Zombies in Literature: Background information when reading Zone One

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Zone One

A Novel

by Colson Whitehead

Zone One by Colson Whitehead X
Zone One by Colson Whitehead
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2011, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2012, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Guidarini

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Zombies in Literature

Print Review

They're the undead dreaded monsters that feast on the brains of the living. But what exactly is the origin of the zombie? No one knows for sure - perhaps it's the Haitian belief that animals can be brought back to life via witchcraft; or maybe it's the jiang shi (reanimated dead body) in Chinese folklore that lives off others' qi or life forces; or what about the evil Dybbuk in Jewish fables that consumes the spirits of lost souls?

The Magic Island Though a definitive mythology of the origin of zombies isn't entirely clear, these ghastly ghouls - in some form or variation - have been a part of the Western literary tradition for centuries. Mary Shelley's 1818 Frankenstein introduced the idea of harvesting body parts of the dead, and in H.P. Lovecraft's Herbert West: Re-animator (1921), a doctor concocts a potion that revives corpses. According to an article in Time magazine in 1940, the word "zombi" - which probably comes from the Kongo word Nzambi, the name of an African voodoo snake-deity - didn't crop up in American literature until W.B. Seabrook's book The Magic Island, in 1929. (Coincidently, this is the same book that inspired Victor Halpern's 1932 horror film, White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi.)

I am Legend In 1954 - just nine years after the detonation of two atomic bombs in Japan - Richard Matheson penned I Am Legend, a novel that helped introduce themes of post-apocalyptic strife to traditional zombie literature. The novel was adapted to film with The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Omega Man (1971), and I am Legend (2007), and was part of the inspiration behind George A. Romero's 1968 cult classic, Night of the Living Dead.

] Cell Over the decades, as technology evolved, zombie literature began to reflect more modern times; authors started to incorporate the advancements of the 21st century into their stories. For example, master horror novelist Stephen King's Cell (2006), supposes cellular technology to be the germ that infects innocents, transforming them into the living dead.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Then in 2009, a surprising extension of the genre came along - the "mash up." Launched by the astonishing popularity of Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, mash up novels usually include the full text of an original classic novel, and are supplemented by the author's contributed zombie storyline. A whole slew of these books now exist, spinning off classics by iconic authors such as Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, and Louisa May Alcott, delighting some readers while completely mystifying others.

Where zombie literature originated, no one may ever know for certain, but its popularity has only grown in this century. How long will it continue to capture readers' imaginations? Time will tell - but it doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.

For more information about other creepy creatures, read BookBrowse's "Beyond the Book" sidebars entitled Vampires: Monsters or Romeos? and The Symbology of Werewolves.

Article by Lisa Guidarini

This article was originally published in October 2011, and has been updated for the July 2012 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...
  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...
  • Book Jacket: Circe
    Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Towards the end of Madeline Miller's novel Circe, the titular nymph is questioned by her son ...
  • Book Jacket: All the Names They Used for God
    All the Names They Used for God
    by Anjali Sachdeva
    Pre-publication press has already compared Anjali Sachdeva to Kelly Link and other genre-blending ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Other People's Houses
    by Abbi Waxman

    A hilarious and poignant novel about four families and the affair that changes everything.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.