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Max Brooks’ novel World War Z is a faux-documentary account of a zombie apocalypse, comprising a series of first-person accounts from around the globe as the undead take over. It essentially tries to game out the zombie apocalypse: if such an outbreak really occurred, using the rules we saw in George Romero’s classics, how it would actually play out? Could humans survive? And if so, how?
It’s an intriguing book, and its single-mindedness in thinking through its scenario to logical conclusions has justly made it a classic of the zombie niche. Yet it presents some obvious problems as a basis for a film narrative, and especially a big summer blockbuster. It lacks a central protagonist (the witness accounts are told to a central investigator character, but he’s essentially a passive, off-screen narrator). Its events take place over a decade, and in disparate locations. And it involves such massive, large-scale carnage that it presents budgetary problems for any adaptation. At the same time, those things that make it challenging to adapt are also much the same things that offer a point of difference from the glut of other zombie properties on the market (the 28 Days films, Romero’s Dead films, the Zack Snyder Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, TV’s Walking Dead, and all the rest).