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Zone One: A Novel [Hardcover]

Colson Whitehead
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 18 2011
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.

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Review

PRAISE FOR ZONE ONE:
 
"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

“If you’re going to break down and read a zombie novel, make it this one.”
--The Wall Street Journal

[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

"A zombie story with brains...Readers who wouldn't ordinarily creep into a novel festooned with putrid flesh might be lured by this certifiably hip writer who can spine gore into macabre poetry...Everything comes to life in this perfectly paced, horrific, 40-page finale shot through with grim comedy and desolate wisdom about the modern age in all its poisonous, contaminating rage. It's a remarkable episode, but elevated by the power of Whitehead's prose to the level of those other ash-covered nightmares imagined by T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Cormac MacCarthy.
--Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Whitehead writes with a sharp, descriptive power, reeling off one pithy observation after the next in a way that invests this post-apocalyptic world with a surprisingly tactile presence.”
--The Associated Press
 
“Whitehead, himself a New Yorker, writes about Spitz’s travails in the brooding, vertical metropolis with a dark poetry, which makes this harrowing tale not just a juicy experiment in genre fiction but a brilliantly disguised meditation on a “flatlined culture” in need of its own rejuvenating psychic jolt.”
--The Seattle Times

"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

"Whitehead writes with economy, texture and punch. He has a talent for sardonic aphorism and an ear for phonetic intrigue...[Zone One] is a cool, thoughtful and, for all its ludic violence, strangely tender novel, a celebration of modernity and a pre-emptive wake for its demise."
--Glen Duncan, for The New York Times Book Review

“As much as Whitehead was inspired by and occasionally references the ‘70s disaster movies that share DNA with Zone One, it’s his remarkable turns of phrase that lift the story above the gory rublle of a midday matinee. Whether charged with bleak sadness or bone-dry humor, sentences worth savoring pile up faster than the body count.”
--Los Angeles Times
 
Zone One takes in all the classic tropes of the zombie novel and blends them to create a novel both melancholy and feverishly exciting, one that is as much about our past and our present as any possible future.”
--Salon.com
 
“Whitehead writes in cinematic images, with a lucid command of language, a knack for comic invention and a blithe freedom.”
--The Kansas City Star
 
Zone One is an off-kilter love letter to a post-apocalypse Manhattan. It’s loaded with gallows survivor humor and absolutely stunning descriptions.”
--The Times-Picayune


“Cinematic in scope and nimble in its use of hard-core gore, [Zone One] is an absorbing read, crammed with thoughtful snapshots of the world the survivors have left behind…a sharp commentary on the rat race of contemporary life.”
--Houston Chronicle

"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

“A great read that’s snarky, scary, and profound.”--Parade

"Zone One is a smart, strange, engrossing novel about the end of metaphors and the way that, as Mark Spitz knows all to well, no barrier can hold forever against the armies of death."
--NPR.org

“The kind of smart, funny, pop culture-filled tale that would make George Romero proud…[Whitehead] 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.”
-- Publishers Weekly, starred review

"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] achieves a kind of miracle of tone. A fragile hope permeates these pages, one so painful and tender, it's heartbreaking...Colson Whitehead is in fresh, appealing and often very fine voice."
--The Guardian

"The stylistic exuberance on display would be overwhelming if it weren't so well controlled, shifting weightlessly from M*A*S*H-style battle narrative to a melancholic Blade Runner-like vision of Urban devastation...The smallest of details is marked by originality of language."
--The New Statesman

"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

“Colson Whitehead is quickly becoming one of the country’s most exciting young writers.”
--Rachel Syme for Monkey See, NPR.org



PRAISE FOR COLSON WHITEHEAD:

“[Whitehead’s] writing does what writing should do; it refreshes our sense of the world.”
John Updike, The New Yorker
 
“Colson Whitehead…[is] a large and vibrant talent…This is the voice of a writer who is watching America carefully.”
The New York Observer
 
“Whitehead is making a strong case for a new name of his own: that of the best of the new generation of American novelists.”
Boston Globe
 
“No novelist writing today is more engaging and entertaining when it comes to questions of race, class, and commercial culture than Colson Whitehead.”
USA Today
 
 “Whitehead has a David Foster Wallace-esque knack for punctuating meticulously figurative constructions with deadpan slacker wit….You can’t help but admire Whitehead’s writerly gifts.”
The Los Angeles Times
 
