World War Z | Study Guide

Max Brooks

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World War Z | Good-byes | Summary

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Summary

Interview 1: Burlington, Vermont

"The Whacko"—former vice president and, briefly, president—offers the investigator a history lesson. Winston Churchill, after Victory in Europe day, urged Britain to continue the war in the Pacific. But the people were exhausted, and Churchill was quickly replaced as prime minister by a below-average politician no one remembers. So when the continental U.S. was secured, the former president didn't press the issue of U.S. soldiers fighting abroad. Still, many volunteers did sign up with the UN multinational force. The campaign is still going abroad, above the snow line, in the ocean, and in Iceland, which is still overrun. The Russians have refused UN assistance in Siberia. Outbreaks at home still occur as zombies come up from lakes or along seashores. The take-home lesson and his message to the public: "pitch in and do your job."

Interview 2: Khuzhir, Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, the Holy Russian Empire

Maria Zhuganova lives at a maternity clinic where her caustic attitude is tolerated because she is one of the few fertile women healthy enough to carry pregnancies. She's pregnant with her eighth child, obedient to the new dictate that a woman's uterus is her greatest weapon, but she wishes she were still a soldier. She scoffs at Russia's new religious fundamentalism and accuses the state of using the church as it always has. Making a rude gesture toward the room's one-way glass, she tells the investigator he's being used, too, to tell the world Russia has returned to its roots. Russia, again under authoritarian rule, is strong and safe.

Interview 3: Bridgetown, Barbados, West Indies Federation

T. Sean Collins drinks in a nearly empty bar and admits how much he enjoys killing zombies. He's like other veterans who couldn't leave their wars behind, but his murderous impulses have a legal target. Collins tried to reintegrate into American life but couldn't stop assessing the best way to take people out. One day while listening to the Whacko speak, Collins fantasized dozens of ways to kill him and knew he had to leave. He's now part of the Impisi, who take their name from the Zulu word for "hyena," a carrion animal. The Impisi follow no rules as they hunt stray zombies.

Interview 4: Sand Lakes Provincial Wilderness Park, Manitoba, Canada

As she loads body parts onto a sled, Jesika Hendricks says she can't get past the unfairness of the war. She once spoke to a pilot from Iran who described Americans as the only people on the planet who expect good people to escape disaster. But she recently listened to a foul-mouthed comedian making fart jokes on the radio and couldn't help wondering why he survived but her parents didn't.

Interview 5: Troy, Montana, USA

Mary Jo Miller watches children playing and reconsiders the question of blame. "We all gotta take the rap," she says, because her generation got soft. Spoiled and passive, Generation Z let the crisis get out of control, but at least they eventually took care of the mess they'd made.

Interview 6: Chongqing, China

The investigator goes with Kwang Jingshu on his last house call, where he assures a worried mother her child only has a cold. Doctor Kwang takes comfort in seeing children playing happily, without fear. He's seen his nation undergo many crises and rebuild itself, and now he believes his old colleague Gu is right: everything will be okay.

Interview 7: Wenatchee, Washington, USA

The investigator admires Joe Muhammad's latest work, a statuette of a zombie wearing a baby carrier, as Muhammad looks for silver linings. Communities are closer now, he says, because everyone shares the experience of the Zombie War. He hopes the next generations don't revert to self-centered ways of living, but he's not too worried. What the world has been through has changed people radically and for the better.

Interview 8: Taos, New Mexico, USA

Arthur Sinclair grills steaks and chats about his new job as Securities and Exchange Commission chair. He relishes the challenge of moving the economy away from barter and back to the dollar at a time when the Cuban peso is the dominant currency. A lot of dollars are still around, stockpiled during the Great Panic, but who owns what is hard to determine. Corruption is rampant, but Sinclair plans to quell it. He particularly looks forward to dragging Breckinridge Scott out of his "Antarctic Fortress of Scumditude" to face justice.

Interview 9: Kyoto, Japan

Kondo Tatsumi proudly watches his sensei, Tomonaga Ijiro, receive congratulations at a ceremony welcoming the Shield Society into the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. He's optimistic about a "middle path" on which Japan will neither try to dominate other nations nor allow other nations to dominate it. On this path the Japanese will learn to protect themselves while collaborating with other nations.

Interview 10: Armagh, Ireland

Philip Adler bitterly affirms his sense of betrayal by his own military but refuses to elaborate.

Interview 11: Tel Aviv, Israel

Jurgen Warmbrunn pays for dinner and explains he escaped Nazi Germany via the Kindertransport, a British program that placed children with families in England just before World War II broke out. His family perished at the Nazis' hands. Some say no one actually survived the Holocaust because the trauma destroyed the essential person, but Warmbrunn hopes this isn't true. If it is, no one at all survived the Zombie War.

Interview 12: Aboard USS Tracy Bowden

Michael Choi leans on the ship's railing and claims that whales lost the war. So many people took to the seas to escape the zombies, and they killed and ate whales to stay alive. Choi says the whales' death cries traveled for miles underwater. Choi's father worked for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which drew Choi to the ocean. The few small whales left—belugas and orcas—won't survive the polluted seas. When people talk to Choi about humanity's terrible losses, his response is "Whatever, bro. Tell it to the whales."

Interview 13: Denver, Colorado, USA

As Todd Wainio walks the investigator to his train, they talk about his PTSD. Doctor Chandra assures Wainio his symptoms are under control. Wainio points to the station's Hero City mural; his sharpest memory from the war happened in that setting, on Victory in America Day as his unit watched the sun rise over New York City. He couldn't grasp the idea of peace, having lived so long at war, waiting to die.

Analysis

The themes of destruction, renewal, and the will to survive dominate this section. The good-byes suggest the long-term effects of the Zombie War. They push the damage report out into the greater world and deep into survivors' psyches.

Changes in the greater world include how nations have reacted to the war's terrible challenges. New nations and federations have come into being. Among the enduring nations, some, like Russia, entrench. Civil liberties decrease there as authoritarianism and isolationism set in. Others, like China and Japan, look toward a future of greater freedom and international cooperation.

The natural world, too has changed. Pollution and species depopulation are unprecedented, and humans as well as zombies have contributed to these losses. Economies can be rebuilt; whales are gone forever.

Despite Michael Choi's exasperated response to people who speak of humanity's losses, psychic damage and recovery are real and resonate through the good-byes. Loss is now a universal experience, as Joe Muhammad finds when he travels abroad. The bond of shared grief promotes local and global community. Mary Jo Miller, for example, emerges from the war with a renewed commitment to community. Even the UN multinational force suggests a worldwide partnership (excluding Russia—Ivan, as the Whacko says, goes his own way as usual).

Yet even the most optimistic interviewees are scarred. Sinclair, chipper as he grills steaks, turns fiercely vindictive at the thought of Scott hiding at the South Pole. Hendricks acts out on half-frozen zombies her anger about her parents' death, and Zhuganova defiantly flips off her nurses, agents of the same government that forced her to kill fellow soldiers to enforce obedience. Collins can't even walk among people without assessing the thickness of their skulls, and Wainio still grieves the death of the young man he was when the war began. No one is unscathed.

Unlike a novel an oral history requires no happy ending or tragic resolution. Readers may share the investigator's admiration for each survivor and his empathy for those who continue to suffer. Though the struggle is ongoing, for now humanity has prevailed and is rebuilding, better prepared for future attacks.

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