The Zero
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The Zero

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  1,422 ratings  ·  252 reviews
The Zero is a groundbreaking novel, a darkly comic snapshot of our times that is already being compared to the works of Franz Kafka and Joseph Heller.

From its opening pages—when hero cop Brian Remy wakes up to find he's shot himself in the head—novelist Jess Walter takes us on a harrowing tour of a city and a country shuddering through the aftershocks of a devastating terr...more
ebook, 368 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2006)
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I can't imagine there being anyone who doesn't remember where they were, what they were doing, who they were with, when they first became aware that the World Trade Centre had been struck by passenger jets being used as fuel-engorged missiles. I had emerged from my bedroom with one of those scotch hangovers that leave you functioning but sandpapery around the edges and stood there, rubbing my eyes and staring dumbly at a television displaying an eerily quiet shot of the southern tip of Manhattan...more
Sara Habein
Not in recent memory have I read a book so enthralling, heartbreaking and with such deadpan humor. In what he calls his "9/12" novel, Jess Walter’s The Zero follows "hero cop" Brian Remy, who is trying to make sense of the world while also suffering from memory lapses. His journey is at once bewildering and mournful, and though I’m not one to go on about perfect first lines, Walter had me at the outset:

They burst into the sky, every bird in creation, angry and agitated, awakened by the same prim
Many people have been turned off by my description of this book when I recommend it to them. If you want to read a sort of darkly comic noir-ish thriller about a cop who was at Ground Zero and who now may or may not be working for a covert government agency but can't tell because he has all these strange memory gaps, then you will like this book.
Dec 03, 2009 Jason rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: america
my review: this book kicked ass.

my top five interesting bits learned from having jess walter come to my form & theory class to discuss "the zero":

1. nicole, the real estate boss, speaks in "bush-ism"s, and the bits you see in the book represent about a 70% reduction in those phrases from what earlier drafts contained

2. wasabi marinated duck = WMD, and zingers = "yellow cake" = enriched plutonium

3. some things in this book sprang from jess's experience as a ghost writer for bernard kerik, who...more
Jenny Shank
'Zero' sum game
9/11 satire is one of year's best novels

By Jenny Shank, For the Camera
Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Zero by Jess Walter. Regan, 336 pp. $25.95.

This year saw the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the publication of several novels addressing them. Jay McInerney's "The Good Life" took a love-amid-the-ruins approach with its story of an adulterous affair between two volunteers at a Ground Zero soup kitchen. Wendy Wasserstein's posthumous...more
This is not a bad book. It participates in two genres: it is a hard-boiled crime novel and a kind of absurdist satire in the style of what I imagine Catch-22 reads like (although I've never read it) or how I imagine some people prefer to read Kafka's novels. The novel uses these two genres to tell a story about 9/11. The hero is a detective who suffers from a degenerative eye condition and from profound short-term memory loss (so that the focalized narrative always breaks off mid-scene and resum...more
This may be perverse, but part of the appeal of this book was in trying to figure out what makes it worthwhile despite seeming to be so ungrounded. As a benchmark for contrast, Walter’s award winner from a few years before, Citizen Vince, was unambiguously good —- and good in a straightforward way. It had a fully fleshed out, likable main character, a colorful supporting cast, and a plot that strode on with cocky assurance. The Zero did not. Brian Remy, in the lead role, was a NY cop in the afte...more
Jul 01, 2014 Alan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Survivor types
Recommended to Alan by: Bronwen; Naomi
Guterak looked over. "Hey, you got your hair cut."
"Yeah." Remy put the cap back on.
"What made you do that?"
"I shot myself in the head last night."
"Well." Paul drove quietly for a moment, staring straight ahead. "It looks good."

This is, as it says right there on the back cover, "a novel of September 12th." That on its own should be fair warning. Jess Walter does not shy away from disturbing ground in his 2006 novel The Zero—and so, perforce, neither will this review. Infectiously fragmented;...more
This book is just good enough to make people think it's great because it contains so many gaps and twists and many and occasionally clever references to the events of 9/11 and its immediate aftermath to make you feel like there MUST be something IMPORTANT written on its pages, even though you can't figure out exactly what it is. Perhaps it is in the same genre as books by Kafka and Heller (I think closer to Vonnegut than to either), but in terms of quality, it's not in the same ballpark.

