Tag Archives: World War Z

World War Z – Does The Film Of The Book Work?

21 Jun

A while ago, I posted an article here about whether the movie of Max Brook’s World War Z would work or not. Now, the long-awaited day is finally here (exactly six months to the day from its original release date) and the film is finally out. This meant that rather than do the work I should have been doing this afternoon, I snuck out to see it at a little neighbourhood cinema near where I live. So, to return to the question in my previous posting, does the movie work?

Well, I have to say, and I’m aware this may be a controversial point of view amongst fans of the book, I really liked it. It’s fast-paced, it has a good strong plot, the zombies are good (well for the most part – a few sketchy CGI bits here and there but nothing which made me want to throw things at the screen) and, probably most surprisingly of all, it actually adds something completely original to the zombie genre that I hadn’t come across before. I can’t tell you what it is as it would ruin the movie – but the hastily-reworked last third of the film revolves around it and I thought it was a really interesting idea. Certainly, it made me stop and think, and I think it’s one that zombie fans will argue over for years to come. Once the movie’s been out a while, I’ll even need to write a post exploring the concept they’ve introduced as it’s quite interesting from a scientific perspective as well as a zombie one.

I have to say, I’d gone into the cinema with my fingers crossed, hoping that it would at least be a passable action movie, but right from the start it became clear this wasn’t the potential turkey a lot of people in the media had been making it out to be. This is a genuine zombie movie which manages to bring something new to the genre, while remaining appealing to a wider audience. While it’s not up there with the likes of 28 Days Later (but then very little within the zombie genre is!), it’s definitely much closer to that sort of level than I expected. If we take 28 Days Later as the gold standard and say it’s a 10, then World War Z is a good solid 8. In my books, this would put it in the same sort of league as 28 Weeks Later (nowhere nearly as good as its predecessor, but a good film in its own right).

I think the biggest problem for the movie version of World War Z, and this was always going to be a major stumbling block, is the title. With the book being so good, and so unfilmable, this title was always going to bring an awful lot of baggage with it and I don’t think the movie quite gets away from it. With a different title, I think zombie fans would be all over this film, saying how great it is to see a good mainstream zombie movie. However, going under the title of World War Z is always going to have those who loved the book complaining. This is because, as I’ve said before, this is quite clearly not a film of the book. Instead, it’s a film set in the same world as the book (although even some of the basic zombie lore has been tweaked so the two worlds don’t quite match up), and a different title would have made this clearer.

Anyway, having finally seen the movie, I think that as long as it can get out from under the formidable shadow of the book, it will be a hit. However, it’s still unclear whether it will manage it, and if it doesn’t that would be a shame because it’s a genuinely good movie in its own right and it’s one that I think will definitely have people talking.

Of course there was one other thing that disappointed me a little. This was that I didn’t managed to catch myself on screen! I saw a few of my fellow extras from the opening scene, and in particular I spotted my friend Mike the delivery driver (who, having time off his real job as a delivery driver to be an extra on the movie, arrived on set only to find he’d been cast as, you guessed it, a delivery driver!), but alas not myself. I might still be in there somewhere, but it will have to wait for the DVD to come out so I can have a closer look. So much for my career as a Hollywood movie star!


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

What Is A Zombie Apocalypse?

10 Jun

I sat down today intending to write an article on the different ways a zombie apocalypse could come to an end, but almost immediately I ran into a problem: before I could consider how it would end, I’d first need to know what exactly what I was talking about when I said a ‘zombie apocalypse’. As I thought about this, I realised that even though I commonly use the phrase, I’d never come cross a definition of what a zombie apocalypse actually is. So, in this post, I’m going to try to come up with some sort of definition.

One Zombie Does Not An Apocalypse Make: The first thing to sort out is whether all occurrences of zombies are indicative of a zombie apocalypse, and I think the answer here is a resounding no. If you only have a single zombie or small groups of them then, while it might be scary, it’s not an apocalyptic event. For a zombie event to be apocalyptic, it needs to involve a large number of undead, shambling around, or, if you’re into the more modern zombies, running.

