Wednesday, December 19, 2012

ZONE ONE by Colson Whitehead

Known throughout the novel as Mark Spitz, our protagonist has exemplified mediocrity throughout his life but has found that he's very good at staying alive amidst plague-induced zombies, known as skels (skeletons).  (The author takes his time explaining various vernacular terms, as well as the origin of Mark Spitz's assumed name.)  About 1% of those infected are not flesh eaters but instead are immobile stragglers—stopped in their tracks at their final living task or pleasure.  Mark Spitz and his fellow Omega team members are sweepers, shooting the heads off of stragglers and skels alike in Zone One—a cordoned off section of Manhattan.   The nation's capital has been relocated to Buffalo, but disheartening rumors filter down to the survivors, many of whom remain hopeful that some semblance of civilization will return, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Billed as a literary genre novel, this didn't work for me as literature or as a zombie thriller.  I found the plot, if there is one, difficult to follow, partly because Mark Spitz frequently reflects on past events that I could rarely distinguish from current events.  Possibly, too, my lack of familiarity with New York was a hindrance. If this is an homage to New York, it's a strange one, as the survival of humanity becomes increasingly in doubt as the novel progresses.  The book seemed a little cynical to me, depicting the hopeful as foolhardy, except in the case of Mark Spitz, who has found his calling in his struggle to beat the odds.

No comments: