Total War Against the Zombies: It was worth.

Humanity’s war against the zombie epidemic was unlike any other war. All other wars that we had encountered in the past had been operated by humans. And human soldiers needed to be “bred, fed and led” (Brooks 271). Zombies, on the other hard, did not have to be bred, fed and led. They were programmed to infect the human population, did not need arms to do so, and did not need food to survive. Even if we declared “total war” where every one of us would “commit every second of [our] lives to victory”, such victory would undeniably be in jeopardy. Adding to this very inherent fact that the zombies had the upper hand, General D’Ambrosia suggests that the very idea of a total war itself is flawed on two levels; it is physically impossible to have every citizen working for the war, all the time and as humans, we had “emotional and physiological breaking point[s]” (273). As humans, there is a limit to enduring sacrifices and mental and physical suffering. How, then, could we fight off the zombies without support from every citizen, every waking moment?


Accurate depiction of emotional distress on war ground with zombie attacks. (Image from

As the war against the undead is carried out, the readers clearly see such emotional and physiological breaking points. For example, Father Sergei Rykhov narrates the tremendous levels of mental stress that comes with dealing with infected soldiers on the war ground. Once infected, someone had to kill his comrade. Someone had to kill a friend “whom [they] fought with side by side, shared break and blankets” (295). When the responsibility is placed on the field commanders, they ultimately end up committing suicide. In other words, the declaration of war between humans and zombies creates a sense of camaraderie between the soldiers. Unlike how Rat Face simply shot the girl that had become a zombie with complete emotional detachment, the “us against them” mentality inherent in a war made the bitten soldiers ‘an infected friend’ rather than ‘then human, now zombie’ (79). In such ways, the war against zombies clearly brings about emotional breaking points. Not only that, the traditional methods of fighting off zombies was completely ineffective. The boobie traps, for example, was completely useless in that the soldiers “wanted them upright and easy to spot, not crawling around the weeds waiting to be stepped on like land mines themselves” (324). As such, the war was a completely unfamiliar kind with completely different species with huge emotional commitment and distress.

So is it worth it? Are all the lost soldiers and emotional breaking points worth going against the zombies for? If I was head of state in World War Z, I would have voted yes. Yes, the war against zombies was a huge risk. But yes, we had to. Had we not gone to war with the zombies, the uncertainty of whether the zombie did, in fact, completely die off would have persisted. Simply waiting for the decomposition of the zombies would have put us at risk of running out of resources. In a few years, even the safe zones, isolated from zombies could end up like “barricaded zones [with] nothing but rat-gnawed skeletons…that fell to starvation or disease” (325). The citizens of such barricaded zones that Todd’s army encountered had indeed fallen victim to the depletion of resources. There is no denying that this could have easily been the world’s future had they simply waited for zombies to die off. Not only that, it is revealed that the zombies were incredibly resilient. According to Michael Choi, the zombies underwater were there and functional – withstanding the saltwater and pressure. Clearly, it would have taken a long while for such hardy zombies to die off. Not only that, the depletion of resources would have generated a sense of uncertainty. Without the citizens’ trust in the government, a healthy economy cannot be run as Arthur Sinclair underscores in his interview (337). Thus the safe zones would have failed resource-wise and, on top of that, economy-wise.

Propaganda against communism that reads “After total war can come total living” a slogan which also rings true to the humans’ fight against the zombies.(Image from

            Declaration of World War Z, with all its losses, was nonetheless necessary. Such waiting and build up of uncertainty was avoided. As Todd recollects, it was “finally the beginning of the end” (282). Despite the emotional and physical suffering that the war generated, it did not lead the society to go into uncertain periods of starvation and economic turmoil. Not only that, the war itself was driven by people who did not simply strive to be the next “heroes” but people who were motivated to save the human race. We see this through Todd’s reaction to the zoomies outside of Omaha. He says “they were actually living better than us, fresh chow, hot showers, soft beds. It almost felt like we were being rescued” (321). He is simply reassured that some “people he liberated”, as phrased by the interviewer, were surviving and were doing well. Todd did not hold the arrogance that he had “liberated them”. Todd simply worked to save the human race by clearing safe zones—it was his role in the total war. As such, towards the end of the novel, the idea of “total war” is redefined by “the Whako”. Whako says that “everybody’s gotta pitch in and do their job” and tells the tree that it is “doin’ a good job”. In other words, the “role” that one plays to pitch into the war need not be huge and heroic. It is the sense of pulling the community together emotionally that we are responsible for preserving. That is the role that the common civilians play in total war, and that is how a ‘total war’ state can be achieved. Thus, as head of state, I would have voted ‘yes’ to go to war against the zombies.