Contagion: The second thing to consider is how the number of zombies changes over time. If zombies are just the dead risen and walking around, but normal people are not turned in them, then I would argue it’s not an apocalyptic event. This is because it can only become a truly apocalyptic event if it spreads through the human population, bringing civilisation to its knees as it does so. This doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be an infectious disease, though, instead it could be caused by some sort of environmental contamination that increasing numbers of people become exposed to over time. This means that uncontrolled growth in the number of zombies over time is an important characteristic of a full-blown zombie apocalypse. This is number five of my phases of a zombie apocalypse.

Location: I think the third thing that is needed for something to be considered a zombie apocalypse is where the zombies are found. Just as zombie-ism has to spread to more and more people for it to be apocalyptic, it also needs to spread geographically as well. This means it can’t be something that’s contained in a single place.

In these three characteristics, we have the basis of a definition of a zombie apocalypse: it must affect a large number of people across many locations and there must be an uncontrolled increase in the number of zombies over time.

Based on this definition, some zombie events, such as that seen in Dawn of the Dead, are apocalyptic right from the start. This is because they start with many people all becoming zombies at the same time. However, others, while they may become them, don’t start out as apocalypses. Instead, they start as more limited events that develop into apocalyptic ones because we can’t get them under control. For example, in World War Z (well, in the book at any rate), the zombie outbreak starts in China with a single village. At this stage it’s not a necessarily an apocalyptic event. This is because it’s confined to a small group of people in a single location. Instead, it only grows to become a zombie apocalypse once it starts to spread in an uncontrolled manner through the human population and out to other locations.

When dealing with non-apocalyptic zombie events, if sufficient measures can be taken fast enough (such as containment, vaccination or treatment), it’s possible to prevent them turning apocalyptic. Indeed, attempting to stop a zombie event turning apocalyptic is often a key element of zombie fiction. For example, in The Crazies, the entire premise of the movie is the attempt by the authorities to contain an outbreak of a disease that it causing people in a single small town to go mad and start attacking each other. Thus, we arrive at the situation where we have to accept that not all zombie events are necessarily apocalyptic, although most may well develop into one if they are not properly controlled.

Of course, this is all academic, and if you’re being chased down the street by a pack of slavering zombies, it’s not going to matter to you whether the zombie event you find yourself suddenly thrust into is apocalyptic or not. Instead, all you’re going to care about is staying alive!


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

World War Z – Will The Film Of The Book Work?

4 Apr

It’s release has already been delayed by six months but finally a full length trailer is available and we can start to get an idea of what the movie version of World War Z will be like. Now the question on everyone’s lips is quite simple: will it work?

In my opinion, this will depend on three things. Firstly, how it reflects the book on which it’s based. From the trailer, it’s quite clear this is not a faithful film of the original book and I strongly suspect that Max Brooks fans who go to the cinema thinking this is what they’ll see will come away disappointed. In particular, those expecting to see their favourite vignettes from the book immortalised on the big screen may be left feeling a little cheated when they find they’re not there. Instead, the trailer suggests that rather than being a film of the book, this movie is a film set in the same world as the book. It’s a small but important distinction. This doesn’t mean it will necessarily be a bad film, and you could argue a film that was completely faithful to the book would have been both impossible to make and be too incoherent, but it does mean it might not be quite what some are expecting. If you can get this crucial distinction into your head before you see the movie, I suspect you’re much more likely to enjoy it.

Secondly, what type of film it is. Again this is clear from the trailer: this is not a traditional zombie flick. Instead, it’s a thriller-action movie with zombies. This means if you go in expecting to see the next 28 Days Later or Dawn Of The Dead, you may well come out wanting your money back. However, when viewed from the perspective of a thriller-action movie with zombies in it, it looks like it might be a rather good one. From the trailer, the scene where Brad Pitt is being pick up from a roof by a helicopter as the zombies stream towards him looks particularly effective and there’s a nice scene set on a plane which really grabbed my attention.

Finally, will the film be a success at the box office? Undoubtedly this film will bring in a humongous amount of money since it’s going to be the summer blockbuster for 2013. A lot of this money will come not from zombie fans but instead from audiences who are going to see it for the action sequences and because it stars Brad Pitt. This is likely to bring zombie films even further into the mainstream, just as The Walking Dead has done in television and the book World War Z has done in publishing. This, in my opinion, can only be a good thing for zombie fans as it will mean that all the Hollywood studios will be scrambling around to have their own zombie-based hit.

