World War Z book cover

The cover of World War Z.

World War Z is a novel by Max Brooks which chronicles the fictional "World War Z" or "Zombie World War". It is a follow-up to his previous book, The Zombie Survival Guide. The book was released on September 12, 2006. Through a series of oral interviews, Brooks, as an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commission, describes the history of 'World War Z'. Although the origin of the zombie pandemic is unknown, the story begins in China after an unknown creature bites a young boy (who becomes the official Patient Zero). The Chinese government attempts to contain the infection and concocts a crisis involving Taiwan to mask their activities. The infection is spread to other countries by the black market organ trade and by refugees. Many countries close their borders without their inhabitants knowing it, until an outbreak in South Africa finally brings the plague to public attention. As the infection spreads, only Israel initiates a nationwide quarantine and closes its borders. Pakistan and Iran destroy each other in a nuclear war after Iran attempts to stem the flow of refugees from Pakistan by blowing up a central bridge, effectively stemming over half of refugee traffic. The United States of America does little to prepare; although special forces teams are used to contain initial outbreaks, a widespread effort never starts as the nation is sapped of political will by several "brushfire wars", and an ineffective and fraudulently marketed placebo vaccine has created a false sense of security. When the world recognizes the true scope of the problem, a period known as the "Great Panic" begins. The United States Army sends a task force to Yonkers, New York, in a high-profile military campaign intended to restore American confidence in their army. However, the military relies upon Cold War tactics, weapons intended to disable vehicles, and the wounding or demoralization of human opponents: these have no effect on an undead force that uses wave attacks, has to be shot in the head to be stopped, and has no fear of death. As a result the soldiers are routed on live television. Other countries suffer similarly disastrous defeats, and human civilization teeters on the brink of collapse.

In South Africa, the government adopts a plan drafted by ex-apartheid government official Paul Redeker, which calls for the establishment of small "safe zones", areas surrounded by natural boundaries and cleared of zombies. Large groups of refugees are to be kept alive outside the safe zones to distract the hordes of undead, allowing those within the safe zones time to regroup. Various governments worldwide adopt their own versions of the "Redeker Plan" or evacuate to safer foreign territory. Since zombies are known to freeze solid in the cold, many civilians in North America flee to the wilds of northern Canada; approximately 11 million people die, many from starvation and exposure and some resort to cannibalism to survive. A member of the ISS crew in orbit around Earth describes 'mega swarms' of millions of zombies in the Americas and in Asia.

During a conference near Honolulu aboard the USS Saratoga, which has become the new UN headquarters, most of the world's leaders indicate they want to wait for the undead to rot away, but the US President successfully argues that the only way to survive physically and psychologically is to go on the offensive. Determined to lead by example, the United States military reinvents itself to meet the specific challenges involved in fighting the living dead: automatic weapons and mobility are replaced by semi-automatic rifles and formation firing, troops are retrained to focus on head shots and slow, steady rates of fire, and a multipurpose hand tool, the Lobotomizer or "Lobo", is designed to destroy zombie heads close up. In two north–south lines stretching across North America, the U.S. military leaves its safe zone west of the Rocky Mountains and crosses the continent, systematically destroying the zombies and reclaiming outposts of survivors (whether they want to be reclaimed or not). Ten years after the "official" end of the zombie war, millions of zombies are still active and the geopolitical landscape of the Earth has been transformed. A democratic Cuba has become the world's most thriving economy and international banking capital. China has become a democracy—after a civil war was ended by a Chinese nuclear submarine launching intercontinental ballistic missiles at the Communist leadership—but has been vastly depopulated, while Tibet, freed from Chinese rule, hosts the world's most populated city. Following a religious revolution, Russia is now an expansionist theocracy. North Korea is completely empty, with the entire population having disappeared underground; it is unknown if they survived or have been infected. Iceland has been completely depopulated, and remains the world's most heavily infested country. The United Nations now has a large global military force to eliminate the remaining zombies from overrun areas, defeat hordes surfacing from the ocean floor, and kill frozen zombies before they thaw. Major effects of the war are a drastic reduction in the human population, which is alluded to have been brought to the brink of extinction, and the devastation of many environments and species, as much by desperate humans as by marauding zombies.

Major periods of World War Z[]


Brooks uses the term "pre-war" to refer to the time before the first infection of the Class Four outbreak, which is the main focus of the novel. The pre-war world largely reflects the modern real world. Some events that Brooks refers to in the pre-war take place in the near future. While there is no mention in World War Z of any encounters with zombies before the initial outbreak, in The Zombie Survival Guide the author does include a number of references to minor and moderate-sized outbreaks that occur during this time period. Brooks has not stated if these two timelines are identical, but The Zombie Survival Guide is a real book in the World War Z timeline, as it is referred to indirectly. The flap copy on the hardcover edition's dust jacket is written from an in-universe perspective and mentions The Zombie Survival Guide directly.

The final few events documented in the "Recorded Attacks" section of The Zombie Survival Guide clearly display a trail of infection: a hiker brings a zombie outbreak to Los Angeles, zombies dumped into the ocean later resurface in St. Thomas, etc. An identical pattern is discernible in the early chapters of World War Z, as the infection in rural China quickly reaches critical proportions before spreading to India and the Middle East; infected human organs smuggled out of the region produce zombies in locations without any direct migration of the infected.