Works Cited

Brooks, Max. “The Great Panic.” World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. New York: Crown, 2006. 79. Print.

War or Defeat

We have won the war! Listen. That has a ring, a motivational power to it. Pride is coupled with the statement; “surviving an epidemic” reminds one of desperate times. Make no mistake: the conflict with the zombies is indeed a war. They are out to destroy humanity, even if it is not a conscious decision. Labelling the Zombie War as anything else diminishes many heroes’ sacrifices, fails to contextualize the tough decisions made, and completely disregards the unity needed to defeat the virus. To win a war, one needs to attack. As the leader of a country, this is why I would vote to attack during the Honolulu Conference.

This call to attack is more than just demagoguery. It provides the best solution to the zombie apocalypse in multiple areas. Tactically, the alternative to not attacking is “remain[ing] safe and sedentary while our enemy simply rot[s] away” (Brooks 265), but General D’Ambrosia states, “[l]ock a hundred of them in a room and three years later they’ll come out just as deadly” (272). Attacking really is the only choice because the threat will remain if nothing is done. The War started with only a few zombies; not attacking now would allow the process to start much more rapidly than before because people would undoubtedly become infected due to the many zombies present. Moreover, militaries can only be content with a stalemate for so long. A lack of a clear goal (such as reclaiming a particular city) would soon develop into a distrust of leadership. If our military gives up, then even the safe zones will be in jeopardy.

There are many social and political benefits, as well. For example, reclaiming entire cities and allowing people to return back to their homes gives people hope. Victories like these–even if some defeats are present–would fix the problem of ADS (Asymptomatic Demise Syndrome). Without noticeable progress, people will “simply go to sleep one night and not wake up the next morning…because…it could only bring more suffering” (159). Politically, this would also set the stage for future governments because people will have faith in their leaders. They will see their government as an entity that actually brought positive change instead of one that cowered in the face of danger. If the world stays on the defensive, then people will always have a lingering question about why their governments have not yet done anything about the situation. Stagnation is simply not an option for a country either.

Perhaps a criticism of attacking the zombies is that we “risk even more lives, suffer even more [casualties]” (265). War has a price, however, and the people fighting in the fields understand the consequences. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of humanity, and by going on the offensive, we are valuing their sacrifice. The offensive will not be a reckless charge into danger, however. It will take the form of the “Reinforced Square” (280) formation that Todd describes in great detail. It is effective, deadly, and replicable. Labeling an offensive as dangerous and foolish is misguided. Perhaps the old way of fighting could be described as such, but the new offensive will be calculated. A loss of life would be tragic in this strategy, not just the norm.

Seeing that going on the offensive makes sense tactically, socially, and politically, I would undoubtedly endorse this plan as a country’s leader. Even the moral arguments against this strategy are limited. There’s only one thing to do now. Let’s go win a war.

Facing it Head on

When the world you live in starts crumbling into pieces, what do you do? You can’t just sit and watch it fall apart. If I were a head of state in World War Z, I would have voted yes during the Honolulu Conference. The decision of choosing to attack the zombies full-force isn’t unethical, unlike the Redeker Plan. There was no use of “human bait” (Brooks 109) in the decision to attack. There was always the concern that many lives would be lost in the full-fledged attack against the zombies, but there wasn’t a question of whether or not something is ethical in the decision made at the conference.