So will it work? Based on the latest trailer, for those looking for a thriller-action movie that features zombies and who are not big fans of the book it looks like the answer will almost certainly be a resounding yes! However, I suspect some dedicated zombie fans (particularly big fans of book) and those who prefer traditional zombie films and horror movies will leave feeling a little disappointed. This is not because it’s a bad movie but rather because it’s not the movie they thought and hoped it was going to be. This means the key to enjoying World War Z will be the attitude you take with you into the cinema when you go to see it. Expect an action-thriller set in the same world as the book and not the book brought faithfully to life or another 28 Days Later.

At this stage, I should admit a vested interest. Part of this movie was filmed in my native Glasgow (standing in for Pittsburgh, which in turn is standing in for Yonkers – as in The Battle for Yonkers – which is all a bit confusing but you’d never be able to tell from the footage) and I’m looking forward to seeing it transformed into an American city on the large screen. I’ll also be watching eagerly to see if I can spot any one I recognise – and specifically myself! You see, I was lucky enough to find myself working as an extra on the Glasgow set and it was this that finally made me pluck up the courage to sit down and write my debut novel, For Those In Peril On The Sea. I’d had the idea for this boat-based zombie-type story floating around in my head for a while and to pass the time I told a few of my fellow extras about it – there was a lot of standing around waiting for someone to shout action interspersed with brief periods of running from zombies and we had to talk about something. Their responses were sufficiently encouraging to make me think I should stop prevaricating and just write it. And so, my fledgling career as a zombie author began …

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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

What’s The Worst Possible Idea For A Zombie Story?

9 Jan

In the last few years, the zombie apocalypse has well and truly arrived, at least in popular culture. The question is where will it go from here? My feeling is that while there will still undoubtedly be new and thought-provoking pieces generated, there will also be an increasing number of people with daft ideas who are just trying to cash in on the latest trend. After Harry Potter, we had an outbreak of wizards. After Twilight, we had an infestation of vampire spin-offs (apparently even resulting in the ubiquitous Fifty Shades Of Grey – I’d criticise it but I haven’t read it!). So, with the movie version of World War Z hitting the big screen this summer, where will the zombie genre go from here?

To be honest, I don’t know but I decided to see if I could think up the worst possible idea that I could for a zombie story. It was surprising how many of what I thought were really bad ideas already existed in one form or another: Zombies vs. Cockneys? It’s there; Cowboys vs. zombies? I know I’ve come across it at some point; Nazi zombies vs. zombie Nazis? I’m sure it’s out there somewhere!). When I asked my girlfriend what she thought, she described the stupidity and genre-contradicting story behind Warm Bodies. It’s at odds with almost the entire zombie folklore and yet it’s been made into a major Hollywood movie. I guess this shows that not everyone can agree on what separates a good zombie scenario from a bad one.

So with all this in mind, I tried to push the envelope as far as I could to see how far into the bad side I could go. The worst idea I came up with? Brace yourself (I’ll be the first to admit it’s truly awful!): A story about a zombie apocalypse told from the point of view of a family dog who can’t understand why his owners won’t play with him any more after they turned into the undead. I can just see the tag line: For one dog, walkies will never be the same again! Rest assured, this idea go will go no further, but surely no one could come up with a worse premise than that?

Or maybe you could …


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.

Preparing For Life A Post-Apocalyptic World

13 Nov

So you’re worried the world’s coming to an end. The Mayan calendar is quickly running out and everywhere you go people seem to be talking about Zombies. Even Brad Pitt’s getting in on the action with his upcoming film World War Z. But what can you do about it?  You could just sit there and panic, waiting for the next plague to sweep around the planet, but that’s not where the smart money is. You could try ignoring the signs and carry on as usual, but you’ll probably be one of the first to fall when the dead rise. Instead, why not try to prepare yourself a little. That way you’ll be ready when it happens, and even if it doesn’t, you’ll at least have picked up a few useful life skills. Here’s my top five things you can do to prepare yourself for when the apocalypse comes (and that will still prove be useful even if it doesn’t).