The Great Panic []

The Great Panic is the name given by Brooks to the time of mass hysteria and breakdown of society surrounding humanity's realization of the reality facing them (Zombies). The Panic began earlier in nations with first contact to the Zombies (such as China, and the nations of its smuggling trade routes). Africa's poverty stricken conditions also accelerated its Panic greatly. Refugees escaping from the blight in China helped to speed up the rate of infection in other nations. At the same time, the Zombies were beginning to outnumber the Living in Africa and India. The Great Panic would eventually sweep the globe.

Because of the level of denial that the USA was in over the nature of the zombie threat through the first winter, the American public was more or less just as unprepared (despite having more time and intel than most nations, and one of the world's most powerful military). No large-scale warning was made, and due to the media-as-big-business culture in the United States at the time, many news outlets had treated warnings of the zombie plague as simply another disease outbreak like Ebola or SARS outbreaks of previous years. After the initial "buzz" wore off (due to Phalanx, causing most to believe it was under control), the media simply stopped reporting about it and moved on to the next big celebrity news, etc. As a result, the first that many typical middle-class suburban Americans knew of the undead threat was when zombies came crashing through their living room windows. Soon, the number of zombies was increasing exponentially. In May, a female reporter finally broke the news that the zombie epidemic was real, and that Phalanx was just a placebo and not a real vaccine against the zombie plague. Genuine mass panic and widespread anarchy set in, with "wannabe Rambos" shooting anything that moved, and doing as much, if not more, damage as the actual zombies.

By August, New York City had been overrun, and zombie outbreaks were happening in towns all across the U.S.A. Desperate to crush the zombies and restore the public's faith in the government's ability to control the situation, half of the U.S. military was deployed at a choke point in Yonkers (just north of the Bronx), and the zombie horde from New York City, numbering in the millions, was lured out towards them. Far from the planned "morale boosting victory", the Battle of Yonkers was a cataclysmic disaster. A river of undead utterly overwhelmed the U.S. military due to poor planning. Organized response to the zombies collapsed, mass chaos and retreat set in, and within three weeks the surviving elements of the U.S. military fled west of the Rocky Mountains to establish a new defensive perimeter, abandoning the eastern two-thirds of the country.

Turning the Tide[]

The Redeker Plan was developed by an ex-Apartheid government official, Paul Redeker, and copied by other nations (with varying names and details). It was determined that an entire population could not be saved, due to a lack of resources and the dangers of infection. "Safe zones" were established for some civilians and cleared of all zombies by military personnel. However, some of these safe zones were actually false safe zones, designed to relieve pressure from the actual safe zones. They would be set up and supplied in other sanctuaries, to draw zombies away from the safe zones and allow the people there time to regroup and reorient. In many cases false safe zones were developed in unsustainable positions. Hundreds of thousands were lied to and sacrificed in this manner, although reports of millions were present.

Home Front U.S.A.[]

During this time immediately following the Great Panic, the focus was on the restructuring of the United States government, military, and civilian population. Many military tactics were changed in light of the new foe, and new tools of war and industry were invented and implemented by the U.S. government, led by Arthur Sinclair. The seat of the government was moved to Honolulu, Hawaii.

Total War[]

Once the Western United States is declared adequately fortified from the mega-hordes of zombies, it is determined that humanity need only wait out the zombies, as they will eventually all decay (over many years, sustained by the incomprehensibly resilient properties of Solanum), lose locomotion, and be more easily disposed of. However, a growing movement argued that the reclamation of land and the extermination of zombies was vital to the common spirit of all humanity. From Honolulu, The United States began to plan its counter-offensive against the global zombie horde; both to reclaim territory and to rekindle morale. 

The challenge was admittedly daunting. It is impossible for any human nation to engage in a "total war" in which 100% of the population is devoted to the war effort, 24 hours a day. However, zombies devote every second of every day to hunting down and consuming humans. They never sleep and require no logistical support. Their lack of any sort of organization made impossible the use of tactics dating to the Bronze Age, such as the disruption of the chain of command or the killing of the enemy general. Each zombie is a self-contained fighting unit that can function for years without resupply, relief, or reinforcement.

The use of a new rifle, called the Standard Infantry Rifle or SIR which sacrificed ease and rate of fire for accuracy, ease of manufacture and reliabillity (Todd Wainio said that it never jammed on him), along with a new type of incendiary ammunition (PIE; Pyrotechnically Initiated Explosive) allowed for armies to cut down zombies methodically and effectively. Pre-modern warfare infantry squares became a predominant tactic against the living dead. Battles consisted of the unit forming rank and file and luring the zombies into their prepared killzones. They fired on the horde as they cross a series of range markers, eventually forming a wall of dead zombies that the others have to climb over. Once zombies started to appear from multiple directions (as they almost always did), the troops would form a square shape around their vehicles, as to protect the center. This method was copied from General Raj-Singh, who attempted to use a square to face off thousands of zombies in India, a successful tactic until his troops ran out of ammunition and were overrun. These new tactics were first employed on a large scale in the United States at the Battle of Hope.

