Province of Bohemia, The European Union. David Allen Forbes is a British artist working on his second book, called Castles of the Zombie War: The Continent. He tells the narrator that North America doesn’t have “fixed fortifications” like the Continent does. The United States and Canada are young countries and do not have a “history of institutional anarchy” like Europe. He says that castles seem unimportant in the war effort but that they saved his life.
While North America’s fancy technology proved useless against the zombies, ancient castles were more successful. Forbes’ account talks about how these old buildings played an important role in saving many lives on the Continent, including his own. The novel suggests that technologically advanced gadgets were not always the best solutions against the zombies. Old traditions like hand-to-hand combat and castles proved valuable, suggesting that traditions are nothing to scoff at, and that the trappings of the modern world can be stripped away in an instant.
Forbes adds that castles had many dangers within them, like pneumonia at Muiderslot in Holland. People were so ill and desperate that they jumped into the moat filled with zombies. But there were also many success stories, and people managed to survive for years behind their high walls. Survivors in castles, like at Chenonceau in France, simply waited for snowfall to come out and restock supplies before heading back inside the castle walls for the warmer months. He recommends that the narrator read the book Camelot Mine, in which the author describes how he singlehandedly restored the castle of Caerphilly in Wales after it had been abandoned as a ruin. It ended up being a refuge for hundreds of survivors.
Forbes concedes that there were some horrific stories associated with the castles, too. In the castle in Holland, people got ill and were so afraid of what would come that they jumped out of the castle in desperation, once again showing that fear caused people to behave irrationally—in many cases throughout the novel, fear is a far more destructive force than the zombies themselves. However, other castles sheltered hundreds from the zombies and saved many lives.
Forbes himself took shelter in Windsor Castle. He says that it was, “from a defensive standpoint, as close as one could come to perfection.” It was the largest inhabited castle in Europe, and it had its own well and also enough storage space for decades of rations. Fires and terrorist threats had led to a strengthening of its security features, like reinforced walls and retractable bars. The best part was that they could siphon crude oil and natural gas from a deposit under its grounds. Forbes himself was grateful for the warm rooms and hot food, as well as “the Molotovs and flaming ditch.” They even had a lot of medieval hand weapons from museums and collections, which many people took to carrying around again.
Again, Forbes points out that the zombie threat seemed to have returned people to an earlier time when people took shelter in castles and fought with hand weapons—the modern world was dismantled with terrifying ease. His description of Windsor Castle suggests that it was equipped to be ready for a crisis at all times. Max Brooks, who suffers from anxiety and admits to preparing for unforeseeable disasters, shows that this kind of preparedness is the best way to survive a crisis.
Forbes also discloses that “she” wouldn’t leave Windsor Castle, even though the Parliament objected to her decision. When Forbes begged her to leave, she had said, “The highest of distinctions is service to others.” Her father had said that, too, and had refused to take refuge in Canada during World War II, which is why, Forbes says, they “remain a United Kingdom.” They “must forever be an example” to the people, and “personify all that is great in [their] national spirit.” Forbes says that they were viewed in the same way the castles were, “as crumbling, obsolete relics,” but when their services were required, they “reawoke to the meaning of their existence.”
Forbes speaks reverently of the Queen’s decision not to leave her people, likening her to the tough old castles that had come through to protect the people. The Queen—like Raj-Singh and the American President—seems more concerned for the welfare of her people rather than her own safety, and thus becomes a symbol of “all that is great” in the human spirit. In the novel, unselfishness and self-sacrifice are held up as high virtues.
Ulithi Atoll, Federated States of Micronesia. This coral atoll provided shelter to American naval vessels and civilian ships during the war, including the UNS Ural, which was the first broadcast hub of Radio Free Earth. Barati Palshigar worked on this project. She tells the narrator that “Ignorance was the enemy. Lies and superstition, misinformation, disinformation. […] Ignorance killed billions of people. Ignorance caused the Zombie War.” She says that facts were the weapons people needed.
Palshigar makes an excellent point when she says that ignorance caused the zombie war. If the zombie menace had been contained early and people knew what precautions to take to prevent the spread of the virus, there would have been no zombie war. In her interview, Jesika Hendricks, too, blames the lack of information for causing much suffering during the zombie crisis, since she and her family tried to survive a snowy winter without adequate preparation.
Palshigar says that Radio Free Earth was the “first real international venture,” and it came into being a few months after the South African Plan. It grew from Radio Ubunye, which was the South African government’s regular, multilingual informational broadcasts to its isolated citizens. They offered survival skills and also combatted misinformation. Radio Free Earth used this template and adapted it for the global community.
Radio Free Earth was a project born out of the desire to help people survive the war. Palshigar points out that it was an “international venture,” showing that despite the devastation the war caused, it also did result in global unification, with many nations coming together to work on useful projects like Radio Free Earth, which made such a huge impact all over the world.
Palshigar specializes in languages of the Indian Subcontinent, and she covered the information that would be conveyed to about a billion people. She and her colleagues worked 20 hours a day, conveying information like how to purify water or process mold spore for Penicillin. They also combatted misinformation like zombies having intelligence or feelings.
