Readers never see the investigator's name, but he is the fictional persona Max Brooks created for his website and zombie book and uses in many interviews and lectures. The investigator shares the author's name—both are Max Brooks. The investigator describes his work on the book as "a labor of love" that required sacrifice and commitment. He understands the importance of the data but thinks the commission's report is incomplete and inaccurate without people's stories. Yet he refrains from telling his own story and keeps as low a profile as possible, letting his interviewees reveal their memories and emotions.
Dr. Kwang Jingshu
An old soldier and grizzled pragmatist, Dr. Jingshu has survived war and cultural revolution. He still practices medicine and thinks he's seen it all—until he tries to treat a plague victim. Ever the realist, he grasps the threat the plague poses right away, but he's arrested and detained before he can warn others.
Saladin Kader is a refugee from Kuwait City. As a young man, he passionately opposed Israel as an oppressor and resisted fleeing to safety in Israel. The experience of war against a mutual enemy, however, leaves him with a profound desire to rebuild the nation.
Paul Redeker is a middle-aged writer and historian more at home with books than with people and more concerned with formulas than feelings. His detached worldview enables him to draw up a plan to stop the zombies, but at great human cost. He pays a personal cost as well. Unable after the war to live as Paul Redeker, he either assumes a new identity or is deluded into it.
By the war's end Maria Zhuganova is perhaps in her thirties but looks older. Her experiences as a young soldier have hardened her and bred a deep distrust for the government but also a deep love for and pride in Russia.
Todd Wainio's battle experience is extensive, and he discusses it in clinical detail. He's seen initiatives tried and abandoned, and he's seen others succeed—both at great cost. Now retired from the Army, Wainio is prematurely aged and just as wary as before, despite years of peace.
Ijiro is an older man, blind from witnessing the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Once a member of a despised class before the war, he worked as gardener. Now an honored sensei, he teaches a path of personal responsibility and international cooperation.