Thank God for libraries.
I think libraries are wonders you periodically rediscover, like chocolate mints and root beer floats. In my case, the rediscovery of the library came after it was extensively remodeled. It was closed down for over a year and rebuilt with a new expanded top and bottom floor. Completely new decor, more Internet access, and just generally bigger and better--more shelves, more chairs, more videos and DVDs, and most importantly, more books.
It's a busy place. This is partly because of the fact that we have three colleges in my town--a community college, Prescott College (a hideously expensive, liberal-arts, environmentally-oriented institution) and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. But I think there is generally tremendous support for the library throughout the community, as evidenced by the ongoing Friends of the Library book sale. (It's funny--most of the people I know who buy ten- and twenty-five cent books at the book sale take them home, read them, and donate them right back to the library. I know I do. That's the only knock I have against the new library--the space for the book sale is greatly limited, as opposed to the space it was renting while the building was being remodeled.) The two times I have been there since it reopened, once during the week and once on Saturday, it was pretty full. Of course, there are so many more places to sit now, and the building is nowhere near as claustrophobic as it used to be.
Ah, to spend an entire afternoon zoned out in a book. There's nothing better.
(WARNING: Spoilers follow)
One book I just checked out I've seen recommended by other people: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
, by Max Brooks. This book is written much in the style of Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka's Warday
, which I also own (and picked up at the book sale for fifty cents, heh heh). It's a fiction account wrapped up in non-fiction packaging. There is no "plot," in the conventional sense, and no protagonist; it's a "journalist's account" of what happened. In Brooks' capable hands, though, this makes for a gripping read, despite the cast of thousands and the necessity for many different voices. Of course, we are talking about zombies here, and for the literary-oriented, I'm sure the suspension of disbelief would be too heavy to manage. The prose is not heavy with imagery and metaphors; it is simple and straightforward, befitting its deceit and its subject.
There is one point, though, where he falters, and he does so rather badly (since this suspension of disbelief is more fragile than most, it takes less to deflate it). This is on pages 216-227 of the hardback edition, and unless you're really up for a preposterous joke, you can skip right over them. The character here is a blind veteran of Hiroshima who nevertheless manages not only to survive in a national park, living in a cave and foraging, but also kills countless zombies into the bargain!
Brooks does go into great detail as to how the old guy was able to do that, but that was a bit much for me to take. The book takes place in the near future: a time frame is never mentioned, but to my mind, it's between five and ten years out. Say 2010-2015. This makes Hiroshima 65-70 years in the past. The Japanese man's age when he was blinded by the atomic bomb is also never mentioned, but my impression is that he was a teenager. Say 15. So this means this 80- to 85-year-old man (and blind
, mind you) is running around dispatching zombies by the dozens. Granted, Brooks' zombies basically take after the George Romero pattern, which means they're not the brightest cards in the preternatural deck. They moan, so you can hear them coming, and Brooks does take pains to say the old guy's sense of smell and hearing is quite a bit sharper than a normal human's. Still...getting rid of "forty-one in as many minutes"?
COME ON NOW!!
Of course, this may just be the classic example of the "unreliable narrator." The old guy is scraping by in the national park while his country is overrun, and is pretending he did great things. Nevertheless, if I had been the book's editor, that entire sequence would have been stomped on and burned.
Actually, the more I think about it, given the situation Brooks postulates, it's a wonder the "war" was won at all. Two-thirds of the world's population (extrapolating from a stated number of 200 million zombies in the U.S., out of a population of 300 million) becomes the living dead, great fires blanket the globe resulting in a low-level nuclear winter, pollution and starvation are rampant, and the global infrastructure is pretty much dismantled. Brooks also states that the Saudis set fire to their oilfields...granted, that does leave the oilfields of Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and smaller Persian Gulf countries like Dubai, but still. Where do they get the fuel and material to kill 4 billion zombies??
Oh, well. It's like a lot of movies...the holes in the plot are big enough to drive a tank through, but you don't notice them till after you're done. I still recommend the book, even with these reservations.