Radio Free Earth clearly made a huge impact on listeners’ lives by giving them information about useful survival skills that they otherwise had no access to. Palshigar and her colleagues worked tirelessly to do this, probably aware that they were saving lives all around the world with their transmissions.
Palshigar says the hardest job was that of the Information Reception or IR Department, which received the data from all over the world that Radio Free Earth rebroadcasted. Very often, their signals would be mixed up with civilian radio bands in which people from all over the world would be screaming for help. There was no time for the IR operators to even answer these people, but after hearing so much suffering, all the IR operators ended up killing themselves after the war’s end because they couldn’t shake off the despair and trauma.
Though Radio Free Earth was doing a lot to help many people, Palshigar’s colleagues were unable to forget the pain they’d encountered on the airwaves—and shockingly, all of them committed suicide after the war ended. The emotions that they’d heard in the strangers’ voices desperately asking for help affected them so deeply that they couldn’t escape or heal from their trauma. This tragic example supports the point that the narrator makes in the introduction that people’s emotions link them to one another.
The Demilitarized Zone: South Korea. Hyungchol Choi, deputy director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, speaks to the narrator about North Korea. He says that no one knows what happened. North Korea’s boundary was heavily fortified, it was on mountainous terrain that could be easily defended, and was surrounded by the ocean, all of which made it perfect to repel a zombie invasion. A large part of their citizenry was in the armed forces while almost everyone had undergone military training. They also had a “superhuman degree of national discipline.” In contrast, South Korea was made of “individualists,” and “were such a free and fractured society that [they] barely managed to implement the Chang Doctrine,” which was their version of the Redeker Plan.
North Korea seemed to be perfectly equipped to fight the zombie war, especially when compared to South Korea, Chang says, where they had the freedom to dissent and many chose to exercise it. Even in the U.S., D’Ambrosia explains in an earlier section, the citizenry would have been opposed to spending more on soldiers and war, which was a reason why the Joint Chiefs didn’t consider it at the time. The situation in North Korea raises an interesting question: if the citizens of a nation had no freedom, would that nation have a thorough and carefully planned reaction to a crisis, or would it lead to a situation of complete chaos?
Hyungchol Choi says that even before the first outbreaks in South Korea, “the North suddenly, and inexplicably, severed all diplomatic relations.” The rail line that linked the two countries was shut down. Even the guards at the border disappeared. Choi saw no signs of them preparing to wage war, though some feared this might be the case. Even spies from the North stopped showing up. The South’s electronic surveillance of the North went dark, and their spies all disappeared. Satellite pictures showed fewer farmers and fewer laborers working, until finally, there was absolutely no activity or movement in the whole nation.
North Korea could also easily cut itself off from the rest of the world, which would have helped it during the zombie crisis. However, total isolation might also mean absolute danger and no means of escape if the virus had already reached the country.
This happened when South Korea was facing its own overwhelming problems with the outbreaks. The worries about the North suddenly launching an attack complicated the situation. Now that the zombies are taken care of, Hyungchol Choi wants to go investigate how the entire population of the North just quietly disappeared, but his superiors say that there is still too much work to be done at home. They also worry that he might trigger a nuclear booby trap, or open the gates to 23 million zombies emerging from underground tunnels in the North.
Ultimately, the narrator doesn’t uncover what exactly happened in North Korea. Choi, too, doesn’t know and wants to figure it out—but it does seem ominous for the entire population of a nation to quietly go missing, and his superiors’ theory that they might all have been infected underground seems likely.
Kyoto, Japan. While the old photograph of Kondo Tatsumi shows a skinny teenager with bleached blond hair, he is now a toned warrior monk with a shaved head. He tells the narrator that he used to be an “otaku” or “outsider” before the war. Japanese culture considered individuality to be “a ribbon of shame,” and while others easily conformed to expectations, Tatsumi chose to exile himself in cyber space. He felt powerful and safe in this world where his appearance and grades didn’t matter, and he was a respected hacker. When the crisis reached Japan, Tatsumi and his online group became obsessed with finding out all they could about the living dead. When school was canceled, he spent all day online.
Tatsumi used to be considered an outsider because he chose to exercise his individuality in what he later admits was a very American way that was out-of-place in his culture. He felt completely disconnected from Japanese culture and society. The zombie crisis was interesting to Tatsumi because he wanted to find out all he could about the zombies to impress his online community—but he was so shallow and disconnected from people that it didn’t mean more to him than that.
The narrator asks Tatsumi if he’d been afraid for his personal safety, and Tatsumi says he hadn’t been—he lived in the cyber world, not in Japan. To him, the siafu or zombies “weren’t something to be feared, they were something to be studied.” He tells the narrator he was completely disconnected from reality. Though he shared the apartment with his parents, he never spoke to them. His mother would leave a breakfast tray outside his door in the morning, and a dinner tray at night. The first day she missed doing this, he didn’t think much of it. He called for her, and receiving no response, ended up eating some raw ramen from the kitchen. He did the same thing the next day, upset that this wasted his precious time online, but not worried about his mother at all.