Eventually the United States managed to recapture its entire territory by forming two lines of infantry that stretched across the United States and marching across the country. "The Road to New York", as the campaign was called, lasted roughly three years. After this is done, the U.S. military helps the Canadian and Mexican forces retake their countries. Europeans manage to retake their countries. Russia reconquers its territory, with the exception of parts of Siberia, but suffers a vastly higher casualty rate than the U.S. and Europe due to woefully inadequate supplies and equipment. North America is cleared of zombies ten years after the beginning of the war. When China is cleared of zombies two years after that, 'VC Day' (Victory in China Day) is declared: the official end of the Zombie War.

It is implied that tribal groups such as South American Indians, Zulu of Southern Africa and Māori of New Zealand fared surprisingly well. One character relates an anecdote about the Māori taking on half of the Auckland horde, using traditional tribal weapons, did much better than the world's various military forces or Western civilians.


Post-War is the part of the book used to describe the age after the end of the global counter-offensive. All major cities were retaken, and the vast majority of areas were cleared of the infestation. Most of the areas still infected are in the north (such as Finland or Iceland), or in the mountains, where the undead are frozen solid during the winter months; cleanup must be done during the brief thaw each year. Another major area of infestation is in bodies of water, where millions of undead still exist and occasionally make it to land. These heavily infested areas are known as "White Zones". The most heavily infected area other than the ocean floors is Iceland, due to a pre-war lack of military resources and an abundance of refugees, infected among them. The entire nation was eradicated.

World War Z significantly altered the geopolitical and economic landscape. In particular, many national governments collapsed, and the political ties between certain nations grew stronger. The environmental effects of the war also held great portent for the countries emerging from the depths of Total War.

Environment and Resources[]

In the closing interviews of World War Z, it is revealed that Earth's ecosystem is badly damaged. The atmosphere was contaminated from the pollutants and ash released by a historically unprecedented amount of fires during the war - from the neglect of nuclear and chemical factories and warehouses, to the burning cities and refugee camps. It was estimated that the amount of particulates in the atmosphere would be comparable to the aftermath of a nuclear exchange by the United States and Russia, this without the exchange between Iran and Pakistan factored in. Parts of Earth were drastically cooled over the course of the war, with the most likely cause being the ash in the air and other pollutants, blocking out the heat of the sun. Many water sources are polluted and the ocean is still a haven for zombies, with an estimated 25 million zombies walking the ocean floor.

Because of the large number of refugees who fled to islands, boats, etc., marine wildlife was exploited to such an extent that several species went extinct, including almost every species of whale. All of the sub-arctic baleen species were extinct soon after the war ended.

Slow-moving land animal species, like turtles, were mostly wiped out throughout the world.

The Canadian Subarctic, a refuge for many people fleeing the violence in the U.S. and southern Canada, also suffered from deforestation, pollution, garbage dumping and zombies frozen into the tundra.

Post-war, the Earth remains devastated and resource problems are common. High tech sailing ships have appeared on the scene and it appears that oil and other fossil fuels are rather scarce. Oil from the Middle East is no longer possible, since the lands that weren't irradiated from Iran and Pakistan's nuclear exchange were set fire to, particularly in Saudi Arabia. Attempts have been made to restart oceanic production but the presence of so many zombies remains a major problem for oil rig crews as the creatures can survive underwater.

Nuclear weapons do not appear to have been used on the zombies themselves, but Iran and Pakistan are probably still highly radioactive and there would be an additional radiation hazard from the multi-megaton detonation that ended the Chinese Civil War. As noted above contamination from neglected nuclear facilities may remain a problem.


The political map of the world changed over the course of the war. The superiority enjoyed by "Western civilization" was completely up ended, and Cuba and Tibet emerge as the two powerhouse nations of post-war Earth. China went from being the world's most dynamic and rapidly growing economic power pre-war, to being one of the nations most severely damaged by the undead. Brooks' vision of this new world order is dark, with casualties in the billions, but as the world rebuilds, there remains hope.

North America[]

Except for a number of isolated safe zones (such as Omaha, Nebraska and Tallahassee, Florida), almost all of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains was overwhelmed by zombies during the war. The United States government fled to Honolulu, Hawaii, and the West Coast of the United States, which also included the state of Alaska. Became home to most of the nation's remaining human population, serving as a launching pad for the national reclamation effort. The United States also had a higher percentage of isolated pockets of survivors than any other country, attributed to the independent nature of American culture and the high rate of gun ownership (in contrast with countries such as Japan).

Mexico was so weakened by the war that its army was incapable of liberating the country without assistance from the United States. Due to the thousands of zombies pushing up by land from South America, Mexico had to focus on securing its northern border while the US cleared its land area of zombies. Several groups of survivors had made a stand in old Spanish mission-forts and Aztec, Toltec, and Mayan pyramids. At some point, the country was renamed "Aztlán".

