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Zone One: A Novel Hardcover – Oct 18 2011

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (Oct. 18 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385528078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385528078
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 2.7 x 24.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #293,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"THE BEST BOOK OF THE FALL...provides the chilling, fleshy pleasures of zombies who lurch, pursue, hunger...while brilliantly reformulating an old-hat genre."

“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."

"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."

"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.”
“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."

“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."

“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,


“[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.”

“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

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa407da2c) out of 5 stars 414 reviews
157 of 175 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3ec5204) out of 5 stars Coulda' been a contenda... Oct. 28 2011
By Robert Johnson - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Did I like this book? Yes, actually. Instead of splatter, gore and terror, the author chose to think out (which seems to trouble some reviewers no end) what it would be like to try to live within a collapsed society, with a collapsed psyche and collapsed dreams. Instead of inventing heroic and invincible characters to slash and crash their way through hopeless situations, Whitehead's characters, each one flawed and vulnerable, bumble and stumble their way to another day of survival, which is how most real human beings are, after all. The idea of this zombie book was not to be like the other ones, but to work out daily life in which all norms have been shattered, and in which the common and regular are - then as now - the pawns of the great and mighty.

That said, Whitehead is this book's worst enemy. He takes every opportunity to show off his inventiveness, preen his considerable literary plumage and display his intimate acquaintance with the thesaurus. In playing with the narrative thread and timeline, sometimes just because he can, he adds unnecessary stress to what is not a terribly sturdy plot in the first place. Perhaps as he matures, he will write to make the story the thing instead of himself. If this book had 35% less exhibitionism and 30% more plot, it could have been a real showpiece. Instead, it is a pleasant, if sometimes tedious diversion written by an obviously talented, but all-too-self-indulgent author.
128 of 152 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3ec90d8) out of 5 stars a tedious but amusing read Sept. 10 2011
By Jordan Michel - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
If like me you were excited to hear that a well-respected, intellectual author has ventured into the apocalypse genre, I should warn you, Zone One is not The Road (Oprah's Book Club). The Road had characters and a relationship that you could connect to and an engaging plot. Zone One has none of that. It has a main character whose most notable feature is his mediocrity, a few moments of mild suspense, and an unbearably tedious pace.

It seems that the reviews for this book are distinctly divided. Fans of the zombie/apocalypse genre have offered some pretty scathing reviews and low ratings. Fans of "literary fiction" are giving it a bit more credit. I'm generally more aligned with the literary fiction readers, but I think the zombie fans have some legitimate criticisms.

The main criticism against this book seems to be the lack of plot, and I can't disagree. A lot of the book is mildly amusing; it's just not very compelling. Even the (rare) engaging passages are frequently interrupted by reflections about the past, which significantly slow the pace. It took me about three time as long as it should have to finish the book, because I literally fell asleep within a few pages nearly every time I picked it up.

Although there's little plot, the book's main character is somewhat interesting. He's survived a long time since the "Last Night." His survival, though, is not due to his courage, strength, or cleverness. He's completely average with the exception of his cockroach-like survival instinct. Although readers are unlikely to fall in love with Mark Spitz, he provides an amusing lens for this story.
33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3ec9978) out of 5 stars Wow, this was horrible. May 21 2012
By jreed - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have only skipped through a book a few times because it was so irritating and horrible. I will not exaggerate because I don't have to for it too seem as bad as it is. Here are the issues:

1. It feels like he challenged himself to use every big word in the English every chapter. I don't mind big words and I fully understand them. However, I don't need an author to use a minimum of 1 in every sentence. We know you are smart. You don't have to prove it in ever other word.

2. You don't have to describe everything he sees, smells, touches, or imagines. I was one description away from freaking out and that was on page 4.

3. This is a Zombie book in the way Harry Potter is a movie about kids at school. Yea, it is in there, but it is an afterthought to the real purpose of the book......which seems to be to find out how many words he can use to actually say nothing. Example?

"When they stepped into the lawyers' suite they stumbled into a sophisticated grotto, as if the floor has been dealt into the building from some more upscale deck. In the waiting room, their helmet lights roved over the perplexing gemoetric forms in the carpet that they sullied with their combat boots, the broad panels of dark zebra wood covering the walls with elegant surety, and the low, sleek furniture that promised bruises yet, when tested, compressed one's body according to newly discovered princliples of somatic harmony."