The narrator believes strongly in the connections people form through sharing emotions and feelings. Tatsumi’s life shows that he had no feelings for anyone—when his parents went missing, he didn’t even notice. He dealt purely in information and facts, and lacked emotional connections with other people.
When other otaku began disappearing, too, Tatsumi felt only annoyance rather than worry for their well-being. One morning, he woke up and his screen was blank. He realized that he had lost power and his internet connection. He saw that his parents still weren’t home and when he tried calling them, he realized that the phones weren’t working. He tells the narrator that he still has no idea what happened to his parents, and has been trying to find out.
Again, this information highlights Tatsumi’s disconnected lifestyle. While he spent all his time online, even the relationships he had there were strangely impersonal. His reaction to the other otaku disappearing highlights his extreme selfishness since he only felt annoyed at their disappearance rather than any concern for them. Only his personal discomfort—the lack of the internet—affects him.
In a panic, and lost without the internet, Tatsumi made his way out the front door. Making his way down the dark hallway, he slipped on something cold and slimy, and realized that the whole place stank. He then saw a zombie make its way towards him and jumped back inside his apartment and locked his door. He looked outside the windows and realized there was chaos outside. The siafu were everywhere, invading apartments and devouring people on street corners, and the city was burning and destroyed.
Tatsumi had been so lost in his online world that he hadn’t even looked outside his window. This highlights his self-involvement and selfishness. When he finally looked, he realized that there was destruction and chaos right outside his door.
Then, the siafu in the hallway pounded at Tatsumi’s door, and he could hear more moans outside as well as the sounds of his neighbors pleading and struggling with the siafu. He tried to move the couch against the door, but it was useless as the door began to break. He decided to escape out his window onto the balcony of the apartment below, using bed linen to lower himself. His muscles cramped as he did this, and he was knocked about by the wind, but he made it. The siafu that had been after him saw him and jumped at him, and fell onto the sidewalk below.
When Tatsumi looked outside and started registering other people’s suffering, he started to even hear his neighbors struggling with the zombies. Before, he’d been uninterested and had shut it all out. Instead of giving up, Tatsumi displayed resourcefulness as he made his escape. This hints at his undeveloped potential for courage that he will use as he grows into a warrior monk.
At the apartment Tatsumi was now at, the front door was barricaded from the inside. He found the previous tenant dead in her bathtub—she had slit her wrists. He took some of her sheets to make more rope to lower himself and get out of the building. The narrator asks if wouldn’t have been more dangerous on the streets, and Tatsumi says he had learnt online that the siafu were slow and could be outrun.
Even in this extremely stressful situation, Tatsumi managed to master his fear and make a plan to escape. As Palshigar had pointed out in the section about Radio Free Earth, information was essential while fighting the zombies, and Tatsumi remembered and used the information he had from his online forums.
By the third day of doing this, Tatsumi had made it to a fourth-floor balcony. He reached for the sliding door, and stared right at a siafu on the other side. Tatsumi leapt back on his rope and tried to climb up, but he was too tired. Meanwhile, the siafu broke the glass door, and Tatsumi fell onto the balcony below. He stumbled into that apartment, looking for siafu, and didn’t find any.
Tatsumi persevered with his plan and slowly made his way down the apartment building using sheets. He displayed great resourcefulness and calmness in the face of all the chaos. When the zombie attacked him, he wasn’t too afraid to think—he was just too tired to.
An old man had lived in the apartment, and there were photographs of him everywhere, visiting places all over the world and spending time with family and friends. Tatsumi decided that if he managed to survive the crisis, he would live a full life just like that old man. There was a Shinto shrine in the room, and as Tatsumi looked at it, he saw a reflection of a siafu in the mirror of the shrine. It grabbed Tatsumi by the hair, but Tatsumi managed to shove it over the balcony. But more siafu began pounding on the door. Tatsumi rushed to the bedroom to get sheets to make a rope, and on the wall he saw a photograph of the old man holding a traditional Japanese sword. He looked for the sword and found it in a chest.
Though Tatsumi had been so consumed by the internet, he was now looking out into the world and taking interest in all that it offered. When confronted with death, Tatsumi fought it with all he had since he had just made up his mind to start living. He had the good fortune to find a sword that would help him survive. The sword is an old, traditional Japanese sword, once again suggesting that modern technology like the internet was useless in battling zombies but a return to old traditions was effective against them.
Kyoto, Japan. Sensei Tomonaga Ijiro founded Japan’s Tatenokai or “Shield Society,” and has been blind since he was a teenager. Kondo Tatsumi is Ijiro’s second in command. Ijiro tells the narrator that he is hibakusha, which means “survivors of the bomb.” He lost his sight when he watched the bomb go off. Though hibakusha were treated with sympathy and kindness, they were also in a way, outcasts, as their blood was considered unclean and no one would marry them. Ijiro also felt like a burden because of his blindness, and frustrated because he couldn’t contribute to the nation’s rebuilding efforts after World War II.
