BookBrowse Reviews Zone One by Colson Whitehead

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

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A highly literary, humorous, and richly sensuous novel that reflects on the irony of fate in post-apocalyptic Manhattan

As a child, "Mark Spitz" (the ironic nickname of the otherwise unnamed main character who can't swim) dreamed of living in Manhattan, captivated by the bright lights and soaring buildings of his family's visits to his Uncle Lloyd. Ultimately, he does make it to New York City but not in the way he imagined he would. Instead of a modern luxury apartment, his home is "Fort Wonton" in former Chinatown; rather than a career as a lawyer, his profession involves killing undead stragglers left after a first pass by the military. This is not the stuff of childhood dreams. It's nightmarish. And Spitz's childhood love of monster movies adds yet another layer of irony to his fate as a zombie hunter.

Colson Whitehead's post-apocalyptic, dystopian zombie novel is a complex mix of mischievous irony and grotesque imagery, sprinkled with violence, alternating hope and desperation. It isn't a work easily defined by any one genre. On the surface it's a tale of survival in a world taken over by zombies that eat and infect those who stumble across their paths versus those who battle to take back the world.

Delving more deeply, it becomes apparent Whitehead takes particular pleasure in playing with his readers. This masterful, award-winning writer tells jokes with such a straight face it's disarming. His humor is dry, so understated it takes the reader aback wondering what his intention really is. The answer? He's flexing an extremely well developed writing muscle, pulling off a very difficult, advanced style, producing a multi-layered novel of slyly deceptive depth.

Ludicrous details like a former porn star becoming the head of what's left of Italy, distributing glamour girl shots of herself to raise morale like some post-apocalyptic Rita Hayworth, showcase the author's wry wit. During the initial horror and pandemonium - the government claiming the whole thing was an isolated terror attack - commuters become alarmed, not when police cars surround their train, but when they start losing internet connectivity. No wonder the hopeful term for eventually restarting the world is referred to as a "reboot."

Whitehead is in his element poking fun at modern life, particularly adept at getting in subtle digs without crossing the line into parody or overt sarcasm. But it isn't all social satire. The story is also poignant, and there are occasional moments of tenderness. Each survivor carries a "Last Night" story, a memory of the final moments of blessed ignorance before the world fell apart and the extent of the horror became clear. As they share their stories, so does Whitehead expand the depth of character development; he compares and contrasts the experiences of those from different walks of life, thrown together by universal pandemic.

The result is a cross-section of Americans battling a cross-section of the undead: the half-crazed, uninfected are barricaded in bunkers of their own making, and they shoot at anyone who comes near - friendly or not; the zombie "skels," are actively attacking and spreading the disease; and the horribly sad, doomed, and soulless infected, go through their last motions over and over, unaware they're even dead.

Zone One may not be Whitehead's finest novel, but it's a satisfying, riveting read. The beautifully long, descriptive sentences are richly sensuous, and the languid plot is driven by characters rendered life-like through the author's choice of third-person omniscient narration. Those in love with the written word will most appreciate Whitehead's magic. Lovers of zombie genre novels may find it less appealing. It's a story to be savored slowly, melting on the tongue like fine chocolate. While not a masterpiece, Zone One is a distinct cut above the average and an impressively multi-layered novel that is well deserving of praise.

Reviewed by Lisa Guidarini

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



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. 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!

Beyond the Book:
  Zombies in Literature

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Future Home of the Living God
    Future Home of the Living God
    by Louise Erdrich
    Louise Erdrich began Future Home of the Living God in 2002, set it aside, and picked it up again in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Last Mrs. Parrish
    The Last Mrs. Parrish
    by Liv Constantine
    Amber has lived in poverty all her life, and she has had enough. Of course, wishing to have money ...
  • Book Jacket: Never Coming Back
    Never Coming Back
    by Alison McGhee
    18 out of 23 reviewers gave Alison McGhee's Never Coming Back a rating of 4 or 5, with an average ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss

A debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Strangers in Budapest
    by Jessica Keener

    Strong characters and a riveting plot combine in this psychological thriller set in Budapest.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Children are not the people of tomorrow, but people today.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E Dog H I D

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.