World War Z Readalong Part 3: “The Great Panic”

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Previous readalong posts
Part 1: “Introduction” & “Warnings”
Part 2: “Blame”

Part 3: “The Great Panic”

The Story So Far…

In part 3, we’ve moved past the initial fears and doubts of the public about the outbreaks. These testimonials relate the first substantial encounters people had with the infected. In Memphis, Tennessee, USA at the Parnell Air National Guard Base, the interviewer speaks with Gavin Blaire. Blaire was the pilot of a Fujifilm blimp before the war and now works on one of the dirigibles used in the Civil Air Patrol. He recalls the mass exodus that occurred at the beginning of the Great Panic, with interstates turned into gridlock as people tried to get out of town. Tragic, he points out, because they were leaving one heavily infested city and heading toward another area of high infestation. He wonders if anyone had organized the doomed escape attempt, or if people just got in line, going in the same direction they saw the rest of the herd moving in. Even as they waited in their cars to get moving, zombies swarmed and attacked, “literally eating [their] way up the stalled lines” (loc 1175).

Photo from http://philm25.blogspot.ca/2006_03_01_archive.html

In Alang, IndiaAjay Shah looks out over the wreckage of decaying ships on the shore. He was once a “white-collar professional” in the nearby town of Bhavnagar, but when the Great Panic hit, he headed for the shore to escape the infested land. He remembers seeing people with smaller boats and rafts charging outrageous sums to ferry people to the large ships in the harbour, or refusing to take people of a certain caste or skin colour—but, he points out as an afterthought, for every negative story he saw ten good ones. He himself was saved when he dove into the sea, swimming desperately for a ship, by a Canadian aboard The Sir Walter Grenfell. Others weren’t so lucky, and as the dead reanimated below the waves, they rose up to attack. Even the water wasn’t safe.

The Alang ship breaking yards. Photo from http://www.jazjaz.net/
The Alang ship breaking yards. Photo from http://www.jazjaz.net/

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World War Z Readalong Part 2: “Blame”

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Previous readalong posts
Read Part 1: “Introduction” & “Warnings”

Part 2: Blame

The Story So Far…

In Langley, Virginia, USA, the director of the CIA Bob Archer welcomes the interviewer into his office. Archer talks about the mythical status the CIA has enjoyed as an agency of master spies who knew everything going on around the world, in every country abroad and in every home in America. They propagated that status because it created a paranoia that kept people in line, even though their reach couldn’t possibly extend that far due to budget constraints. But still, Archer says, everyone blamed he CIA for not anticipating World War Z. He credits the Chinese with “the greatest single Maskirovkas in the history of modern espionage” (loc 812), i.e. claiming that the massive “Health and Safety” sweeps they were doing when the outbreaks first started were part of a dissident crackdown and not a major health crisis.

He also blames the purges in the CIA for the lack of intel on the disease: after the last, prolonged brushfire war, the American public was exhausted and a number of CIA employees took the fall, causing the smarter among them to jump ship to the private sector in order to avoid the witch hunt, and causing a brain drain. The interviewer asks if Archer had suspicions about what was happening in China. Archer did indeed, but his doubt was brushed aside, and the Warmbrunn-Knight Report wasn’t seen by anyone in the CIA until after the Voluntary Quarantine in Israel.

CIA Headquarters. Image from GlobeXplorer.
CIA Headquarters. Image from GlobeXplorer.

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World War Z Readalong Part 1: “Introduction” and “Warnings”

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Part 1: Introduction & Warnings

The Story So Far…

We begin with an explanation of what we are about read, in the clipped tones of a professional. . . or a survivor, whom I’ll refer to as the interviewer. There is no indication if this is a man or a woman, how old, or what country this interviewer is from. The world, the interviewer tells us, has been an at peace for a decade, and the interviewer has compiled information for the United Nations Postwar Report committee chronicling what has been called “The Crisis,” “The Dark Years,” “The Walking Plague,” and “World War Z.” S/he (forgive the clunky hybridized pronoun) included many human testimonials that s/he was asked to remove by the committee chairman, who only hard facts in the final report. But the interviewer believes there is great value in preserving the human element of the wartime memories—preserving, lest the stories be lost and we repeat our own mistakes. And so, the interviewer has turned these oral testimonials, which s/he has tracked down from survivors all over the world, and turned them into a book, a history of World War Z.

The first section, “Warnings,” takes us all over the globe. We begin in Greater Chongqing, China, where the interviewer talks to Kwang Jingshu, a doctor. Kwang recalls meeting Patient Zero. He was called to the village of New Dachang, whose residents had been relocated when the government needed to build a dam where their homes stood. Outside the meeting hall where the sick have been placed, he finds villagers too terrified to go inside. He is told it isn’t safe, but he dismisses their fears of sick people as peasant superstition. Inside, he finds six patients, running fevers, not coherent, and all with a bite mark somewhere on their bodies. He is surprised to see the bite marks appear human, and are very clean, showing no hint of the bacterial infection that should be common with such wounds.

Ghost City of Fengdu hillside.
Ghost City of Fengdu hillside.

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