Ijiro is living out the disastrous effects of an earlier war—the nuclear bombs of World War II. By pointing out that the effects of that war still linger, and that though it was considered a just war, its effects were disastrous to many, the narrator draws a parallel between World War II and the zombie war. Both conflicts were worth it in the end, but their effects are widespread and long-lasting.
Ijiro tried to find some employment but was politely rejected every time. His brother invited him to stay with him, but Ijiro didn’t want to impose on him. Ijiro tried to commit suicide many times, but felt too cowardly to go through with it. He took off without telling anyone where he was headed, traveling and begging, until he settled in Sapporo. There, he met an old gardener who belonged to the Ainu group, which was very low on the Japanese social ladder. Ijiro says that perhaps the gardener took pity on another social outcast, which is why he hired him and taught him all he knew. Together, they worked on the garden of a luxury hotel called the Akaze, and after the old gardener died, Ijiro continued working there.
Ijiro suffered greatly as a result of World War II, feeling like his injury made him an outcast. He had a strong sense of pride and justice, and loathed feeling like a burden. This selflessness is a quality he shares with other positive characters in the novel, like the Queen and Captain Chen.
While trimming the bushes by the hotel, Ijiro heard people talking about the first domestic outbreak, in which a man had killed his wife and proceeded to eat her. Soon, there was news of more outbreaks of “African rabies.” Ijiro was convinced the situation was dangerous when the hotel’s manager held a meeting to convince his employees there was nothing to worry about and Ijiro detected fear in his voice. So, Ijiro decided to leave. He wasn’t afraid of death, but he didn’t want to become a burden to those around him when the crisis came. He took his ikupasuy, a shovel that doubled as his walking stick, and hitchhiked south. Along the way, all the people he spoke to were worried about the crisis but had faith that the authorities would know what to do about it.
Though Ijiro was blind, he was very attuned to the world around him and could even detect the tiny giveaway of danger like the barely noticeable note of fear in the hotel manager’s voice. This skill will prove to be very useful to him later, as he attempts to survive by himself in the wilderness. Since he was very selfless, he loathed the idea of being a burden to those around him or causing them pain in any way, which is why he decided to leave.
Ijiro hiked into the Hiddaka Mountains, away from all civilization. His gardener friend had taken him there frequently, and Ijiro knew his way around. Sometimes, he could hear the sound of helicopters and fighter planes, but had no idea what was going on in the country. He even thought that perhaps the authorities had won, and soon he’d encounter park rangers.
Ijiro went about his days calmly and capably. The threat of the zombies didn’t affect him, and neither did being all alone in the mountains. While the nation panicked around him, he seemed to be a center of calmness.
One morning, Ijiro sensed a big bear nearby and thought it was his fate to die, and that this was what the kami, or the spirits, had ordained for him. He waited for a blow that never came. Instead he heard the bear whining and running away. Ijiro then heard a low moan behind him and could hear the air bubbling from a gaping wound in the creature’s chest. He struck it with his ikupasuy, and as it collapsed, he understood that the bear had been sent to warn him, not eat him. He understood that the gods wanted him to survive for some reason, and this is what it was.
Ijiro was unruffled when he thought the bear would kill him and was ready to surrender his life to it. Even when confronted by his first zombie, Ijiro stayed calm and killed it with a single blow. After he’d lost his sight, he’d always felt like a burden to others, but finally believed that he had found his true calling—destroying the undead that polluted the land.
Ijiro says that losing his sight had made him adept at survival. He didn’t take his safety for granted and was always vigilant. He knew to listen carefully, and to smell the wind, and was never caught off-guard. The animals, too, always warned of the approaching creatures. Ijiro would sense them approaching from a distance, and then “patiently prepare […] for the attack” by stretching and meditating. He always killed them on first strike, aiming between the forehead and nose. When they attacked in hordes, the initial battles were “untidy,” but Ijiro soon learnt to lead them to an outcropping of rocks from where he could neatly destroy them one at a time. He also made sure to retrieve and bury all the bodies and burn the heads.
Ijiro lost his eyesight and thus depended on his other senses—his hearing, and his sense of smell—to compensate. These proved to be great assets as he fought the zombies. Also, just like the zombies, he felt no fear when he confronted them, which automatically gave him a great advantage over most people who fought the zombies. He was not only efficient at killing them, but was also calm and methodical in his methods, striving to destroy them “neatly.”
On Ijiro’s second winter in the mountains, he had just settled to sleep when he heard human footsteps. He hid and waited atop a tree. Tatsumi then says that Ijiro had leapt on him and held him down. Tatsumi said he was friendly and just wanted to pass. Ijiro asked him where he was going, and Tatsumi said he was headed to a port where there might still be a boat to take him to Kamchatka. Tatsumi explained that Japan had been completely abandoned, and Ijiro says that at that moment, he understood that the gods wanted him to care for and preserve Japan, and “annihilate the walking blight that infested and defiled her.” He told Tatsumi that they would restore Japan’s beauty for when the people would return.