To the north, Canada suffered much environmental damage during the Great Panic and the early years of the war as waves of refugees fled to the country's northern territories in order to escape the zombies. Cannibalism occurred after famine set in. Due to its vast land area, Canada could not hope to clear its own territory, so when the drive to reclaim the continent from the undead occurred, the remaining Canadian Armed Forces focused on securing the Canadian Rockies with help from the U.S. militia, while the United States cleared its own land area of zombies (just as Mexico secured the southern border). After the US was cleared volunteer forces joined the effort to clear out Canada and Mexico. Still, vast swaths of the Canadian sub-arctic still remain uncleared, with frozen zombies thawing out and threatening to start the infection once again.

Cuba was notable in how well it fared during the great plague, due to several factors. First, Cuba had a state-funded wide-scale medical system, answered only to the Cuban government, so it recognized the true nature of the zombie threat occurred very early on (contrasting with the Phalanx debacle with the FDA in the USA). Cuba quickly implemented a strict quarantine and screening process to prevent the spread of the epidemic. Also, Cuba had a disproportionately large weapons arsenal (due to the Cuban military downsizing from 250,000 men to 50,000 men strong in the past ten years prior to the outbreak), and this was vital to their success at eliminating early outbreaks. Further, Cuba had limited incoming and outgoing travel due to its political isolation, resulting from the long standing trade embargo over forty years earlier. Cuba had developed a long-standing reputation as a dictatorship, and due this reputation it was not the first choice destination for many potential refugees.

Cuba also enjoyed the basic geographical advantage of being an island nation. Other smaller Caribbean islands had this advantage, but their high travel rates and weak militaries meant that they were often not as fortunate. Some were overrun by the zombies (i.e. Barbados), while others collapsed due to fighting with armed refugees - "U.S. boat people" - trying to force their way in. The fierce resistance of the island natives, many wielding little more than machetes and small firearms, allowed Castro to set his own terms when the “modern-day conquistadors” eventually turned to Cuba for shelter, with its large and coordinated military defending its shores. At the same time that mainland countries in the Americas were falling apart during the opening months of the Great Panic, Cuba was already successfully under full military lockdown, and the zombies never gained a foothold in Cuba. The well-defended island nation eventually found itself as an attractive location for refugees from North and South America, and in a position to act as a safe harbor for ships from every major Western country. Only the most affluent, skilled or well-connected were allowed safe haven.

Munitions factories and produce farms sprang up all over the island, and soon Cuba was flooded with foreign money. Refugees were put to work in these work camps, as a practical necessity to produce enough food to feed this massive influx of people (though many were happy to be safe from the zombies for the time being). The “Northerncubano” refugees soon found that the money-management and business skill that they had acquired in America were now in heavy demand, and the government had to institute a work-release program from the camps. With these waves of immigrants, mounting support for capitalism and an expanding middle class, Fidel Castro decided to move his government towards democracy, preside over free elections, and vote himself out of power as his last presidential act (taking full credit for the new freedoms of his people). This was partially to avoid being executed in the kind of national uprising that had originally put him in power, but mostly to avoid trying to manage the tangled political and social mess into which his country soon descended. Although by far the wealthiest nation in the post-war world, Cuba now has countless special-interest groups, as well as demonstrations and riots practically every day. Ten years after the end of the war, the Cuban peso is considered one of the few reliable currencies in the still-recovering world.

South America[]

In Argentina, zombies apparently overran the capital of Buenos Aires. Numerous references are made throughout the book to the "last broadcast" from Buenos Aires, which, according to one source, consists of a Latin singer singing a Spanish lullaby. French Guiana also appears to have been completely overrun, as evidenced by the comment, by the captain of the International Space Station that the Centre Spatial Guyanais (Guiana Space Centre) based in Kourou had been overrun. Chile was also attacked and attempted the use of napalm, which proved ineffective and devastated the wine producing regions. It also moved its capital to Ancud sometime during the war but it has since moved it back to Santiago. In Brazil, outbreaks began with organ transplant patients contracting the disease. It's notable that the majority of these organs obviously came from Chinese political prisoners. In Peru some survivors reach the Incas strongholds of Machupicchu and Vilcabamba, only the last ones fight the infection. In the book, it is hinted that some survivors from throughout the continent escaped into the Amazon Rainforest, and are taking refuge in the trees.


South Africa was the location of the first major publicly reported outbreak, in Cape Town; this is one of the reasons it was initially known as African rabies. South Africa was also the first nation to effectively combat the undead. Paul Redeker, an Afrikaner business consultant to the former Apartheid government, was asked by the government to draft a survival plan. Redeker, a logical man who felt emotion was the root of all mankind's problems, had been hired by the white Apartheid government to redraft the top-secret "Plan Orange", the genocidal plan for a possible doomsday scenario in which the black majority might rise up as one to overthrow the ruling white upper class. For his part in this, Redeker was still considered a racist war criminal (this possibly an allusion to Samuel P. Huntington's advice on South African security). When he presented his strategy to the presidential cabinet, it (and by extension, him) was almost rejected for its apparent ruthlessness, until Nelson Mandela, who had been the one to personally send for Redeker, personally vouched for him and his plan, claiming that despite his past, his plan would save the country and its people. South Africa instituted the Redeker Plan which became the basis of most nations' war time strategy.

It is mentioned that by the Honolulu Conference, the wine country around Stellenbosch was being used for subsistence farming - apparently indicating that the national Safe Zone was in the southwest of the country around Cape Town (or perhaps, one of several Safe Zones).

