From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys
A pandemic has devastated the planet, sorting humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. After the worst of the plague is over, armed forces stationed in Chinatown’s Fort Wonton have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One. Mark Spitz is a member of one of the three-person civilian sweeper units tasked with clearing lower Manhattan of the remaining feral zombies. Zone One unfolds over three surreal days in which Spitz is occupied with the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder (PASD), and the impossible task of coming to terms with a fallen world. And then things start to go terribly wrong…
At once a chilling horror story and a literary novel by a contemporary master, Zone One is a dazzling portrait of modern civilization in all its wretched, shambling glory.
Look for Colson Whitehead’s bestselling new novel, Harlem Shuffle!
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.
Even for a post-apocalyptic tale I found this to be pretty miserable. It does not paint a positive picture of this potential future but it seems more disgusted by the way we live now.
None of that holds me back from saying I enjoyed the book... though "enjoy" tastes like the ash of incinerated undead on the tongue.
This book is all minutiae & banality until its grandiose conclusion. I really appreciate not feeling like I was being sold the TV or film pitch.
If you are a fan of genre or shoe gaze protagonist then I recommend this book.
Whitehead is an excellent writer and story teller. Some might call this a literary zombie tale. It is so much more. Beautifully written and constructed. It brought to my mind a saying of Stephen king’s...it is not the end of the book that’s important, but the journey to get there. Some complain about the dense writing style and intricate sentence structure. I’ll admit that I had to slow down my reading speed to truly comprehend the beauty in the prose. He coveys so much story with an economy of word choice and writing style. This man can write!
I loved "The Underground Railroad" so I thought I'd give "Zone One" a try. It is a slow read and somewhat tedious. Not a lot of zombie action and it's hard to develop any feelings for the main character because there is no depth to him.