The book...more
Maren Showkeir
Tapping into my intellectual observer, I found much to admire about his writing, the rich and complex way he told the story, and his insight into the experience of a post-terrorism world. His characters were interesting and the wit piercing. The plot twist of the sisters were poignant (though kinda obvious.) Some of the ways he "painted the scenes" with his words were phenomenal.

While his story-telling device was unique and I can see why he chose it, I had a hard time following the story. I'm st...more
It's a good book with some problems, admittedly. It contains passages that are fantastic and really display Walter's talent as a writer and dialogue that shows his talent for creating memorable characters. Even passages which the reader will likely not remember or pay too much attention to do an excellent job of dropping the reader (and Remy) into the middle of a scene and almost visually drawing the setting around the character. These are its strengths, and it makes it a fast, immersive, and en...more
Joe Fraser
Political satire isn’t Jess Walter’s strong suit. The characters in this story are cartoonish mayors, police investigators and spies, none of whom are believable. In addition, Walter pokes fun at the post-911 authorities while ignoring that every one of us had become swept up in rampant patriotism and paranoia at the time. Remember being inspired by some of Bush’s overly simplistic speeches? Remember using gloves to open your mail? I suppose by the time Walter wrote this novel, we had all calmed...more
I really enjoyed Walter's first book (Citizen Vince), so I picked up this, his second, knowing absolutely nothing about it. The story revolves around New York City police officer Brian Remy, who must deal with his newly unstable memory in the weeks after 9/11. It seems that while he physically survived being at Ground Zero, the mental trauma has done all kinds of interesting things to Remy's judgment -- including leading him to possibly shoot himself in the head.

His head injury leads to irregula...more
I just wanted to add some Leonard Cohen; it sets the tone better really than any review could:
And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time...
Who by avalanche, who by powder,
Who for his greed, who for his hunger...
And who shall I say is calling?
...and who by brave assent, who by accident,
Who in solitude, who in this mirror...
and who
shall I say
is calling?

I read a review of this book, put it on reserve in the library; months later, there it is, I don't have a clue.

So I r...more
Jess Walter is a literary writer of great talent and courageous reach. This "9/11 book" is as surreal and heartfelt as you would want, dealing with our shared post-traumatic reality and our need to "change the channel back" as soon as possible. "Go shopping, or the enemy has won!" "Every person who died in the towers was a hero." "It's us agin' them, and you can tell just by lookin' who they are!"

This novel looks at our need to create our own propaganda and hand over our freedoms "to defend our...more
Matt Glaviano
Although I have two more to go, I don’t expect to read a better 9/11 (or, as Walter calls it, a “9/12”) novel soon. Deeply indebted to Vonnegut and Kafka, this novel surpasses anything I expected from Walter after reading Citizen Vince. An amazingly well told broken down narrative, chock full of humor and amazing writing. Because his novel is broken, because his hero is lost, Walter has captured something so fundamental about post-9/11 culture that it’s fascinating and, at times, hard to bear. P...more
This is the first Walters book I have read, but it won’t be the last. He said in his craft talk that The Zero is his favorite, and I can see why. It is ambitious and risky in so many ways: stylistically (the satire is both searingly funny and sad because it illuminated how screwed up our culture is), structurally (the way the protagonist’s memory has been scarred his mirrored in the way the narrative jumps around and is abruptly cut off), and topically (Walters tackles one of the most sacred cow...more
Brian Grover
Once in a great while, you read a book that looks interesting and has gotten rave reviews, and it's just terrible. Generally I'll stick with the story just to see it through, so I can speak ill of it with full knowledge if I ever meet a person who wants to recommend or praise it, and that's what I did here.

It's the story of a "hero cop" who, in the days after 9/11, gets recruited by some shadowy government agency to help root out terrorists. The twist is that his conscious mind is fractured, and...more
This book was just too dark for my taste. I really didn't like it. I read it for my book club and I was supposed to be the facilitator for the discussion. That was difficult since I disliked the book, but we did have some good discussion about it once we all got together.
Kaylee Barton
Though the subject matter isn't the most uplifting, Walter's command of dialogue and thorough character development is evident from the very first chapter. Check out Brad Listi's interview with Jess Walter on his awesome podcast, Other People.
Jess Walter is from Washington State, so it goes without saying that he's a genius. This book came to my attention because the hilarious author Nick Hornby has declared Walter to be an extraordinary and gifted talent. I agree, as I do with most everything Nick Hornby utters. This is one of those books that I wasn't sure I liked when I was 20 pages into it. Then I blinked once and was somehow 100 pages in, hooked, and the story was coming together nicely. The story jumps around constantly because...more
Chrystal Hays
This is brilliant.
I'm sensitive to the whole 9/11 thing, and have not been able to really enjoy much fiction or art based on that horrific event. Mark Helprin's story, "Monday", has been the only exception until now.

