96 pages, Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd
Review by Hereward L.M. Proops
“World War Z” is the greatest piece of zombie fiction ever written. That's not an exaggeration, it's a fact. The author, Max “Son of Mel” Brooks took a genre that seemed played out and breathed new life into it. Having cut his teeth on “The Zombie Survival Guide”, he let loose a novel that was simultaneously hilarious, action packed and terrifying. It made the notion of a zombie apocalypse seem chillingly plausible and sparked a Hollywood bidding war for the rights to adapt the novel for the big screen. It's the novel that no self-respecting fan of zombies should miss and has been likened to a twenty-first century “War of the Worlds”. High praise indeed. How does one follow up such a fantastic novel?
Well, if you're Max Brooks, you don't. It was three years after the release of “World War Z” before Brooks got round to publishing “The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks”, a graphic novel detailing various zombie outbreaks in history. Three years later, he's finally gotten round to releasing “ClosureLimited and Other Zombie Tales,” a small collection of short stories which further expand on the history of the great zombie war.
Don't get me wrong. I love Brooks' work. “Recorded Attacks” was a cracking little graphic novel and every single story in “Closure Limited and Other Zombie Tales” is fantastic. The problem is, they're not novels. Whilst undoubtedly enjoyable – it's a real thrill to return to Brooks' zombie-infested world – none of the stories reach the depth or the intensity of a full length novel. I'm sure that Brooks is cooking up something truly fantastic for his proper follow-up to “World War Z”, but I am getting a little tired of waiting.
The book opens with a nice introduction where the author explains the origin of his fascination with zombies. It was interesting to find out that Brooks' first exposure to the shambling flesh-eaters was an Italian splatter-flick called “Night of the Zombies” not, as one would expect, one of George Romero's more famous films. Brooks goes on to explain how zombies are “the perfect lens for examining societal collapse” and can be used both as a metaphor for our greatest fears but also a means of exposing our human weaknesses and blinkered arrogance when faced with a primal force of nature.
Other than the introduction, there are a mere four stories in the collection. The titular story, “Closure Limited: A Story of World War Z” gives the reader a glimpse into a very Romero-esque company which aims to help survivors of the great zombie war who are finding it hard to move on after the loss of loved ones.“Steve and Fred” starts off as a riotously exciting zombie-slaying yarn which then cleverly shifts into a very bleak tale. The huge contrast between the two halves means that they don't quite gel together perfectly, but it is a powerful enough story to sustain even the most jaded critic's attention. “The Extinction Parade” sees Brooks doing something a bit different. Sure, there are still zombies in the short story but this time the protagonists are a group of vampires who begin to see the prospect of their food supply (us) running out thanks to the ever-swelling zombie hordes. The last story of the collection takes us back to much more familiar territory. “Great Wall: A Story from the Zombie War” is a first-hand account from a survivor of the zombie war and describes the desperate attempts to build a huge barricade across China to keep out the shambling monsters. This story is Brooks at his best and could have been taken straight from the pages of “World War Z”.
“Closure Limited and Other Zombie Tales” is a great little collection of stories and should be an essential purchase for those who enjoyed Brooks' other works. However, those who haven't yet been exposed to the author's startling vision of a world overrun by the walking dead would be much better served opting for his full length novel. It's better value for money and packs a much weightier punch. I had a great time reading this small book but I was left somewhat unsatisfied. It's akin to getting a small bowl of tapas when you really want a whacking great big steak. Nearly six years have passed since the publication of “World War Z” and Max Brooks should be ready to serve us up a main course, not another appetiser.
Hereward L.M. Proops