Ijiro and Tatsumi were so unlike each other—Ijiro was a selfless and spiritual older man while Tatsumi was a self-centered teenager. His previous life had been devoid of meaning or purpose and he’d wanted to make a change, which was probably why Ijiro’s plan appealed to him. Ijiro believed that he was chosen by the gods to preserve Japan’s beauty, and welcomed any company he could get to accomplish his mission. These two unlikely companions began working to achieve a common purpose, symbolizing the unification of Japan’s old traditions with its young generation, showing that this would have a positive impact on both.
Cienfuegos, Cuba. The narrator meets Seryosha Garcia Alvarez at his office on the 69th floor. The view is spectacular at this energy-independent building with its photovoltaic windows. Alvarez tells the narrator that Cuba won the zombie war, and that it put them in a much better position that where they were twenty years before. Their “existence was one of constant deprivation,” and America’s economic blockade prevented any economic growth and also kept Fidel in power.
From the narrator’s descriptions, it seems like Cuba has done very well for itself after the zombie war. According to Alvarez, they “won” the zombie war. In contrast, many prewar developed nations, like America, seem to have “lost” the war.
Then, the dead began to rise. Cases in Cuba were very few—mostly Chinese refugees and European businessmen—and were quickly contained. The repressive nature of their society ensured that the infection didn’t spread. The doctors in Cuba figured out the nature of the disease and their leader was in possession of all the information. By the time the Great Panic hit the rest of the world, Cuba had prepared itself for war.
Cuba’s repressive government had effectively contained the outbreak within its borders while the rest of the world panicked. While American citizens had the freedom to disagree with the government and its policies, the lack of freedom in Cuba had proved to be a positive for it in this case. Cuba was a repressive regime, like China, but its strategies for containing the virus were based on information rather than secrecy.
Many refugees came to Cuba from the sea, bringing the threat of infection as well as believing in the notion that they could “rul[e] their new homes as modern-day conquistadors.” The Cubans decided to set their own terms—they did not want to be overrun by refugees like Iceland, which quickly became one of the most infested countries in the world. While they had a few refugees from other nations like Spain, the majority—almost five million—came from the U.S. All refugees were placed in the government’s “Quarantine Resettlement Program,” where their lives were quite hard. They were put to work as field hands and the guards threatened to throw them into pits filled with zombies if they complained.
The Cubans were wary that refugees would throw their weight around in their adopted country. So the refugees were mistreated and threatened with punishments to ensure that they understood their place. Cuba’s policies seem cruel but are also rooted in a real threat of the millions of refugees overrunning their host nation, especially since most of their refugees came from developed nations like the U.S. and would have most likely carried their sense of superiority with them.
Since there wasn’t enough manpower to manage the Resettlement Program as well as guard the shores, they released 10 percent of the detainees to work outside the camps doing the jobs Cubanos didn’t want to, like manual labor and cleaning the street, and told them they would be awarded points for their work which they could use “to buy the freedom of other detainees.” Alvarez says it was “an ingenious idea” and “the camps were drained in six months.” The “Nortecubanos,” as the refugees came to be called, integrated themselves into Cuban society within a year.
The refugees had to perform jobs no one wanted in order to earn their freedom from the Resettlement Program, and in the process learned that they had no power in this country. The “Nortecubanos,” when they managed to earn their release, ended up integrating well into Cuban society.
In the years that followed, Cuban people and the Nortecubanos felt bold to disagree with Fidel’s ideas. Private businesses and newspapers were started. When the world waged war against the zombies, Cuba became an air hub for the Americas, and the center of “a thriving, capitalist economy that needed the refined skills and practical experience of the Nortecubanos.” Alvarez says that while the Cubans saved them, the Nortecubanos showed them the meaning of democracy and freedom. Fidel knew the tide had turned and “not only embrace[d] the country’s new democracy, but […] actually [took] credit for it.”
The Nortecubanos ended up influencing the politics of their adopted country. They brought democracy and enterprise to Cuba, which helped it flourish. Cuba is an example of a country that weathered the zombie crisis with no damage since it spotted the signs of the outbreak early and took the appropriate precautions. It was able to flourish because many wealthier nations hadn’t taken the initial steps to contain the virus and consequently collapsed in the war that followed.
Patriot’s Memorial, The Forbidden City, Beijing, China. Admiral Xu Zhicai begins by saying that he and his crew were not traitors. They loved their country and people, and were loyal to their leaders. They would have never dreamed of doing what they did if the situation hadn’t been so desperate. He says that the army kept insisting that they had the situation under control, but they were just a bunch of poorly-trained soldiers in matching clothes. The navy, however, was more pragmatic, and couldn’t understand why the army had rejected the Redeker Plan without even considering it.
Xu seems insecure at the beginning of the interview, and fearful that the narrator might accuse him of being a traitor—suggesting that he is still a little guilty about his actions. He implies that China’s leaders had not responsibly thought their plans through. It was clear to him—and the rest of the navy—that the army was losing to the zombies.
Xu says that the army generals believed they had a “bottomless well” of manpower, and sat safely in their bunkers and ordered “wave after wave of conscripted teenagers into battle.” They didn’t seem to realize that “every dead soldier was now a live zombie.” Captain Chen was furious at this, and believed that if they continued in this vein, “soon there would be no more Chinese people, and perhaps, eventually, no more people anywhere.” So, he made a plan to escape in their advanced nuclear submarine in order to preserve something of their civilization.
