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Course Hero, "World War Z Study Guide," June 23, 2017, accessed November 15, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/World-War-Z/.

World War Z | Plot Summary

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Summary

Introduction

The investigator explains that he works for the United Nations' Postwar Commission Report on the zombie war, gathering information from around the world, only to find most of his interviews stripped out of the final product. The commission chairperson wants only facts and hard data. She suggests the investigator collect the interviews into another book.

Warnings

Seven interviews cover the earliest months of the outbreak. Dr. Kwang Jingshu encounters some of the first plague victims in rural China, but the government quickly covers up the facts. Rumors spread, and people begin to flee China, as Nury Televaldi, a smuggler in Tibet, explains. They hide wounded family members, carrying the plague by car, train, and plane to other nations. Canadian veteran Stanley MacDonald describes an early military encounter, in Kyrgyzstan during a drug interdiction; and Dr. Fernando Oliveira explains how an infected heart in a transplant operation started the São Paulo outbreak. Jacob Nyathi, injured in the Cape Town outbreak, hears doctors arguing over whether rabies could be the cause. Meanwhile, Israel is better prepared for the outbreak than most nations and quickly enacts a plan, as Israeli intelligence expert Jurgen Warmbrunn and refugee Saladin Kader describe.

Blame

Five interviews treat the subject of why the world took so long to mount a defense against the plague. China's secrecy misled the CIA, leading to unwise allocation of intelligence resources, as Director Bob Archer explains. General Travis D'Ambrosia also doubts the intelligence and is relieved when the military admits the possibility of walking corpses, but he knows the public's support and military's capacity for war are overtaxed. Breckinridge Scott and other opportunists cash in on the public's fear by hawking a fake vaccine, with the government's blessing. As Grover Carlson explains, the White House approves of anything that may calm the panic. Mary Jo Miller, in contrast, blames only herself and all Americans like her—comfortable, soft, and vulnerable to attack.

The Great Panic

Seven interviews describe the months when the world realized its danger. Gavin Blaire describes gridlocked U.S. highways and drivers under attack by zombie swarms; and Ajay Shaw reports attempts of people in India to flee by sea. Sharon, a young Kansas woman with mental disabilities, reveals how some parents preferred to kill their own children than let them become prey. In Russia Maria Zhuganova witnesses unexplained attacks and injuries; rather than answers, her leaders give only orders to decimate the troops who dare to ask questions. T. Sean Collins explains the lengths to which some very wealthy Americans went to protect themselves. Major Ahmed Farahnakian of Iran tells of miscommunications that led to a nuclear exchange, and U.S. infantryman Todd Wainio describes the disastrous military operations in Yonkers.

Turning the Tide

Five interviews describe the first successful efforts against the zombies. The investigator speaks to Xolelwa Azania, a historian living in a psychiatric institute, about Paul Redeker, whose drastic plan to staunch the spread of the infection is widely reviled yet copied. A German soldier, Philip Adler, reports on the burden of leadership during the crisis, as wrenching decisions condemn some to die so others might survive. Russian soldier Bohdan Taras Kondratiuk describes the abandonment of Kiev to quarantine the infection. Jesika Hendricks tells of a slightly more successful evacuation from Wisconsin to Canada, and Sardar Khan reports on the disaster that befell people fleeing into the Himalayas from India.

Home Front USA

Five interviews report on the zombie war in the United States. Arthur Sinclair runs the new Department of Strategic Resources and describes the difficult shift from a service and information economy back to an industrial economy. The former U.S. vice president lists the challenges of morale and discipline among civilians during wartime, and Joe Muhammad provides a civilian's point of view on the difficult transition from peacetime to war. American pilot Christina Eliopolis recalls the heroic work of isolated skywatchers and her own contribution to the network that made transportation across infected areas possible. From Cuba Seryosha Garcia Alvarez explains how the island nation became an economic powerhouse during the war.

Around the World, and Above

Nine interviews add to the reporting on the zombie war outside the United States. Historian David Allen Forbes reports on the role of ancient fortifications during the war, and Barati Palshigar describes the contribution of Radio Free Earth to the resistance. Hyungchol Choi, Korean intelligence agent, describes the confusion South Korea felt when North Korea's troops vanished from the Demilitarized Zone (or "DMZ": a geographical buffer between North and South Korea). Kondo Tatsumi tells of his escape from a high-rise apartment to the forest, where he begins a new life under the guidance of Tomonaga Ijiro, a blind survivor of Hiroshima. Xu Zhicai explains the tortured decisions that lead the captain of a Chinese nuclear sub to abandon the nation's shores during the outbreak, and Australian astronaut Terry Knox describes the challenge of keeping the satellites active from the International Space Station (ISS) during the conflict. Finally, Ernesto Olguin, Chilean ship's master, summarizes the electrifying conference of allies aboard the USS Saratoga, the unofficial United Nations headquarters.

Total War

Seven interviews cover the years after the conference on the Saratoga and the decision to take back the world from the zombies. General D'Ambrosia explains why zombies are uniquely qualified to wage total war. Todd Wainio reports on the military's transition to fighting an untiring enemy and, later, describes the Army's slow sweep east and north. Handler Darnell Hackworth praises the courage of dogs in the K-9 Corps. In Russia, where soldiers had far less equipment than in the U.S., Father Sergei Ryzhkov describes a national spiritual awakening. Total war under the sea involves people like Michael Choi, who hunts zombies from his minisub. Others hunt them underground, as Andre Renard's brother does in Paris's catacombs.

Good-byes

The investigator offers the parting thoughts of 13 interviewees from around the globe as a time of fragile peace begins in a world with new boundaries and federations. The Whacko considers the challenges yet to come, and Maria Zhuganova bears yet another child for Russia, where many women are now infertile. In Bridgetown T. Sean Collins drinks and admits he enjoys killing zombies, while in Canada, Jesika Hendricks tries to get past her anger at the war's unfairness. Mary Jo Miller watches children play in the Troy compound and warns against complacency. In China Dr. Kwang also watches children at play, taking comfort and hope from their fearlessness; Joe Muhammad also feels optimistic that people have learned something from the crisis. Arthur Sinclair jumps at the chance to help the economy recover in the U.S.; across the world, Tomonaga Ijiro and his disciple, Kondo Tatsumi, join the Shield Society with Japan's self-defense forces. Philip Adler nurses his bitterness, and Jurgen Warmbrunn wonders whether any survivor has escaped spiritual wounds. Michael Choi mourns the loss of whales in the ocean—eaten by people starving at sea. The investigator gives the last word to Todd Wainio, who thanks his psychiatrist for helping him cope with his memories.

World War Z Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction

Introduction

1 The viral outbreak begins in China.

Rising Action

2 The virus spreads across Europe via smugglers and travelers.

3 Israel realizes the threat and closes its borders.

4 The North Vietnamese vanish, possibly into bunkers.

5 The virus reaches Africa, triggering the Redeker Plan.

6 The virus reaches the U.S., triggering the Great Panic.

7 The White House and U.N. are relocated to Hawaii.

8 The U.N. meet on the Saratoga to declare total war.

Climax

9 The push to take back the contiguous U.S. begins.

Falling Action

10 Victory in America is celebrated, then victory in China.

11 Millions of zombies continue to infest the oceans.

Resolution

12 Nations reform or restore boundaries and pledge vigilance.

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