1. Do A Wilderness Survival Course: You don’t have to become the next Ray Mears, but it’ll at least mean you won’t starve when you have to flee the city and your supplies of canned food run out.  It also wouldn’t do any harm to know how to build shelters and set traps. Post-Apocalyptic Survival Rating: Essential. Real Life Benefits: Just knowing that you could survive if you suddenly found yourself in the middle of nowhere without all the comforts of the modern world is incredibly empowering and will boost your confidence in your everyday life.

2. Learn First Aid: When the apocalypse happens, the medical system will be one of the first things to fall. There will be no more 999 services, no more ambulances and no more casualty rooms. You’ll be on your own health-wise and you need to be able to cope.  I’m not talking about amputating limbs here (although if you can do it fast enough to stop that zombie bite on your leg spreading to the rest of your body this might be a good thing to know), just enough to be able to deal with the inevitable cuts, bruises and broken bones that will be part of your everyday struggle to survive. After all, what’s the point of escaping from those radioactive plague victims if you just end up dying of blood poisoning because you let a wound get infected. Post-Apocalyptic Survival Rating: Essential. Real Life Benefits: First aid is always a good skill to have, and who knows you might one day save someone’s life.

3. Learn Car Mechanics: Imagine the situation. There you are, trying to escape from the horde of Zombies that are heading your way but no matter how hard to try, your car won’t start.  You’ve only got a few minutes before they’ll be on your.  What do you do? Nowadays too many of us rely on phoning the AA (or AAA if you’re in America) when our cars break down and we no longer know how to fix them. Some people don’t even know how to change a burst tyre. Come the apocalypse, if you don’t know how to maintain and fix a car, you’ll be screwed. The solution, start learning now. Find out where the battery is on your car, how to change a fan-belt, how to fix the alternator, how to siphon fuel from one vehicle to another, how to strip an abandoned vehicle for spare parts. None of this is exactly rocket science and with a bit of practice these are things anyone could do. While you’re at it, it wouldn’t do any harm to know how to fix a generator too. Post-Apocalyptic Survival Rating: Essential. Real Life Benefits: It’s cheaper to fix you car yourself than pay someone else to do it, so you might end up saving yourself some money.

4. Take Up Parkour (Also Know As Free-Running): If you have to escape in an urban environment, what better skill can you have than parkour?  You’ll have seen people doing this on TV and in You Tube videos.  You may even have seen people doing it in real life, leaping from building to building, or from one stairwell to the next. Now’s the time to learn it for yourself.  It will allow you to move through the city in a way that others cannot, and this will dramatically improve your chances of surviving as you try to get out. Post-Apocalyptic Survival Rating: Beneficial. Real Life Benefits: It’ll help you keep fit and healthy, and let’s face it, it looks really cool.

5. Get Some Weapons Training: In the movies, it seems that anyone can pick up a gun and start pulling off perfect headshots, or grab a sword and instantly develop the skills of a samurai.  Reality is very different.  If you’re not trained to use a weapon, the chances are you’ll do more damage to yourself and your fellow survivors than to any attacking infected. I know this having once watched my sister just about blow the head off the guy who was firing clay pigeons for us because she got confused between whether the safety catch was off or on (he was ok, but rather shaken by the incident!). For this reason, I’d always advise anyone who doesn’t already know how to use a gun to stay well clear of them, even when facing the fall of civilisation as we know it. But, hang on, your survival chances would undoubtedly be better if you had guns, so what can you do about it? Get trained now. And don’t just learn to shoot. Learn how to clean a gun, how to maintain it, how to clear a jammed bullet and so on. Also remember guns might not always be available so learn other weapon skills too. Learn how to start a chain-saw, study Iaido (the Japanese art of drawing a sword and striking in a single fluid movement), take up a martial art, give archery a go, try firing a crossbow, anything that might help you survive. Post-Apocalyptic Survival Rating: Essential. Real Life Benefits: If you insist on being around weapons, it’s always safer if you actually know how to use them.

Remember these are just the bare essentials. There are many other skills out there that will increase your chances of survival, all of which you can start nurturing now. So step away from the keyboard, put down that Playstation controller, switch off the TV, and go out and learn something new. Even if the apocalypse never comes, your life will be better for it.


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.