Basically, there are two options that the people at the Honolulu Conference could consider. Firstly, the people could have waited until all the zombies just rotted away. The problem with that would be that no one would know how long that would take. The idea of idly sitting on our hands and not doing anything would lead to anxiety and uneasiness in many people. Because the living dead “robbed us of our confidence as the planet’s dominant life form” (Brooks 267), being more powerless would not be the best solution. In order to be “the planet’s dominant life form” (Brooks 267), humans have to be in power and in control, but if humans just sat and waited for the zombies to rot away, they would not be the ones in power. In response to not being able to help the puppies at the pet store a block away from his house, Darnell said, “’What could I have done?… Something” (Brooks 292). In the future, like Darnell Hackworth, people would  wish that they did something in response to the zombie war instead of waiting.  If there was an attack on the zombies, we would at least know what was happening and going on. We would also somewhat be in control of the process of events. Therefore, the vote to attack during the Honolulu Conference would have been the faster, more efficient route towards ending this war with the disease that reanimated the dead. Even though the enemy could “simply rot away” (Brooks 265) over time, the disease could be spread again through one zombie. Even if there were a couple zombies left, only one of them would have to bite another healthy human being for them to become infected. If even a small number of the undead were left alive, there would still be chance for the disease to spread again into a full-scale epidemic.

Image result for comic of war            Image result for humans fighting zombies

In addition, the world war that is being fought in this book is different from a typical world war. Typically, a world war involves two different sides fighting against each other because of their different beliefs on an issue. However, in World War Z, the healthy, living humans are fighting the infected, undead zombies. The zombies, since they don’t have brains, don’t really have a thought going through their head. The war being fought isn’t regarding a certain stand on an issue. Rather, the healthy humans are fighting an epidemic that has been brought to life through the form of zombies. Normally, an epidemic is transferred from one human to another through different routes, but it’s hard to see exactly who has the disease. Also, the disease is just an agent in the background. In World War Z, it’s extremely evident to people as to who is infected or not, which gives life to the disease. The disease is now tangible, to a certain extent, meaning that there is now a certainty that if you shoot the brain of the zombie, you know for sure that that specific zombie can no longer spread the disease anymore. The image of fighting an epidemic in an active, somewhat living form as zombies creates an image regarding how terrifying and detrimental the effects of an epidemic are.


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Red “Surprise”

“The sky was red that day. All the smoke, the crap that’d been filling the air all summer. It put everything in an amber red light, like looking at the world through hell-colored glasses. That’s how I first saw Yonkers, this little, depressed, rust-collar burb just north of New York City. I don’t think anybody ever heard of it. I sure as hell hadn’t, and now it’s up there with, like, Pearl Harbor…no, not Pearl…that was a surprise attack. This was more like Little Bighorn, where we…well…at least the people in charge, they knew what was up, or they should have. The point is, it wasn’t a surprise, the war…or emergency, or whatever you want to call it…it was already on. It had been, what, three months since everyone jumped on the panic train.” (93)


In this passage, Todd Wainio illustrates the initial setting and thoughts in regards to the “Great Panic.” In particular, this passage begins to illustrate and foreshadow the horrors that are about to come before the soldiers in the war. Brooks does this through the use of diction, imagery, and figurative language.

For example, through diction and imagery, Brooks is able to highlight the beginnings of the battle with the undead. For example, Todd paints an image of red in many of the initial sentences in phrases such as “amber red light” and “hell-colored glasses”. As red is reminiscent of blood and violence, Todd is further setting the scene of that war that is upon them. The color red could also be emphasizing the aggression and anger that the soldiers are feeling which is further described later on in the interview (ie. not being able to go up on the roof tops even though tactically it would be a better choice).

In addition to the use of red, Todd also refers to the war as a “panic train.” There have been so many mistakes in regards to this zombie war made by so many to the point that people are simply there for the ride whether they like it or not. Also, by using the “panic” to describe the train creates an atmosphere of uncertainty. When people are not very sure of their situation, they may go into a state of panic as they feel that they are inadequately prepared. Similarly, when the soldiers are being sent into the middle of this war, there are many unknowns that they aren’t able to properly prepare for although it has already been three months from the beginning of the panic. Even with a quarter of the year passing by, there is still much that needs to be done.


