Monday, October 31, 2011

Zone One, by Colson Whitehead

Amazing take on a classic zombie novel. So many "literary" authors are venturing into post-apocalyptic fiction that its hard to keep them all straight, but this one really stood out. Mark Spitz (the name is a joke you don't get til you're more than halfway through the book) has been, in his own mind, mediocre his entire life, but it turns out he has a hell of a survival instinct. In the blurred days since Last Night, he has managed to keep away from and survive enough skels (the dead) to make it to being a part of a clearing crew, a 3 person team working on buildings under 20 stories in Zone One, lower Manhattan.
In the choas of sweeping the city for stragglers, Mark reflects on what has been lost, and what may be to come, and human nature gets painted in some pretty ugly terms, but parts of the novel are lyrical in mourning what will pass, the chain restaurants, the easy commerce, the abundance of America. I think the resurgence of post-apocalyptic fiction is telling, and have written more about that elsewhere, but this is one of the finest examples I have read. Justin Cronin's The Passage was a straight-up Stephen King-ish horror vampire epic, Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story kind of skipped the apocalypse and led us right to moral ruin, but this book showed the steps in between. Wonderfully done.

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