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Zone Oneby Colson Whitehead
Synopses & Reviews
In this wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, a pandemic has devastated the planet. The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead.
Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuilding civilization under orders from the provisional government based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street — aka Zone One — but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety — the "malfunctioning" stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives.
Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams working in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitz's desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world.
And then things start to go wrong.
Both spine chilling and playfully cerebral, Zone One brilliantly subverts the genre's conventions and deconstructs the zombie myth for the twenty-first century.
"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. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The best book of the fall...provides the chilling, fleshy pleasures of zombies who lurch, pursue, hunger...while brilliantly reformulating an old-hat genre." Esquire
"[Whitehead] takes the genre of horror fiction, mines both its sense of humor and self-seriousness, and emerges with a brilliant allegory of New York living." New York Observer
"Highbrow novelist Colson Whitehead plunges into the unstoppable zombie genre in this subtle meditation on loss and love in a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, which has become the city that never dies." USA Today
"For-real literary — gory, lyrical, human, precise." GQ
"A satirist so playful that you often don't even feel his scalpel, Whitehead toys with the shards of contemporary culture with an infectious glee. Here he upends the tropes of the zombie story in the canyons of lower Manhattan. Horror has rarely been so unsettling, and never so grimly funny." The Daily Beast
"Whitehead's uncommonly assured style and his observational gifts make the book a pleasure to read." Newsweek
"Colson Whitehead's Zone One isn't your typical zombie novel; it trades fright-night fodder for empathy and chilling realism...yielding a haunting portrait of a lonely, desolate, and uncertain city." Elle
"This diabolically smart, covertly sensitive, ruminative, and witty zombie nightmare prods us to think about how we dehumanize others, how society tramples and consumes individuals, how flimsy our notions of law and order are, and how easily deluded and profoundly vulnerable humankind is. A deft, wily, and unnerving blend of pulse-elevating action and sniper-precise satire." Booklist, starred review
"[Whitehead] sinks his teeth into a popular format and emerges with a literary feast, producing his most compulsively readable work to date...Whitehead transforms the zombie novel into an allegory of contemporary Manhattan (and, by extension, America)." Kirkus (starred review)
"Zone One is not the work of a serious novelist slumming it with some genre-novel cash-in, but rather a lovely piece of writing...Whitehead picks at our nervousness about order's thin grip, suggesting just how flimsy the societal walls are that make possible our hopes and dreams and overly complicated coffee orders. Pretty scary." Entertainment Weekly
"What's most surprising about Zone One is how subtly [Whitehead] reanimates those old body parts for a post-9/11 world. Although the ambling, rotting hordes are still here, this is a night of the living dead lit by melancholy and nostalgia rather than violence and terror. Horror fans hungry for new thrills may find too little meat on these bones...but now that zombies have infected everyone from Jane Austen to the above-average folks at Lake Wobegon, perhaps quieter reflection is in order....Readers who wouldn't ordinarily creep into a novel festooned with putrid flesh might be lured by this certifiably hip writer who can spin gore into macabre poetry." Ron Charles, The Washington Post
About the Author
Colson Whitehead is the author of the national best seller Sag Harbor and the novels The Intui tionist, John Henry Days, and Apex Hides the Hurt, as well as The Colossus of New York, a collection of essays. A recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and a MacArthur Fellowship, he lives in New York City.
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