Zone One by Colson Whitehead



My third post of the week! Crazy, right?

I enjoyed The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead so much that when I saw this copy of Zone One at my library’s used bookstore, I grabbed it without hesitation. Turns out it’s about the zombie apocalypse! But not really. See, there was an event that infected a bunch of people and turned them into zombies – some are the chasing-you-to-eat-you kind, and some are the eats-people-but-are-just-standing-in-one-spot kind. The event seems to be over, and the military is beginning to put things back together – there are official camps, companies still in business producing whatever is needed, and jobs. Mark Spitz’s job is a sweeper – he works in a small group to come through buildings in NYC, one by one, to clear them of any straggler zombies. The book takes place over the course of three days, in which you learn more about Mark, and more about the sometimes mundane job of trying to put the world back together.

This isn’t an exciting story. It’s not going to keep you on the edge of your seat with any super intense zombie fighting. And it takes place basically after the world is overrun, so you skip all of that immediate apocalyptic action – that was fine by me. This is more a musing on how a person tries to cope with something so horrific, and just get on with it. Mark talks a bit about PASD – Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder – and how everyone has it, in some way or another. He thinksΒ a bit about how he’s survived so far in this collapsed world, and avoids thinking about whether a future is truly possible. This is a book about loss, and coping, and what it means to be human. I think that’s what a lot of zombie books are about when it comes down to it, but the author did it here in a way I haven’t seen before, and I kind of loved it. Β I usually don’t like this kind of introspective story, but something about it worked well for me.

Colson Whitehead is a really talented author. I highlighted a whole bunch of quotes while reading, which of course I’m going to share with you here:

“At their core, Last Night stories were all the same: They came, we died, I started running.”

“Who knew what went on in what remained of their minds, what mirages they made of the world. The marines shot them in the head, harmless or no.”

“Solve the Straggler, and you took a nibble out of the pure chaos the world had become. It was certainly less bleak than Name That Bloodstain!, another pastime. What do you see? – that kid’s cloud game gone wrong: Mount Rushmore, Texas, a space shuttle, a dream house, my mom’s grave.”

If you’re looking for a book that does a different angle on the zombie apocalypse genre, this is a great pick. It’s the little details he imagined, like PASD, that made it really interesting. And now I am even MORE excited to read more Colson Whitehead. Whether he’s writing about zombies, race, or elevators, this is an author whose books seem to stick in my brain and give me a lot of chew on.

Sarah Says: 4 stars



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