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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Andy Ross

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you survived a zombie-filled apocalypse? What would your role be in the rebuilding of the human race? Zone One by Colson Whitehead tells the story of a man known as Mark Spitz, who survived the initial onslaught of the living dead. We meet Mark Spitz as he is working with his team to take down the remaining “skels”, referred to as stragglers. Sweeper teams roam the walled-in Manhattan, the titular Zone One, clearing out the small groups of living dead that remain in the city. Most of the skels sweeper teams encounter aren’t the violent, brain devouring zombies that most people immediately think of at the mention of the word. The stragglers are frequently stuck in a frozen state, damned to forever look out a window, make copies at the copy machine or stare blankly at the powerless computer monitor.

The rebuilding of civilization has already begun, and the “American Phoenix” hopes to rise from the ashes of the plague. Under government orders and with gear provided by corporate sponsors, Mark Spitz and his comrades clear high-rises, bodegas and basements all while wondering what the future will hold for the human race. The story is told in the present and fills-in the back stories of how everyone came to be where they are using flashbacks. As the civilian volunteers and soldiers work together to rebuild we learn about what happened to them on “Last Night” and their journey that brought them to the Zone.

Zone One is a great book if you love stories with zombies or near-future apocalypse settings. The book would also make a good introduction to zombie fiction for people who aren’t familiar with the genre. I did feel that the book was a little slow in the beginning, but the second half of the book makes the effort spent to get there entirely worth it. Whitehead’s witty spin on the zombie apocalypse is an enjoyable read and is highly recommended.

I would like to thank Harvill Secker for providing the review copy of this novel.

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