Post-war, South Africa has been merged into a larger union called The United States of Southern Africa. Its boundaries are not stated, but it is likely composed of the English-speaking southern African countries.

The Middle East[]

Both Iran and Pakistan were severely damaged in a nuclear exchange that was a corollary of a border skirmish involving refugees. Iran had been relatively safe from infection until thousands of infected refugees from India and Pakistan began crossing into Baluchistan (Iranian region bordering Pakistan). Iran demanded the Pakistani government take more control over their population and refugees. Iran responded by bombing several bridges on the border to prevent any more infected refugees from coming into the country. After a complete collapse of communication between Tehran and Islamabad, Pakistan (mentioned under false information) mistook Iran's operations into thinking the Iranians were annexing western Pakistan. Without any way of communicating to the Pakistan government, border skirmishes escalated until a nuclear war ensued, badly damaging both countries. This was ironic since everyone thought that Pakistan would use its nukes on India, not its Muslim neighbors, and that Pakistan had actually helped Iran develop its nuclear weapons.

The only country to recognize the implications of the zombie threat early on, Israel literally walling off all of its land-borders with a massive perimeter fortification of reinforced concrete, simply dubbed "The Wall". All children of Israeli-born parents, non-Israeli Jews, and unsurprisingly, all Palestinians and descendants of 1948 Palestinians who lived abroad were allowed to seek shelter within Israel after careful screening. Originally, most of the world openly condemned them for these actions, particularly its Muslim-controlled neighbors, who claimed on the Al-Jazeera television network it was a Zionist lie and Israel was faking the story to cover up military retreats. At the very least, inviting in Palestinians before closing its borders prevented neighboring Muslim countries (who didn't believe in the zombie threat) from outright declaring war against Israel. Despite some difficulties, this self-imposed quarantine was a life-saving step for the country.

In building the protective wall, the country's borders shrunk nearly to their pre 1967 size, due to the fact that the entrance to Jerusalem wasn't fortified. This was done to retract to a more defensible border, as well as (combined with letting Palestinians back in) an attempt to convince the world that the Wall was honestly being built as a defense against zombies, and not to secure territorial conquests. The loss of Jerusalem, coupled with the invitation of shelter to all Palestinians, sparked a civil war within Israel. The Orthodox Jew population rose up against Israel's coalition government, but are easily defeated by the Israel Defense Force (due to the fact that the rebels had previously refused military training on religious grounds). Like the United States, Israel established a coalition government during the zombie epidemic. 

After the outbreak, the Israelis and Palestinians have made peace due to the requirement of cooperation of Jews and Arabs, this leads to the creation of a new state known as "Unified Palestine".

In Saudi Arabia, the royal family sets fire to their oil fields during the war. It is explicitly stated that their reason for doing this is unknown. This, among other events, contributed to both the rarity of fuel and extreme damage to the enivronment.


"Almost all of continental France" was overrun in the war, including major cities such as Paris and Bordeaux. An interview in the book talks about clearing the Catacombs of Paris, subterranean tunnels that have existed below the city since the times of the Roman Empire. During the Great Panic, a quarter of a million refugees tried to hide in the catacombs, but the infection came with them, and ultimately all were infected. During the Reclamation of Paris they were cleared, in what is regarded as one of the worst battles of the entire war. The French Army suffered heavy casualties clearing Paris, over 15,000 men. As a matter of restoring national pride, France refused to incrementally clear the zombies in Paris, and instead rapidly cleared out the city, knowing that they would incur massive casualties. As in Britain, many old castles reverted to their former usage during the war and held out through most of it. Many refugees had attempted to take shelter in the Palace of Versailles, not realizing that it was little more than a large fancy house. It apparently was overrun and suffered a devastating fire, and France later placed their wartime national monument on its ashes.

Great Britain and its government appear to have survived relatively intact. The British "supreme command" is relocated to Scotland after establishing a massive defensive line along the Antonine Wall. The British Royal Family dispersed to Ireland and the Isle of Man. Scotland and Ireland were the main Safe Zones for the British Isles. Scotland was safe due to its mountainous geography and the determination of their people. South of Scotland, many castles were used by survivors as safe zones. Queen Elizabeth II, at her own insistence, remained at Windsor Castle with a sizeable community of survivors, serving as an example for morale purposes in an effort reminiscent of her parents' efforts during the Blitz in WWII. She also gave all her estates to anyone who could reach and fortify them. The base at Windsor began drilling an untapped oil well, which led to England being a major producer of oil after the war. Beaumaris, a village on the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales was converted into a fully functioning castle against the undead. Before the war it was merely a museum "a hollow shell of roofless chambers and high concentric walls". Conwy, a coastal medieval walled town also in North Wales, served as a base from which British forces launched the Reclamation of Britain and allowed its inhabitants to live in safety and relative comfort during the stalemate years. Unlike France, Britain took its time retaking London in order to ensure minimal casualties, taking about five years to clear its capital. Britain also developed the system of "fortified elevated motorways" that became popular after the war.

