08 December 2011
Book Banter -- Zone One
Author: Colson Whitehead
Length: ~250 pages
Genre: literary/zombie apocalypse
Plot Basics: Much of the world's population is dead in a zombie apocalypse and the survivors are engaged in the grisly task of taking back civilization. One survivor -- named Mark Spitz after the Olympic swimmer -- is part of one of the teams clearing Zone One, an eerily empty New York City. As Mark Spitz and his team look for skels, the hardier zombies not cleared out in the initial sweep of the city, his story ranges back to his childhood, his time spent running for the zombies in the initial outbreak and his wrestling with PASD (Post-apocalyptics stress disorder).
Banter Points: I was intrigued by the idea of a literary zombie novel, and that's exactly what this book is. Zone One still delivers the guts and gunfire you would expect in a zombie-pocalypse novel, but with the deft and dashing prose of a literary novel. Whitehead ranges through the books true themes of loneliness and loss and mediocrity while forcing his protagonist into a pop culture setting.
Bummer Points: This book is wordy. It's not all that long, but you can't just read the sentences to understand what's going on. You have to read the sentences and digest them and chew on the symbolism and the narrative. In places, it feels like the action completely dies down and there's little propelling the reader forward (except, in my case, the OCD need to finish just about every book I start). There were also some weird real life things about loss going on for me while I read, making the book harder.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Only serious readers and serious zombies fans need apply themselves to this book. It really is a great read, but for the average zombie fan, this book isn't accessible. Whether or not it shows up in my top ten for the year is still undecided.