Zone One
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Zone One

3.26 of 5 stars 3.26  ·  rating details  ·  8,584 ratings  ·  1,808 reviews
In this wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, a pandemic has devastated the planet. The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead.

Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuild­ing civilization under orders from the provisional govern­ment based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettl...more
Hardcover, 259 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Doubleday (first published October 18th 2010)
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World War Z by Max BrooksThe Zombie Survival Guide by Max BrooksThe Walking Dead, Vol. 01 by Robert KirkmanFeed by Mira GrantPride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
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Stephen
Attractive, well-dressed writing and some buxom, sexy phrase-turning make this novel’s surface shiny and pretty. However, its hollowness, lack of depth and monotone emotionlessness make the interior a soulless, vacuous fail. It’s prose porn with no emotional money shot, and like traditional porn Zone One dispenses with plot, character and any hint of deeper meaning in favor of excessive, gratuitous word humping. The language is technically proficient and has an appealing shape, but inside is sha...more
karen

AHHHHHHHH!!!

jesus christ, but colson whitehead can write. i read the intuitionist way back when everyone was praising it to the moon as the masterpiece of the next great american writer, but that book didn't really do a lot for me, while this one keel-hauled me.

it was strolling along at a solid four stars until the ending, which just reached in-between my ribs with insistent fingers and squeezed and squeezed and squeezed. the last 100 pages or so just blew me away. and it's not even a long boo...more
Carol. [All cynic, all the time]
Oh dear. Is it possible to make flesh-hungering zombies seem dull?

While I never thought so, AMC and Whitehead have both been giving it their all by enveloping them in navel-gazing Philosophy 101 monologues and odd series of pastoral flashbacks in the midst of life-or-death situations. Whitehead, at least, delivers his philosophy with amazing prose, while the writers at The Walking Dead (season two) rely on repetition of words like 'humanity' more times than Hobbes could shake a stick at. We get...more
Kemper
When the zombie apocalypse comes there’ll be a lot of inconveniences. The breakdown of society, lack of electrical power, no hot showers and undead cannibals trying to eat your brains will definitely suck, but I always figured that the trade-off was that at least there’d be no more paying bills, standing in line at the DMV or having to tolerate corporate buzz words and slogans.

But in Zone One not only are there plenty of zombies, there’s still silly bureaucratic rules and paperwork as well as a...more
Jeffrey Keeten
”He hooked up with strangers for a while, exchanged a grimy jar of cranberry sauce or a juice box per the new greeting ritual, and swapped information on the big matters of the day, like dead concentrations, and small things like the state of the world. A few months into the collapse, only the fools asked about the government, the army, the designated rescue stations, all the unattainable islands, and the fools were dwindling every day. He hung with them until they decided on divergent destinati...more
Trudi
Damn, this book is cold. Like, really, really, C-O-L-D. The language is magnificent; there is no doubt Whitehead can write, but he writes with no heat. His writing here is like a perfect, shiny new Cadillac (but with no engine). Without the engine, what’s the point? You can sit and look pretty all the live long day, but you’re not gonna get anywhere worth talking about (or remembering).

Whitehead’s problem here seems to be that he gets so caught up in delivering the goods on literary stylistics...more
mark monday
FRIDAY

mark monday got up at his usual hour, in his usual bed, and after leisurely winding his way through his various morning routines, made his way to work, to perform his usual functions. it was a friday, a day where most of his colleagues found reasons to be elsewhere - appointments and such - and so this was mark's favorite work day to be in the office. the lack of potential irritation meant more work could be accomplished. on some level, he realized that this was perhaps a rather uncharitab...more
Will Byrnes
Start spreading the news. I’m leaving today
There is a lot to sink your teeth into in the latest book from MacArthur Genius grantee Colson Whitehead. The nation has pretty much collapsed, with the implication that things are no better elsewhere in the world. But there is still some hope. A provisional government has been set up in Buffalo, and some organization is returning. The government wants to clear Manhattan of undesirables, in order to repopulate, in order to show that there is a future,...more
Patrick Brown
Oct 23, 2011 Patrick Brown rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: humans
Shelves: best-of-2011
Does it ever seem to you like everything sucks? Not just your own life -- with its minor setbacks and Pyrrhic victories -- but the entire existence of mankind. You know, all of humanity? I think that sometimes. When I'm filling up my car with gas, for instance, and I see a guy wearing scarves as shoes. And then later that day, the person in front of me orders a coffee drink with more than two modifiers (half-caff and no foam and part-skim). Or whenever I accidentally listen to sports talk radio...more
Nosocialize
Below is the review, but I've also made it fight with another book at this site: http://www.adventuresinpoortaste.com/...

A pretty terrible experience. No, not a zombie outbreak, this book.