The army generals were safe in their bunkers and had no qualms about sending “conscripted teenagers” to battle the zombie hordes. This was not only cruel but also impractical as the number of zombies kept growing. The generals didn’t seem to care about any of this because they believed the Chinese population was large enough to keep up an endless supply of soldiers, but Captain Chen worried that the whole of China would soon be destroyed, showing him to be a wise and considerate leader in contrast to the army generals.
Xu didn’t initially agree, but Chen convinced him that it was the only way forward. They prepared for the departure for three months, and smuggled emergency supplies and family members on board. Finding and bringing their family members from various parts of the nation was hard—they sent them coded messages because no one could know what they were planning. The narrator asks if Chen’s son came with them, and Xu evades the question. He tells the narrator that even the family members had no idea what the plan was. They had to leave as per plan not to raise any suspicions, even though some family members hadn’t made it.
Chen seems to have been a brave visionary to come up with this plan to escape. He was also kind enough to ensure that his crew’s families could come along, too. When the narrator asks if Chen’s son came along with them, Xu is evasive, implying that he didn’t.
The narrator asks Xu where they were headed, and he says that they didn’t have a destination since “the blight had spread to every corner of the planet.” They had “no home, no friends, no safe harbor” except for their submarine, the Admiral Zheng He. Since missile subs were designed to hide, they hid in deep water. In the first months, they all appreciated being away from the danger of the zombies. They didn’t immediately have any way of monitoring what the situation was on land.
Initially, the crew and their families appreciate the safety in the submarine. It must have been a relief to be safe from the zombies after years of constant danger.
After three months at sea, they began to try to get information from the outside through passive surveillance. They sent periscopes out, and on their video monitors, they were shocked to see “tankers, freighters, cruise ships”—it “was as if humanity was putting everything they had to sea.” The also saw a lot of military vessels, who would have been able to track their submarine, but they didn’t seem interested. Many ships had tent cities and makeshift apartments on their decks, and a lot of ships were drifting without fuel. They pitied these people and their “hopeless fate.” They were “prey to hunger, thirst, sunstroke, or the sea herself.” The narrator asks Xu if they didn’t help any of them, and Xu says they couldn’t risk detection or infection.
Many people from around the world had escaped into the sea while fleeing the zombies on land. This information hearkens back to Shah’s interview about Alang, in which the narrator first includes information about humanity’s exodus into the ocean since it seemed to be safer than land. However, many of these people weren’t prepared for such a long time at sea—just like the people Jesika Hendricks talks about who escaped into the cold and weren’t prepared for it—and Xu and his crew could see that they were doomed. People’s lack of preparation to weather the crisis proved to be as dangerous as the zombies themselves.
They monitored the news from around the world and knew how bad the situation was getting. Their food was beginning to run out, and they were already out of medicines. It was too dangerous to fish or raid other ships because there were zombies everywhere.
Even though they had prepared for months to survive in their submarine, they couldn’t survive forever without restocking their supplies. However, underwater zombies were everywhere, which made it very dangerous for them to even open their hatch to try to catch fish.
The solution finally came from one of the civilians on board—that of growing food on board. They had no soil, however, and planned to go onshore to get some. When they saw a deserted coastline, Xu offered to lead a party ashore. Chen, however, was hesitant, and ordered them to blow the foghorn. This immediately brought forth a horde of zombies. This happened to them every time they tried to go ashore. They finally decided to head back to the Pacific, even though that would bring them too close to China. They didn’t know if the navy was hunting them for desertion, but they needed supplies and longed to see other people.
The zombie infestation had gotten so bad that there was nowhere Xu’s crew could go, even to quickly get some soil.
Xu describes the island of Manihi, which had become a new nation of “refugees from all over the world uniting under the common flag of survival.” The lagoon “was crowded with hundreds of small, private boats,” and there were tents and huts on the island itself. Their submarine integrated itself in this island through trade. They supplied electricity from their reactor, which was very valuable. They immediately managed to procure sufficient food, medicine, and spare parts. They set up a greenhouse. Every night, zombies would try to make their way into the community and had to be fought off by the island’s security.
Manihi is a great example of global cooperation and enterprise. Its inhabitants managed to stay safe and comfortable by working together.
They stayed in Manihi for several months, which was a happy time for them. One night, when Xu was on patrol duty, he was distracted while listening to a radio broadcast about a natural disaster in China when one of the ships around the island suddenly exploded. Another Chinese submarine had fired a missile at it. Captain Chen realized that by staying there, they were putting the island’s civilians in danger, so they immediately cast off. When they were in deep water, their sonar caught the sounds of another Chinese submarine following them.
Xu and his crew were not only fighting the zombies but were also evading being destroyed by their home country, which seems pointless and cruel. As soon as they realized they were being followed and attacked, Captain Chen decided to immediately leave Manihi to spare the islanders any danger, showing that he was a kind and considerate leader.
