Max Brooks’ new slimline tome Closure, Limited is the follow up to his genre defining World War Z, released in 2006. The latter book was a remarkable piece of fiction, in which Brooks broke both boundaries and tired zombie fiction tropes whilst raising the bar for zombie books to a height that is unlikely to be bettered.
Closure, Limited is essentially World War Z – the B-sides. This slender collection of stories are all set in the same universe Brooks created in his last book and, of the four stories featured here, two are in the same style as World War Z and are of such high quality that they would not have been out of place in that book itself.
The title piece, ‘Closure, Limited’, is set on a converted sailing yacht off the coast of Iceland. The narrator is working in his capacity as a journalist and is sent to write a piece about the mysterious Closure, Limited, which is based almost exclusively on the yacht. As with all of Brooks’ fiction the story contains moments of genuine emotion and is truly original.
Closure, Limited provide exactly what their name says. They are contacted by grieving relatives of those who died in the zombie war and are given exact specifications of the person, even down to small, seemingly insignificant items which they treasured. The company then sets about the thankless task of constructing a zombie identical to the specific missing loved one. In typical Brooks fashion, there’s a level of detail and thought present that truly makes it a joy to read. Every possible scenario is completely thought through and the emotional hook throughout is fascinating.
The second piece, ‘Steve and Fred’, is a departure from everything that has made Brooks so successful – it’s his attempt at straight-up fiction but it veers closely towards pulp. In truth, it’s the weakest link in the collection and is as generic a zombie story as it’s possible to find. The story reads as though it was written as an afterthought, with the only highlight being the hero using a pile of dead zombies as a launching pad for his motorbike. The story itself is a tad bland and almost works to contrast how much better Brooks’ usual method of working is.
Perhaps the most intriguing story in Closure, Limited is ‘The Extinction Parade’, a first person account of the zombie war narrated by a vampire. Brooks puts his own unique stamp on this genre-blending story, recounting the vampire race’s reaction to the ever growing threat to their food supply. ‘The Extinction Parade’ achieves a rare feat by managing to indicate the threat that the living dead pose to more than one species. The desperation felt by the vampires as their only source of sustenance is rapidly diminished by a horde of mindless zombies is incredibly powerful and, despite the lack of a human narrator, the story still carries a tremendous emotional punch.
The final story, ‘Great Wall’, is an interview with a worker who helped to build, and guard, the new Great Wall of China. It is built solely to keep zombies out of the populated half of the country. Again, Brooks’ strengths as a writer shine through. The level of research and knowledge involved in a story that’s less than twenty pages long is mind-blowing. The effort that Brooks goes to in order to ensure that his reader is taken in by what he’s writing is to be admired. The only negative aspect of this particular tale is that a number of events in World War Z were referenced and so they require a small amount of revision to completely appreciate.
Closure, Limited is a welcome continuation to the world that Max Brooks created, and subsequently destroyed, in his previous fictional outings. Unlike so many current zombie authors, Brooks writes with an intelligence and poise that elevates his work above the rest of the genre. Brooks shows incredible knowledge of a wide variety of topics, including geography, military procedures and socio-political factors, throughout his work. The level of care and detail he puts into settings and characters make for stories that are nothing short of compelling and, perhaps even better, are entirely convincing.
If George A. Romero is revered as the king of zombie films then Max Brooks must surely be dubbed the king of zombie fiction.
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