The Zero will be compared with Catch-22 by Heller, with the work of Kafka, and also with Kosinski's Being There...all for good reason. This was one I could not put down. This perfect blend of pathos, irony, dark humor, and absurdity addresses the most serious subjects kno...more
Kate seems I'm getting the hang of not finishing a book if I'm not enjoying it. I've read several other novels by this author and have enjoyed them. This one, however, was disjointed and caricaturish. I was so put off by the dialogue for the one character, Paul, that it became a huge distraction for me. it got to the point where I was dreading having to read any part of the novel that involved him. I've read other novels where a character annoyed me but never to this degree. I get the satir...more
Mindy Galusha

Not since Catch 22 have I encountered such a dark, witty read. Great book!
A very strange book with the 9/11 terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York City as it’s central theme. The main character. NYPD detective Brian Remy shoots himself in the head at the beginning of the book which is never clearly explained. I assume it was because he was depressed about the devastation and death he witnessed. The story unfolds in spurts as he and his partner track down the middle-Eastern terrorists, a device explained by Remy’s spotty memory—he blacks out. He becomes involv...more
Agnes Mack
I typically read several books at a time because reading one book for 4 hours makes it difficult for me to concentrate. Switching between two or three books is much easier for me.

This was the first book I've read this year where I found myself unable to pick up another book because the story was simply too engaging.

The Zero starts off with the protagonist waking up on the floor while someone is banging loudly on his front door. He quickly looks around the room to note the empty bottles of liquor...more
Confusing and strange novel that is barely a thinly veiled metaphor for the events of 9/11. Brian Remy is a cop or maybe he's a government agent or maybe he's a private investigator who opens the novel waking up after attempting to shoot himself in the head. Was it an accident while cleaning his gun or was it a botched suicide attempt? It's initially not too clear but then again, neither is most of the events that take place during this 300+ page novel. Remy suffers from "gaps" which are probabl...more
Diana Suddreth
I admit it; I spent the first third of the book confused. I hadn't read any reviews prior to listening so I didn't know that Brian Remy, the main character, has memory gaps. I thought my audiobook was somehow skipping around and I couldn't figure out why!

But once I realized what was going on, I just went along for the ride and found The Zero interesting and well written. The story continued to be somewhat confusing, but falling into a whatever-comes-next-I'll-just-go-with rhythm (sort of like R...more
Jess Walter's books fall under mystery category in bookstores, but his books are far from your typical mystery books. He is a fine author with a keen insight. His characters are loners who are in a relationship most often than not, and are usually very imperfect people with lots of troubles. His latest book "Zero" is about a cop's adventures after 9/11, who is recruited into a clandestine and Kafkaesque governmental agency; the only thing is he can't remember what he has been up to most of the t...more
Rob Dewitte
Engaging read centering on the aftermath of 9/11 and the shadowy operations that may or may not have developed in its wake. Brian Remy wakes up one morning with a gunshot wound to his head he doesn't remember giving himself. From there he leapfrogs through time, a period of years he experiences like a stone skipping across a pond, dropping in every once in awhile in sentience, but otherwise being animated by another self he doesn't quite understand, that does things he believes he would never do...more
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Jess Walter is the author of five novels and one nonfiction book. His work has been translated into more than 20 languages and his essays, short fiction, criticism and journalism have been widely published, in Details, Playboy, Newsweek, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe among many others.

Walter also writes screenplays and was the co-author of Christopher Darden’s 1996 b...more
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“Maybe every couple lived in the gaps between conversations, unable to say the important things for fear they had already been said, or couldn't be said; maybe every relationship started over every time two people came together.” 12 likes
“She saw death as just another wedding she wasn't invited to.” 4 likes
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