World War Z consists of a series of interviews with men and women who survived the zombie war (World War Z). Each interview focuses on a specific stage in the zombie war, and those interviewed vary radically in terms of diversity.
The story is set not far in the future, when the global political situation is very nearly the same as it is today. Brooks chronicles the very first isolated outbreaks in China; the zombie disease (solanum) very quickly spreads to Africa, where it is thought to be a form of rabies. A major medical corporation, hoping to cash in on the scare African Rabies has caused, develops an entirely ineffective but well-selling drug called Phalanx to combat the unusual disease. Despite the media attention African Rabies receives, many nations do not see the outbreaks as cause for major concern, and only Israel quarantines itself and prepares for the imminent disaster.
A period towards the start of the war, known as the Great Panic, coincides with the world's sudden realization that this disease is not something to be taken lightly. China, due to it's large population and ineffective leadership, is very quickly over-run, and infected Chinese refugees help to spread the blight to the Americas and Europe. It's not long before the zombie population outnumbers the human population in both China and Africa. In many of the major cities in North America and Europe the disease also spreads quickly, and humanity suffers a crushing defeat in a New York suburb when the United States military attempts to face off against approximately 100,000 zombies in the streets.
Air combat proves to be worthless against the zombie hordes because zombies do not rely on tactics or leaders: each zombie is, so to speak, a one man army. Militaries the world over have to retrain themselves and break old habits, conventional warfare needs to be put to rest, and whole new strategies, tactics, and weapons need to be developed if the zombies are to be combated successfully. Eventually, it is realized that the armed forces are simply too few to protect everyone, and, following South Africa's lead, many nations opt to retreat and regroup within an easily defensible area, clear the zombies out there, then push back into the zombie-controlled wastes and systematically wipe out the zombies, mile by mile, if need be. Part of the strategy, as cold as it is, is to use humans who could not be easily rescued as live bait, making it easier to clear out heavily-infested areas. Everyone else who isn't actively fighting provides labor, making weapons and feeding the army.
This report prepared by Colin Kehm