Friday, July 12, 2013

World War Z: The listening

Way back when my blog was just a baby, I read and reviewed Max Brooks's World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Actually, that was the second time I had read the book. I'd read it once before I started this blog but I loved it SO MUCH that I wanted to read it again so I could talk about it on here.

Oh, would you like to read those early days posts? Sure, why not.

It goes by many names: "The Crisis," "The Dark Years," "The Walking Plague"
Who in his right mind could have been ready for this?
Couldn't just one restart the plague all over again?

Over the years I have read some positive things about the WWZ audiobook. Because the book is made up of a series of interviews, they got a series of authors to read for the different characters. Henry Rollins, Nathan Fillion, Alan Alda, Common all took a character. At this point I wasn't super into audiobooks but this sounded like something I should try. Alas my "I should try this" basically means "if this falls into my outstretched hands, I will give it a listen."

A few years go by and I do no WWZ listening.

Then this year I took part in that super kick ass Harry Potter readalong and I ended up doing about 3/4 of that readalong on audiobook (listen along?) which worked out very nicely for me. One, I had all the books on audio (or rather, my mother did and she lent them to me). Two, I would just put the chapters I was supposed to read on my iPod. It really helps when you want to continue on with the story but you CAN'T because you don't actually have the rest of the story with you. Three, I would listen to HP during the subway portion of my commute. Because it's the subway, there's not always space for me to stand and hold a book. Listening to an audiobook was much easier. Sure, it took me longer to listen to the books than it would take me to read them, but that's fine. 

I found that I really liked listening to audiobooks and went on the hunt for some more. Boyfriend+ and I were at B&N when I saw the WWZ audiobook and on sale. Happiness and joy. I was about to bring it up to the register when I remembered my mom's advice and checked the fine print. I was disappointed to read the work "Abridged". Bastard. What kind of BS is this?

Disheartened, I put the audiobook back and do some Googling when I get home to see if an unabridged version exists. Sadly it does not. But what's this? An update on Max Brooks's website that, due to the movie coming out this summer (perhaps you'd heard of it) they're releasing a NEW UNABRIDGED VERSION of the audiobook. They were getting actors back who had to read follow bits and it would be released sometime in the summer. Happiness! Except, the site hadn't been updated in awhile. And there were no pre-orders to be found. Whomp

Sometime in April Kerry over at Entomology of a Bookworm mentioned she was listening to an unabridged copy of WWZ and I did a Scooby Doo double take
Or a Paul Rudd DT
I asked her where-oh-where she procured such a copy. It was going to be available in May so I shot an email over to Brother (he who lent me his book copy of WWZ) that said "Hey, did you ever buy me a b-day gift? Cos if not, buy me this." He answered that he did not, and I would be getting the audiobook as soon as it was available.

I realize this has been a lot of post without once mentioning anything about the audiobook. If you clicked on the other WWZ links, you'll notice that apparently that is a theme with these posts. Anyway the audiobook, how was it?

It kicked ass. I couldn't wait to start listening to it. I listened to it on my commute. I shunned watching Daria in place of listening to it while riding our exercise bike. It was a different experience from reading the book.

First up, the voice actors are great. I did spend a lot of time trying to guess who each person was. Some were obvious (Carl Reiner as the elderly Israeli man) some less obvious (Simon Pegg a Texan politician shoveling manure), but I liked them all. Martin Scorsese as the guy who created the fake vaccine was THE BEST. When I saw his name on the list of actors? readers? I thought/hoped he would read that story. Not that I mean to say the character Breck reminds me of Scorsese, just that I thought he would do a great job with that character. And he did so I was right. I've read complaints that a lot of the characters in the book sound the same. The mere fact of having different people read for each character helped this tremendously. Sure, there are still similarities, but it didn't bother me.*

I also noticed while listening to the audiobook is how infrequently the zombies actually make an appearance. When I've read the book, I would constantly think about the zombies. I had loads of zombie nightmares. But while listening I was more focused on the characters and how shitty things had gotten for them. There are a couple brief instances where the characters relate actually fighting a zombie but for the most part the book deals with how the world is coping with this global disaster. The zombies aren't the focus a lot of the time. They're just the catalyst for things being so so shitty. Which is sorta why I like the book so much. Zombies are a part of the book, but there is so much more to the story than them.

I loved this audibook. I will be listening to it again, probably before the year is out, because I don't have that many audiobooks and also THIS WAS SO GOOD. Just, if you're going to listen make sure you pick up the unabridged version. I haven't listened to the abridged one but why would you do that one when an unabridged one exists? Exactly.

*I'm also not bothered by the fact that every character in an Aaron Sorkin show sounds exactly the same. As long as I'm entertained, I can let a lot of things slide.