The island of Ireland fared particularly well, serving as a safe haven to the British Royal Family, the Pope as well as countless civilians. In the book, it is also suggested that the island was re-unified shortly after the end of the war, although whether by force or by agreement is unclear (the book refers to "Armagh, Ireland", even though Armagh is a county in Northern Ireland).

In Germany, the forces of the Northern Command established a safe zone behind the Baltic Sea-North Sea canal, sacrificing their "Rapid Reaction Stabilization" units as rearguard. This safe zone was a thin strip of land immediately south of Denmark. It is implied that the Southern command established a safe zone in the Bavarian Alps. Because Germany's major cities are heavily populated, and it has comparatively few geographical barriers on its borders, it can be assumed that Germany was one of the hardest hit countries in Europe.

Iceland is mentioned as being completely overrun and having one of the world's highest concentrations of undead, as it provided a haven for a multitude of refugees from Europe but had almost no military power to fight the spread of the undead. Finland was another zombie-overrun country. However, clearing operations were in progress at the time of the author's tour. Refugees came to Iceland and Finland so the zombies would freeze, but these countries could not handle the sudden influx of civilians and infected. The refugees didn't live to see the first winter.

Russia was badly affected by the zombie outbreak. Owing to the country's size, the Russians were forced to contend with roaming zombie hordes from Eastern Europe, China, and the countries of Central Asia. The Russian military, despite being a significant military power in the world, fared little better than the U.S. and Chinese militaries, and eventually it erupted into rebellion, in response to which the Ministry of Defense instituted a policy of Decimation. The Russian military retreated to a Safe Zone in Siberia, abandoning their territory west of the Ural Mountains, which due to its high population was heavily infected (combined with bordering the zombie hordes from other populous countries in Western Europe). The only real advantage Russia had was the mountains of weapons and ammunition left over from the Soviet Union. While this meant that the Russian military could continue to function even after most of their industrial base for producing new weapons was overwhelmed, it also meant that many units were sent into battle with nothing but WWII-vintage Mosin-Nagant bolt-action rifles . Such primitive weapons and the sheer size of Russian territory made it impossible to use the tactics employed in many other parts of the world, particularly luring zombie hordes toward reinforced squares. Instead, the fighting was characterized as a close-quarters brawl with massive casualties. Russia did have a second "advantage" of a sort in its old ally "General Winter": even the massive zombie hordes pressing north from China would be slowed by the colder temperatures of Siberia. Even so, after their massive losses in the first year of the war, the Russians had to resort to walling off their remaining cities so they coulld be cleared incrementally. The Russian population was so drastically reduced that even within the small remaining population, only a tiny handful of fertile women managed to survive through the end of the war, without succumbing to combat, malnutrition, abuse, drugs, or sexually transmitted diseases. With fertile women now considered a precious and finite resource, many volunteered for government breeding programs to serve as broodmares to attempt to make up for the drastic population loss. Ironically, while Siberia served as Russia's Safe Zone during the war - while zombie hordes from Western Europe battered the mountain passes in the Urals - Siberia itself was never fully cleared of zombies. Inherently, isolated zombies that froze solid in the vast unguarded wastes of Sibera would go unnoticed for years, so it is still technically a "White Zone" even a decade after the official end of the war. The United States and international task force offered to help clear Siberia, as it was doing in other parts of the world such as Canada and Finland, but the Russians refused to let foreign troops inside of its borders.

Russia was eventually replaced by an expansionist theocracy known as the Holy Russian Empire. It is mentioned that they have regained several ex-Soviet states through conquest, including Belarus (though many of them had been so depopulated by the zombies that the Russians simply "liberated" them from the undead).

Ukraine was forced to evacuate its government to Sevastopol. Stockpiles of Cold War-era chemical weapons were used to kill refugees (and stop the infected among them). The country is supposedly on the verge of a Russian takeover.

In Spain, many refugees were able to survive in medieval castles. It can be assumed that the country's relatively low population density and the mountainous nature of parts of its territory helped these survivors to make it through the infection. Many of those who did flee chose Cuba, due to existing pre-war ties. Spain ended up better off than other parts of Europe and it is probable that it along with most of the Iberian penisula became one of the first safe zones.

It is unclear as to what fate Portugal suffered, but it is safe to assume that its experience was no different to its neighboring country's own one.

The Netherlands is mentioned. A number of survivors were hidding inside the Muiderslot (castle) until they fell victim to pneumonia and all perished.

It is unclear what happened to other areas of Europe during World War Z. However, it can be assumed that countries in Central Europe survived in some form or another - especially in light of a reference to "Bohemia", which is currently a region encompassing the western two-thirds of the Czech Republic.

It was said that many European countries dealt with the problem of incarcerated felons by dumping the prisoners into infested White Zones, something the United States refrained from doing, and for a very good reason. The environment of a prison makes an already amoral and violent criminal resourceful, constantly alert for danger, and able to improvise a weapon from anything. Many of these ex-cons not only survived the zombies, but also wound up commanding their own independent, and sometimes very powerful, fiefdoms. A few of these became so powerful that their former nations were unable to reclaim the territory, and the map of Europe had to be redrawn to include these new countries.


