From the author of the Man Booker longlisted The Underground Railroad
A pandemic has devastated the planet, sorting humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. The worst of the plague is now past, and Manhattan is slowly being resettled. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street – aka ‘Zone One’ and teams of civilian volunteers are clearing out the remaining infected ‘stragglers’.
Mark Spitz is a member of one of these taskforces and over three surreal days he undertakes the mundane mission of malfunctioning zombie removal, the rigours of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and attempting to come to terms with a fallen world.
But then things start to go terribly wrong…
While the revolution will not be televised, the apocalypse and what comes after, at least according to Whitehead (Sag Harbor), will have sponsors. It will even have an anthem, the brilliantly self-referential "Stop! Can You Hear the Eagle Roar?" (theme from Reconstruction). As we follow New Yorker and perpetual B-student "Mark Spitz" over three harrowing days, Whitehead dumpster dives genre tropes, using what he wants and leaving the rest to rot, turning what could have been another zombie-pocalypse gore-fest into the kind of smart, funny, pop culture filled tale that would make George Romero proud. While many stories in this genre are set in a devastated nowheresville, Whitehead plants his narrative firmly in New York City, penning a love letter to a Manhattan still recognizable after the event referred to only as "Last Night." Far from the solemn affair so often imagined, the apocalypse in Whitehead's hands is filled with the kind of dark humor one imagines actual survivors adopting in order to stave off madness. The author sometimes lets the set pieces he's so good at run long, but otherwise succeeds brilliantly with a fresh take on survival, grief, 9/11, AIDS, global warming, nuclear holocaust, Katrina, Abu Ghraib, Pol Pot's Year Zero, Missouri tornadoes, and the many other disasters both natural and not that keep a stranglehold on our fears and dreams.