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World War Z author Max Brooks sounds off on coronavirus: 'This is not the end of the world'

By Josh Weiss
Max Brooks World War Z

Is the coronavirus as bad as a zombie outbreak? According to Max Brooks, author of World War Z and prominent undead scholar, you shouldn't be equating the two just yet. During a Reddit AMA yesterday, Max (who is the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft) was asked for his thoughts on the matter, since his celebrated novel is all about tracking the global spread of a deadly virus.

"I think the Coronavirus is as dangerous as we allow it to be," he wrote. "This is not the end of the world, but we need to take it seriously, implement measures to curb the spread, marshal the resources of government and industry behind a vaccine and treatment. As regular citizens, we need to think about what we can do: social distancing - washing hands, avoiding crowds, and for God's sake, stay home if you're sick! We can't just think about, 'Can I get it?', we need to think about, 'Who can I infect?' We have the power to turn this around, but we need to make the right choices."

Max Brooks World War Z

Published in September of 2006, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War reads more like a historical tome than it does a zombie thriller. Wrapped around a U.N. agent's mission to compile the full story of how an undead virus nearly wiped out all of humanity, the novel is told through a collection of survivor accounts and interviews.

Painstakingly researched and rich with detail, the publication, which was banned by the Chinese government, is actually a really good resource for learning what not to do when a highly contagious disease is ravaging the planet. Brooks really hopes the U.S. government doesn't make the same mistake of ignoring the problem that it does with the zombie outbreak in his book.

"I think human beings are slow to realize a threat," he added during the AMA. "We instinctually want to deny danger. It's an ego-defense mechanism. The problem is, if you deny too much, and are caught unprepared, panic sets in. I think we've been gutting our global health institutions for too long. In rich countries like the USA, we now take public health for granted. We don't have that gut-churning fear our grandparents used to have when Polio and other disease raged through the population. This, hopefully, could be a wakeup call for us to spend the necessary money to reinforce our public-global health networks. I'm just so sorry that this wakeup call is coming too late for people who are already sick."

world war z brad pitt

Max's book was adapted into a feature film with Brad Pitt in 2013. A sequel has languished in development hell ever since. David Fincher was even supposed to direct the follow-up at one point, but as of last winter, the project is pretty much dead with no chance of resurrection.

During the AMA, Brooks also offered an update on his famous comedian father, stating:

"My dad is fine. But he's 93 so I have to be very careful about infecting him. That's why I've cancelled some appearances and might possibly have to pivot my whole book tour to a virtual tour. Right now I'm preparing for my son's school to be closed. I think about my dad and my mother-in-law (who's had lung cancer twice) and all the vulnerable people in my life I could infect if I'm not careful."

This article discusses a fictional story, but COVID-19 is very real! Please exercise caution out there: Wash those hands, keep them away from your face, and practice social distancing. For extensive information on how to keep you and your loved ones safe, check out the CDC’s coronavirus website.