World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is a post-apocalyptic novel structured as a series of interviews conducted by an anonymous, first-person narrator with individuals from across the globe. While each interview tells a different story, each narrative comes together to form an overarching account of the global zombie outbreak and the resulting “Zombie War.”
The tentative origin of the zombie outbreak is China, where a boy in a small village, later called Patient Zero, is the first to contract the “zombie plague.” Soon, the outbreak spreads to other parts of the globes, and while some governments do not react to the news, others take measures of prevention. Israel is among the first to institute a self-quarantine, even cooperating with Palestinian Arabs to prevent the spread of the outbreak in their region. Other small nations, such as Cuba, “benefit” from the outbreak and the resulting war and chaos, especially economically, due to their preparation and methods of managing the populations.
However, the measures taken by other governments range from futile to bizarre. One of the main events mentioned at several points throughout the novel is the Battle of Yonkers, at which American forces suffered devastating defeats due to their military technology being ineffective. In response to their failure and other defeats around the world, several new weapons to combat zombies are developed.However, other groups and individuals develop not only new technology, but also new plans and techniques to combat zombies. South Africa’s Redeker Plan, later imitated by several other nations, involves using certain populations as “zombie bait” in order to lure zombies away from other populations and allow for their escape. The Redeker Plan is effective, but widely condemned as immoral and unethical.
People across the globe are also faced with the psychological impact of the outbreak and resulting chaos. This impact manifests itself most noticeably in the “Great Panic,” a worldwide period which marks the apex of chaos during the Zombie War. World War Z explains a variety of reactions to the crisis, including people becoming “quislings” (pretending to be zombies, but eventually losing their identity as humans) and the popular revival of religion in Russia, now termed the “Holy Russian Empire.”