Um.............What? You are talking about looking for zombies in a building and this is your description? If "Somatic harmony" is an exciting phrase for your zombie movies, by all means, grap this book because I don't remember hearing that phrase in The Walking Dead!
97 of 123 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3ec9678) out of 5 stars Whitehead's Best Book Since "The Intuitionist" Aug. 27 2011
By A. Ross - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Where to begin? I suppose I should start by saying that while I come from that tribe of geeks that love all things zombie-related (films, comics, videogames, boardgames, etc.), I ran out of enthusiasm for the genre a few years ago. The template for the zombie story is just too confining, there's not that much new or different to be done with it. However, despite this weariness for the genre, I immediately picked this up because it was a Colson Whitehead book. He's one of the few authors whom I will actually rush out to buy (others include Michael Chabon, Nick Hornby, and George Pelecanos, just to name a few -- Jonathan Lethem used to be on the list, but no longer). That said, my experience with his books has been a slow slide of diminishing returns: I loved (and still love) his debut The Intuitionist, his second book (John Henry Days) is flawed but still fully engaging, the third book (Apex Hides the Hurt) felt like a slight trifle, and his most recent book (Sag Harbor) was just too personal for me to connect with. However, this is an excellent book in which Whitehead combines his controlled freestyling prose with the unforgiving, bleak tone of Cormac McCarthy's The Road or No Country for Old Men, in order to document the downfall of his beloved Manhattan, and indeed, the American empire. Many people (including the publicist who wrote the back cover copy) seem to be mistakenly using the word "satire" to describe the book -- it's not a satire, it's a scathing, raging critique of modern America.

Don't pick this up expecting a literary "take" on the zombie action thriller, a few scenes aside, there isn't much action. The bulk of the book takes place inside the protagonist's head, as he trudges around a mostly-safe part of Manhattan as part of a three-person militia unit "sweeping" the blocks for stray zombies the Marines missed when they secured this part of the island. As they clear Manhattan for the impending resettlement, he mentally documents the pre-"Last Night" world and its ridiculous concerns, ranging from consumer items to real estate to sitcoms, and so on. There are plenty of flashbacks to his year on the run in the wilderness, and we get plenty of stories from other characters about where they were when it all came crashing down. These provide the necessary "what would I do" moments which are integral to the zombie genre (and many other horror genres for that matter), but make no mistake, this book is only headed to one place. There's only three ways a zombie story can end, good, bad, or setup for the sequel, and I'm not spoiling anything by telling you that Whitehead is not interested in building any suspense, because every so often he'll slip in a direct statement that tells you it's not going to end well. The book is told from the perspective of a Sunday, and the "action" mainly unfolds over the previous two days, with lots of flashbacks to earlier times. I suppose this flashback within a flashback chronology might be confusing to some people, but I never had a problem with it.

It's nothing new to use genre forms to tell allegorical tales, and American materialism has been skewered by the zombie-maestro himself, George Romero, in Dawn of the Dead. But the sheer skill at work here makes this well worth reading, whether you're a zombie enthusiast, a fan of Whitehead's, or just a lover of interesting fiction.
30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3ec9d2c) out of 5 stars Many Words Do Not a Story Make April 26 2012
By D. Julian - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
I think Whitehead suffers from a problem which is all too common among those who hold their own intellect in the highest regard. He's boring, and he doesn't know it. He holds forth like an armchair philosopher at a dinner party while his audience is secretly hoping for another drink.

He also apparently suffers from a complete lack of knowledge of humanity. Perhaps this is an unfortunate philosophical commitment on Whitehead's part. His characters are fixed, static, cesspools--they do not change; they do not learn; they do not grow. Perhaps he thinks this is the way in which all people really operate. If so, I feel badly for him.

Worse yet--a post-apocalyptic tale involving zombies (and involving even zombies that do not move or threaten harm) offers a wide range of philosophical and ethical issues with which to grapple. Somehow, the author misses most of these and chooses to focus on one issue--that the protagonist is mediocre and therefore somehow apt for the situation at hand. It's infuriating and ultimately demoralizing. John Gardner put it best: "Fiddling with the hairs on an elephant's nose is indecent when the elephant happens to be standing on the baby."

I really wanted to like Zone One. I forced myself through to the end in the hopes that at some point it would move beyond mere character sketch and into the realm of story. It never did. This likely results from what I just mentioned--his characters never learn, change, or grow. If they did, this sketch would move towards story.

In Zone One, Whitehead demonstrated that he can obviously write, but he cannot tell a story.