“Whitehead can write sentences like nobody’s business.”
Bloomberg

“Whitehead’s engaged eyes and precise prose show us the small details we overlook and the large ones we fail to absorb.”
The Miami Herald

“[Whitehead] writes wonderfully, commanding a lush, poetic, mellifluous prose instrument.”
The Nation
 
“Whitehead [is] one of the city’s and country’s finest young writers.”
Chicago Tribune
 
“Ebullient, supremely confident.”
San Diego Union Tribune
 
“A scientist of metropolitan encounters, he surveys places where the masses collide, knitting together hundreds of observations and calculations that usually remain unspoken.”
The Village Voice

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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff! Fascinating, deep and dark. July 5 2012
By lrover
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Based around the remaining civilization's attempts to clear Manhattan of zombies as a first step to reclaiming New York City. The storyline is well thought out, the characters are interesting and the mental side of the situation is explored at perfect length. I just wish the ending could have been different.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
It must be the overwhelming volume of extremely poor apocalyptic zombie novels that are to blame for the shock one experiences when you find one of real quality. Whitehead is an accomplished author who turns his talents to the genre arguably with similar impact as McCarthy had with The Road. The story has us join this shocking new world more than a year after the outbreak. The main character, Mark Spitz (a name given during apocalyptic events), once worked in "Customer Relationship Management, New Media Department, of a coffee multinational" which is one small example of Whitehead's humour and jaded outlook of current society.

The tale is centred during reconstruction efforts in Manhattan when the threat is still real but there is an organized effort to return to the way things used to be. It employs flashbacks of Spitz's previous life, his and other survivor's "Last Night" stories, and vignettes of survival. But what Whitehead does extremely well is he challenges the boring repetition of conventional zombie fiction often framed in what he calls "that interregnum cliche". At various points throughout the book he destroys the recurring myths that have been advanced in so many of these books, such as:

- "The new micro-societies inevitably imploded, on the island getaways, in reclaimed prisons, at the mountain top ski lodge accessible only by sabotaged funicular, in the underground survivalist hideouts finally summoned to utility.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By John Kwok TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
One of the better American writers of my generation is Colson Whitehead, whose "The Intuitionist" was a fine literary debut, with subsequent excellence demonstrated in "John Henry Days" and "Sag Harbor". While I have the utmost admiration for Whitehead's literary craft, that craft stumbles precipitously in his latest novel, "Zone One", a highbrow literary attempt in horror and science fiction that is itself, a literary zombie; one which honors the standard tropes seen in these genres, but does so in a most superficial way, lacking any semblance of empathy for any of the main characters. Yet Whitehead is not alone in doing this, since Margaret Atwood has embarked upon a similar dismal course in her recent bioengineered ecological dystopian science fiction. Among our notable highbrow literary scribes, only Rick Moody has demonstrated a genuine, quite substantial, understanding and appreciation of science fiction as a genre with ample potential as high literary art, via great short fiction like "The Albertine Notes" and the novel "The Four Fingers of Death", though others, such as Jonathan Lethem ("Gun, with Occasional Music", "Girl in Landscape") and Gary Shteyngart ("Super Sad True Love Story"), have demonstrated similar affinity in their respective works.

Anyone who writes a novel of dystopian zombie science fiction will inevitably find their work compared with Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend", widely acclaimed as one of the finest vampire/zombie genre fiction novels ever published, perhaps second only to Bram Stoker's "Dracula".
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A smart snapshot of life in the zombie age Jan. 27 2012
By Detour
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Colson Whitehead has added another fine tale to the zombie genre. Taking place over the course of three days, in New York City, some time after the initial zombie outbreak. The novel is not a chronicle of the zombie chapter of human history, but rather a snapshot in the life of one individual struggling to survive in that time of upheaval.

Solid story, great insight into the human condition and some solid scares.

If you are a zombie fan, looking for something a little different, then this could be the read for you.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little left to be desired. Nov. 30 2011
Format:Hardcover
Though the book was a fun ride, I found myself wanting more. I understand that there was a minimalist approach to the themes of this book - both in the past and the present - to let the reader imagine the scenarios on a personal basis, but I found myself wanting more action and a more complete conclusion; but I do understand the ending, as there really is no ending in an 'End of the World' scenario.

I did enjoy the ties made to modern consumerism and trends in North America throughout the book, a very good reflection of soicety.

I would recommend the book, though it would not be number one on my list.
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