Furthermore, Brooks’s use of repetition and syntax demonstrates the horrors of the war. For example, in the second sentence of the excerpt, Todd repeats “hell”. With this emphasis on hell, Todd places the soldiers in an environment in which there is no escape. Whether or not the soldiers die of natural causes or become reanimated, there is no true escape. They are going to be thrown into a battlefield full of reanimated zombies which only produce chaos and death. In addition, the use of ellipses creates breaks in the storytelling which further creates a sense of doubt and uncertainty. Todd needs to take a break in between his statements to make adjustments and clarifications upon his previous statements. This illustrates the inadequacy to do what needs to be done.


Thus, through the use of literary devices and figurative language, Brooks demonstrates the upcoming and ongoing battles of the war of the undead versus the living.

The Breaking Point

“It was so subtle, I don’t think anyone even noticed, but suddenly you had a room full of military professionals, each one with decades of combat experience and more academic training than the average civilian brain surgeon, and all of us speaking opening, and honestly, about the possible threat of walking corpses. It was like… a dam breaking; the taboo was shattered, and the truth just started flooding out. It was… liberating.” (Brooks 50-51)

In many instances, characters may express confidence as a mask, when in reality they are insecure and face unrelenting turmoil inwardly. We as the audience, viewer, or reader may also be seeking for the illusion of confidence rather than true confidence itself. Although Travis D’Ambrosia holds the position of Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, the interviewer notes that “there is a softness to the general’s voice, a sadness. Throughout [their] interview, he struggles to maintain eye contact.” (Brooks, 50)

This passage displays the vulnerability of American exceptionalism and also how national leaders are not willing to publicize, let alone accept, the realities of their inadequacies. The passage paints a negative image of corporatism and the economic system of America. As the government becomes a bystander to Wall Street and large firms, it becomes useless in addressing the social inequality faced by the powerless and disadvantaged.

In this passage, Brooks purposefully uses contractions and oxymorons, such as a “dam breaking” and “walking corpses” in order to create an unsettling sensation for the reader. Initially, the reader would feel confident in the abilities of the military professionals through mentioning of how the experience of these officers exceed “brain surgeons,” but the two pauses that Travis makes creates an aura feeling of uncertainty and fear around the speaker, as if the government was trying to hide all the true data and figures to themselves and unable to face reality. The tone of the passage is initially humorous, but eventually reaches a serious and even deadening atmosphere. The shorter phrases at the end of the passage convey Travis’ hesitation, disbelief, and doubt concerning the actions of his government.


Military officers gather around a conference table in deliberations. Photo Credit: Mrs. Debra Preitkis (JFHQNCR/MDW)

Brooks employs the metaphor of a rushing tide against and a dam breaking. The truth is presented as the gushing water, and the dam is made by the government in order to keep the truth from its civilians. However, tension is inevitably built up against this barrier, and eventually the government is forced to succumb to the prevailing force of the truth. Brooks uses violent verbs such as “breaking,” “shattered,” and “flooding” in order to convey the damage the government has done by erecting a barrier of the truth. This is a picture of the government’s use of censorship to control the actions and even the thoughts of the masses. Through creating a barrier of the truth, the government also creates a taboo, which represents the illusion made for civilians to assimilate into their minds.


Painting of a dam breaking made by artist Eric Holmlund.

For the most part, we believe truth to be a positive concept, but in this passage, truth is seen as a “flooding” force, that wrecks havoc on every piece of land it comes across. Brooks characterizes truth as a blunt force and able to send society into a downward spiral of mayhem. Just as the “dam breaking” implies that it was not consented, the government obviously also did not intend for their censorship of the plague to cease.

This passage paints a picture of the dominance of Wall Street and other powerful interest groups in America’s economic system, and also the indecision, apathy, and failure of government in protecting its disadvantaged and marginalized populations.


Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Broadway Books, 2006. Print.

“The Economic System of Corporatism.” The Economic System of Corporatism. San José State University Department of Economics, n.d. Web. 13 Sept 2016,


Preitkis, Debra” Col. Robert G. Oltman, commander of the Security Battalion at Marine Corps Base Quantico, discusses trends and issues at the Joint Law Enforcement Conference at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. Found, U.S. Army, 13 Sept. 2016,


Holmlund, Eric. Dam Breaking. N.d. N.P, Found, Eric Holmlund, 13 Sept. 16,