabont, Paul Sorvino, Jeri Ryan, F. Murray Abraham, and (perhaps best of all) Martin Scorsese as a devious pharmaceuticals rep who recounts his participation in the fall of mankind. Obviously the "names" will help to sell a few extra copies of this audiobook, but this isn't just gimmick casting; these actors do some fine work, as do the ones who aren't quite as famous but make a living doing audiobook narration, video games, animation, and so on. 
It's been widely reported that the upcoming movie version of World War Z deviates pretty wildly from the source material, and that's sort of a shame, even if Brad Pitt's big-budget zombie gamble turns out to be half-decent after all. Those who simply love the original book and want something new that's 98% the real deal, only with the added bonus of having the zombie apocalypse read to you in grave and grim fashion, this audiobook is pretty damn fantastic. I'd recommend the actual "book" book for first-timers but either way this epic audio rendition is a great option. 

Be sure to turn the lights off for maximum effect.