China was one of the hardest hit nations in the world, due in no small part to the zombie plague originating in China and its large and densely concentrated population, but also to the decisions of the ruling Communist Politburo. It is speculated that the zombie plague began in China because the Communist government was secretly researching the zombie-plague as part of a bio-warfare program, possibly based on zombie research carried out by Japan in China during World War II. The Chinese government did immense harm and greatly added to the spread of the infection by denying and covering up its existence during the initial outbreaks. China was paranoid that the zombie outbreak would be seen as a sign of weakness and an opening to invade China by its enemies such as Russia or the United States. Therefore, Communist China staged a massive military buildup near Taiwan to threaten invasion.

This served as an explanation to foreigners for the large-scale military mobilization that was actually meant to combat the zombies. Further, it gave China the cover-story of "mass roundups of political dissidents" to explain to foreigners why so many people were disappearing off the streets, when it was actually due to roundups of localized zombie outbreaks. China's cover-up worked perfectly, fooling the international community, to the point that when the first publicly known zombie outbreaks occurred in South Africa (spread by Chinese refugees) the global population dubbed it "African Rabies", assuming it had originated there and not in China. By refusing to admit the truth of the zombie outbreak to the world, the Communist Chinese government aided its spread due to misinformation about what was actually happening.

During the Great Panic, the leading Communist Politburo in China did not even try to use the Redeker Plan, or any variation thereof: instead of retreating back to a defensible perimeter, the Politburo simply sent wave after wave of soldiers to attack the zombies throughout China. The Politburo arrogantly refused to ever admit even to themselves that a single city had been totally lost to the zombies, even if temporarily, and instead disastrously divided Chinese military forces by trying to hold onto every city at once, never cutting their losses. Rapidly, the regular infantry of the People's Liberation Army was largely used up. However, as a PLA Navy admiral explained, any group of men that can be made to walk in a straight line, with a gun thrown into their hands, can make up an "infantry" army: after the trained regular army was depleted, the Politburo began massive conscription of civilians. This resulted in even worse losses; these untrained, green conscripts had even less chance against the zombies than the career soldiers. The situation was described as military police literally shoving guns into the hands of civilians, pointing at oncoming hordes of zombies, and ordering these new "conscripts" to attack the zombies or be shot. As the PLA admiral further noted, it did not seem that the Politburo even conceptually understood that every conscript they sent to fight against the zombies, who then got killed, would be reanimated as a zombie, and that they were exponentially increasing the number of zombies in China with this "strategy".

The turning point came with the destruction of the Three Gorges Dam, which occurred about three years into the war. The Dam was overrun by zombie hordes, due to the military being stretched so thin by the poor decisions of the Politburo, which made the emergency pressure release valves impossible to reach. Thus when a pressure release was required, no one could perform it. This eventually results in the Three Gorges Dam rupturing, resulting in a massive tsunami which races to the ocean, destroying what remains of Wuhan, Nanjing, and Shanghai. Following this pinnacle of ineptitude by the Politburo, more than half of China's remaining military units mutinied and began a Chinese Civil War. During the initial Great Panic in China, Captain Chen, the captain of an advanced Chinese ICBM-armed nuclear submarine deserted, running away from port with his crew and their families inside of the submarine and hiding in the Pacific (fearing that all humans on land had been totally overrun in the early months of the infection). The rebel faction eventually linked up with this last remaining Chinese nuclear submarine (with another sub commanded by Cpt. Chen's son no less), and they used its ICBM complement - originally designed to destroy the NORAD base in the United States - to destroy the Politburo's own command bunker, ending the civil war.

After the loyalists surrendered, the first act of the new Chinese government was to finally implement the Redeker Plan. The new Chinese Safe Zone was established north of the Great Wall of China, which was hastily reinforced with any available materials in only three months. Many worked themselves to death rebuilding the wall, and many thousands more died in the south, when as part of the Redeker Plan they were intentionally left behind to their deaths in order to distract the zombie hordes from the Safe Zone. The new Chinese government that overthrew the Politburo realized, however, that it needed to establish its legitimacy in the eyes of the people, and that the best way to do this was to simply tell them the truth. They were honest with those left behind in the south that they were doomed, but that this was the country's only remaining option after the mess the Politburo had caused. Parents voluntarily stayed behind while they sent their children to the Safe Zone, knowing that their sacrifice would aid their survival. Many also willingly worked themselves to death rebuilding the Great Wall, knowing that just like the soldiers sacrificing themselves on the front lines, their sacrifice contributed to the Safe Zone's survival. According to survivor accounts the army used tanks to fight the hoards around the wall then when they ran out of ammo the soldiers stayed in the tanks until they starved to death in order to buy the workers as much time as possible.

The disastrous decisions of the Politburo, however, left China one of the world's least populated nations and the last to be totally cleared of zombies, 12 years after the first outbreak. For example, the Chongqing metropolitan area, which boasted a population of 35 million before the zombie outbreak, is stated to have a post-war population of merely 50,000.

This eventually led to the establishment of a capitalist democracy as the United Federation of China. With the abolition of the Communist regime, Tibet gained independence. It is the most populous nation, the result of refugees hiding successfully in the Himalayas, and its capital city of Lhasa is the most populous city in the post-war world.