Initially, Captain Chen refused to fight. They bottomed the boat to the deepest level it could go to, and the other submarine was unable to trace them. They then heard a puzzling sound from their sonar shacks, “a scraping noise, like scratching rats.” When they looked through their scope, they saw hundreds of zombies swarming on their hull, with more arriving every second. They knew the zombies couldn’t make it inside, but they had blocked the reactor’s intake, causing its temperature to rise. They had to move. As they rose up, the other submarine detected them. Both submarines fired at each other, and while the Admiral Zheng He managed to dodge the torpedo, the other submarine was hit. They hoped its crew would die painlessly.
Xu’s crew had a tough night. They successfully hid at the bottom of the ocean to avoid detection, but zombies covered their submarine, forcing them to rise. This shows how the number of zombies had gotten frighteningly out of control, with hundreds of them swarming the ocean floor even in a location where there was nothing for them to feed on. Captain Chen was reluctant to torpedo the other submarine, but was forced to in order to protect the life of his crew.
Xu explains to the narrator that Captain Chen suspected that his only son was the captain of that submarine, which was why he’d tried to avoid engaging with it. Chen had raised his son alone, and had taught him “to be a good sailor, to love and serve the state, to never question orders.” After this incident, Captain Chen was a broken man. Xu tells the narrator that the “monsters that rose from the dead, they are nothing compared to the ones we carry in our hearts.”
Xu reveals the reason why Captain Chen was so reluctant to fire on the other submarine—he was worried that his son was its captain. Despite this, he’d fired on it to protect his crew, once again proving himself to be an honorable person and leader.
They headed to the arctic ice, as far as they could from the outside world. One day, they detected another submarine headed their way and prepared for attack. There was a signal on their underwater telephone, and it turned out to be Captain Chen’s son, Commander Chen, who was the captain of the approaching submarine. He proclaimed his intentions were peaceful, and that he had come to escort them home. There was much rejoicing. He told them that Three Gorges dam had collapsed, killing thousands and leading to a civil war. Commander Chen had joined the rebellion to overthrow the government.
The Three Gorges Dam is the same dam mentioned in the first chapter of the novel. It was for this dam that the government had evacuated Old Dachang. The authorities had irresponsibly constructed this dam which had flooded the homes of many peasants, and clearly, had been sloppy about its upkeep, too, which had led to its collapse and many deaths. The people of China had had enough of this government and decided to rebel. Commander Chen had joined the rebellion—so he hadn’t been killed when they’d bombed the other Chinese submarine.
Captain Chen made the decision to fire a warhead on the politburo who were holed up in their bunkers and took full responsibility for the decision. After, Commander Chen informed them that the rebels were now in charge and were fighting the real enemy—the undead. They put their own version of the Redeker Plan in action. The next morning, Captain Chen died.
Chen decided that the army chiefs in their bunkers had to be eradicated in order for China to move forward. Knowing that his crew would be reluctant to fire on their own countrymen, Captain Chen takes full responsibility for this decision, in an attempt to make their lives easier. In this way, he is a contrast to Germany’s General Lang who committed suicide when he had to give difficult orders—Captain Chen, on the other hand, displays great strength of character. Despite this, Xu seems to still feel guilty about this action, which was what made him insist on his patriotism at the beginning of the interview.
Sydney, Australia. Terry Knox was the only Australian commander of the International Space Station. Now, he is frail and is in a luxurious hospital room. He tells the narrator that he and his crew had a great view of what was going on, and weren’t surprised at all when they were ordered to evacuate. Knox ordered all nonessential personnel to leave, and gave the others the option to leave, too. They knew that with the reentry spaceship gone, they’d be stuck in the Space Station. However, they also knew there was a lot at stake, and so chose to stay. The International Space Station had been built by 16 countries over 10 years, and another one could never be built.
In order to save the International Space Station, Knox and some astronauts decided to stay back on it, knowing fully well that they might be stuck on it forever. Their sacrifice was a huge one, and as a result, Knox seems to be very ill. Knox and the other astronauts believed that the International Space Station, which was a product of human intelligence and international cooperation, was important enough to merit such a sacrifice.
The other important job Knox’s crew did was to ensure that Earth’s satellite network was preserved. There were more than 3,000 satellites in orbit, and they knew saving all of them was impossible. Still, they wanted to at least focus on the ones that would be useful in the war effort. Their worry, then, wasn’t about coming back to Earth but about how they’d stay alive in the Space Station. They only had enough food for 27 months, and that included the test animals in their labs.
The crew contributed to the war effort by maintaining the satellites that would be useful during the war. The extent of their sacrifice is staggering—their primary worry was that they had to stay alive to help during the war, and were willing to resort to eating their lab animals in order to be useful to Earth.
Knox and his crew had advanced technologies and robots to help them with their work, and Knox says that he sometimes wished these things hadn’t been so efficient because they freed up some time for them. They ended up watching the destruction on earth at this time through the American military’s “spy birds,” and the images were so clear they “could show muscles tear and bones snap.” Knox hadn’t heard from his family or anyone else in Australia after the government had moved to Tasmania. He wanted to believe they were all right, but after watching everything that was going on, he was losing hope. Their own observation gear wasn’t as clear as the military’s spy birds, but they used it to spot the huge hordes of zombies moving across central Asia and the American plains.