Japan was significantly affected by the zombie outbreak. The country was incapable of defending itself due to its limited military and natural resources, and high population density. The Japanese Self-Defense Force ordered an evacuation of the Home Islands, resettling in Kamchatka. During this, Tomonaga Ijiro, a blind gardener and "hibakusha" had exiled himself to the Hiddaka Mountains. For months he managed to survive against the increasing number of zombies he began to encounter armed only with his gardening shovel. When he ran into Kondo Tatsumi (a computer nerd who had managed to fight his way into the wilderness armed with a WWII-era katana), Tatsumi updated Tomonaga on Japan's evacuation. Tomonaga was struck with a divine inspiration, where the two, along with whatever survivors they could find, would "cleanse the garden of Japan” of the undead “pests.” After the war, Tomonaga's "Tatenokai" (Shield Society; not the same Tatenokai that had tried to stage a coup in the 1970s) had proven so effective that it became an official branch of the Japanese Defense Force, and proudly maintains a non-firearms policy.

India enacted its own version of the Redeker Plan and retreated to the Himalayas, and was prepared to deploy nuclear weapons to achieve this. Fortunately, General Raj-Singh managed to manually detonate the C-4 charges that sealed off the mountain pass. His troop formation in the Battle of Gandhi Park was later adopted into the battle doctrine of other wartime nations.

South Korea faced a difficult struggle, suffering a major defeat comparable to Yonkers at Incheon, a situation compounded by the Defense Ministry's insistence at keeping half their armed forces along the DMZ to prevent a possible North Korean invasion. During the Great Panic, South Korean intelligence officials noticed that the population of North Korea was disappearing. There were suddenly no North Korean spies, and North Korean border troops at the DMZ and Panmunjom, along with farmers and "volunteer workers", were seemingly disappearing in North Korea. This culminated in every North Korean vanishing from the face of the Earth. It is believed that they all went underground into the labyrinth of tunnels dug beneath the country. Whether or not they remained safe from infection is unknown, as the North Korean border is so booby-trapped against invasion with automated "revenge weapons" that practically no one is willing to take the chance to go in and find out, except for the South Korean Intelligence Ministry. It is left an open question what happened to the North Korean people, but there are two scenarios: The first is that the North Korean leadership convinced them that the surface world was utterly overrun with zombies, forcing them to stay in an underground empire where their leaders exert greater control over them than ever before. The other scenario is that zombies were able to infiltrate their bunker complexes and infect all of them, resulting in over 20 million zombies bottled up underground, waiting to be let loose by the unwary.

The South Pacific[]

The government of Australia was moved to the southern island of Tasmania. 

There is mention of Maori resistance to a zombie onslaught in New Zealand, centered in the Auckland suburb of One Tree Hill. There, five hundred Maori were able to take down half of the Auckland horde using only traditional weapons.

The so-called "Pacific Continent" consists of a large number of refugee communities which occupy various islands in the Pacific Ocean. During the war, the Pacific Continent also had survivors who lived on boats, rafts, and in ragtag "fleets". Many ships were infested by zombies during their escape, and were the source of the many zombies who ended up on the ocean floor.


It's not stated in the book if there were any mass migrations to the bottom of the world, though Antarctica's extremely cold weather, its remote location, and almost nonexistent human population makes it an ideal refuge from zombies for those who are fully prepared to survive here. This is one of the reasons why Brekenridge "Breck" Scott, the corrupt profiteer who had developed the ineffective zombie vaccine Phalanx, has been hiding here from vengeful world governments and the IRS inside the Russian-leased Vostok research station in the middle of the icy wastes since the Great Panic. Scott has been living off the multiple fortunes he made not only on the mass-marketed placebo, but when he pulled an Enron-esque accounting fraud and fled the country with untold billions of dollars during the Great Panic after it was revealed that Phalanx only vaccinated against rabies, not Solanum. Multiple countries are currently attempting to negotiate with the new Russian government to deny Scott's next lease renewal so they can bring him to justice.

Death Toll[]

It is unknown exactly how many people died , but the number is certainly in the billions. It is stated that when Radio Free Earth was created, there was only 1 billion people scattered around the globe. In North America alone, there were stated to be over 200 million zombies. It is also stated that half of China's population was infected, adding about another 600 million zombies. 

Ironically many deaths were caused by people, not zombies. The initial social collapse in the Great Panic, with wide-scale looting and random shooting, arguably killed more people than the zombies did during the initial months of the outbreak. The civil war in China as well as the nuclear exchange between Iran and Pakistan likely killed a high number of people, and later on many governments were forced to fight secessionists during the reclamation of their countries. The wilderness also killed many as millions fled into cold and remote regions such as Siberia and Canada without proper knowledge on how to survive there, with 11 million dying in Canada in the first year alone. Even in temperate regions, untold millions of people managed to successfully wall themselves off from the zombies in one-family or even one-man fortresses, only to then succumb to starvation. The billions of people dead or infected would radically change the world system. In a scene from the heavily adapted movie, a death toll survey by U.N. showed a death toll of approximately 4.9 billion people.

See also[]

External links[]

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead
Max Brooks | Solanum | Zombies | Outbreaks | Recorded Attacks