While the astronauts were happier when they stayed busy, they became distraught when they had the time to witness the great scale of the destruction on Earth. Knox admits that he hadn’t heard from his own family, but still managed to put those anxieties aside and continued with his hard work in space. His point of view also highlights how bad the devastation of the war must have been. He mentions spotting hordes of zombies moving across central Asia—the size of the horde must have surely been immense for the astronauts to see them from space. The zombie crisis had reached epic proportions.
Knox says that despite all the gadgets they had, they were most disturbed when they saw the Earth through the naked eye. The many fires led to “massive ecological devastation” and they guessed that the amount of ash being generated was like that of a low-grade nuclear exchange. The Earth was unrecognizable from space, surrounded by a gray-brown shroud that thickened so much that eventually they couldn’t see the planet at all and came to rely on thermal or radar sensors.
They picked up the collapse of the Three Gorges Dam on these sensors and were appalled thinking of the people who couldn’t escape the rising waters because zombies were outside their doors. The president of China had called it an “unavoidable accident” which angered Knox, since it had been built on a fault line and the government had been warned about its imminent collapse. He says he wasn’t surprised at all that this was followed by a rebellion.
Knox is angry because he knows that the tragedy of the Three Gorges Dam could have been easily averted with better government policy. His point of view echoes that of Captain Chen, and further legitimizes the actions of the rebels who took over China.
Knox says that after the Chinese revolution started, the Chinese Space Station, the Yang Liwei, made contact. When Knox had contacted them earlier during the crisis, they had warned the International Space Station that they would use “deadly force” if they approached. He was surprised to hear the frightened, tired voice on the radio, and it got cut off after a few seconds.
The International Space Station had made overtures of friendship to the Chinese Space Station, but had been threatened in return. This was especially poor behavior at a time of global crisis and seems to be in line with pre-war Chinese policy. It seemed to isolate itself from the rest of the world and insist on its independence and superiority. The author implies that this was isolationist policy was a harmful one.
Knox went over to investigate and found that their escape pod was destroyed and an astronaut had been shot. He was also surprised to see that they had supplies that could last five years, but no scientific equipment. They had a lot of explosives on board that could destroy other orbiting platforms. Knox says that it seemed like China had sent these two astronauts into space only to exist. Also, it seemed to operate under the notion that “if we can’t have it, neither can anyone else,” which is why it had all the bombs on board. Knox guesses that the two astronauts had a fight relating to the rebellion in China. In any case, their supplies helped the crew on the International Space Station survive for three more years, until the war ended and their replacement crew arrived.
Knox is surprised to discover that the Chinese astronauts were doing nothing at all in space, other than just sitting there to mark their territory. They were also equipped with bombs to blow up other space vehicles. The previous Chinese government’s confrontational and competitive nature seems petty and justifies the rebellion. Their actions were cloaked in secrecy and bent on insisting on Chinese superiority and power—this attitude backfired in the way they handled the zombie crisis, and also seems to have failed with regard to their space station.
Knox and his crew were all exposed to deadly levels of cosmic radiation during their years aboard the Space Station. However, they don’t regret it at all. Despite being on his death bed, Knox is happy to think that he made a difference. The narrator notes that he died three days after the interview.
Knox and his crew endured so much to help humanity’s safety and survival, and even gave their lives for it. Though this seems tragic, Knox regrets nothing. Their selflessness makes them heroic.
Ancud, Isla Grande de Chiloe, Chile. Ernesto Olguin, a merchant ship’s master, talks about the U.N.’s Honolulu Conference where the attendees exchanged methods and tactics to fight the zombies. Olguin was there to help restart international trade by using Chile’s navy for support. Then, the American ambassador suddenly declared that America planned to go on the offensive against the undead and “begin retaking infested territory.” This caused immediate furor, with some attendees thinking that this was completely unnecessary and dangerous, and others agreeing that it was the inevitable next step.
At that point in the struggle, it seemed like things were getting slightly better—or at least the world had adapted to changes of the post-zombie world. The conference had many attendees and they were considering international trade again. This was probably why some nations thought that America’s idea to go on the offensive was unnecessary, since it would restart large-scale conflict.
Then, the American president calmly began speaking, saying that the living dead had turned humanity into “a shaken, broken species, driven to the edge of extinction and grateful for a tomorrow with perhaps a little less suffering than today.” He said it was time for them to “reclaim [the] planet” and “prove to [themselves] that [they] could do it, and leave that proof as this war’s greatest monument.” When they reconvened at dusk for a general vote on the president’s proposal, it was passed by a small majority. The world had decided to attack.
The American president was tired of living in fear, and made a strong case for reclaiming human freedom and dignity. His calm manner of speaking combined with his moving speech succeeded in convincing the other attendees. The other nations ended up agreeing that war would be worth it, and they all decided to go on a global offensive against the zombies. This action shows humanity’s aspiration and quest for dignity—the president’s refusal to continue to live in fear is admirable.