There are flashes of interesting in this book, but overall you just want to skip ahead. The book utilizes stream of consciousness to express the protagonist’s detachment from reality, which is interesting and a probable way of someone in a zombie apocalypse coping, but it's a horrible way to tell a story. Told...more
Francine
Oct 23, 2011 Francine rated it 1 of 5 stars Recommends it for: People who love spaghetti zombie apocalypse novels that go absolutely nowhere
There is a reason I hate stream-of-consciousness novels. I can't follow it. I like my novels to travel down a path - it may veer off every now and then, and that's okay because those little detours may prove to be wonderful, terrifying, heart-stopping, mysterious or whatnot, but they are almost always revelatory. Sometimes immediately, sometimes long after the fact that you need to really remember and say "Oh yeah, I remember when that happened! Huh! That's what that meant." Either way, it doesn...more
Brian
Jul 06, 2013 Brian rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: All Goodreads chums
Second Reading: June 30 - July 4, 2013

We are studied in the old ways, and acolytes of what's to come.

I was a young teen (13? 14?) when I first watched Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead. Watching with my two friends, we vocalized our response to the undead onslaught: advice on which windows needed better fortification, admonitions on how to deal best with the character that's losing his/her shit, and the most expedient way of dispatching a ghoul - all of the responses in no way unique to...more
Joe
Zone One bats clean-up after Shaun of the Dead in the ironic zombie literature line-up. Where Shaun wanted to show how easy and delightful it is to have fun with this seemingly essential genre, Colson Whitehead's novel endeavors to explore the materialistic aspect of humans losing their humanity. Wandering through an empty city in Zone One, Whitehead forces us to stop and look at every little organic bath product and focus-grouped chain restaurant in confessional detail as Mark Spitz, the main z...more
Brett Talley
In an addendum to my original review, I initially gave this book three stars. Then I watched the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, and it struck me that if a television show can display complex human emotion and interaction while simultaneously incorporating what is expected of the genre, this book should have been able to do the same thing. If you think that is ridiculous, so be it.

In the interest of full disclosure, Zone One is one of the books that beat out my novel, That Which Should N...more
Melki
A powerful, thought provoking oddball of a book. How to even categorize it?

I suppose it is a thinking man's zombie novel, though it is lacking in the required skin-ripping, intestine-chomping, walking dead action that would hold most zombie aficionado's interest. The living ARE hunted by the dead, but Whitehead does not linger on the messy details.

A team arrives in New York City to clear out areas for possible reclaimation when the crisis has ended. The city looms large in this book, pulsating...more
Jackie
I have, by design and general constitution, largely avoided the whole zombie craze. It's just not my thing. But when a publisher's rep came cloyingly into my office with the latest Colson Whitehead (of "Sag Harbor" fame, among other novels), I happily snapped it up. Then, to my earth shaking surprise, he says, "It's about zombies." Whitehead is known for his high literate style and intense content, something that I though could never be paired with flesh dripping undead beings looking for their...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

As regular readers know, there's a special quirk to CCLaP's 10-point rating system that maybe a lot of other places don't have; that no matter how good a genre book like science-fiction or crime thriller actually is, in terms of sheer quality, it's not allowed to score in the 9s or above unless it somehow...more
Stephen M
This is my favorite kind of book.

Yes, of course, it is a lit. zombie novel that features both Melvillean poetic digressions, as well as zombie shotgun carnage. That is almost what makes this my favorite kind of book—literary pulp doesn’t even begin to describe it.

No, my favorite kind of book is the marketed-as-pulp-genre book that is actually quite dense, difficult, and often challenging that finds a wide audience, usually unfamiliar with the author’s work. It means a slew of negative reviews o...more
Elaine
Apr 15, 2012 Elaine rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
Ugh. No one more disappointed than me in this book -- I loved Sag Harbor. Loved. A poignant brilliant epic of a very specific time and place that struck home in both its generality and its particularity. Plus, I'm a huge fan of the horror genre -- how many Stephen King and Shirley Jackson books ended up on the front porch b/c I was too scared to have them in the house with me? So Zombie + Colson W. = exciting? No. This book was a slow moving dour clumsy essay about the meretricious banality and...more
Jennifer
Most of the hype surrounding Zone One comes from publicists and reviewers touting it as a “literary” zombie novel. The Atlantic’s Joe Fassler wrote a vaguely (and one hopes unintentionally) condescending piece called “How Zombies and Superheroes Conquered Highbrow Fiction,” that used Zone One as an example to describe how the trappings of genre escaped the “quarantine” of the bookstore aisles reserved for popular fiction, and most reviewers wax on about how this isn’t just another zombie gore-fe...more
Andrew Neal
This one has the distinction of being both artsy and fartsy. It's also both intelligent and clever, but it's a slow burn. In the first segment of the book, I felt like I was tripping over far-too-clever statements on society, as well as the whole thing where everybody who writes about zombies has to come up with their own terminology for them, as though folks living in this modern world full of zombie movies, zombie books, zombie comics, and zombie TV wouldn't just call the damned things "zombie...more
Crowinator
I sleep-read the first 40 or so pages of Zone One, unintentionally. I had the television on in the background, or music I liked too much to ignore, or I was on my lunch/dinner break from the ref desk, with one ear tuned to the conversations of coworkers. Even if it was quiet while I read, I was thinking of other things without being fully aware of it, like berating myself for not going for a run instead or reminding myself (for the millionth time) to take the clothes out of the dryer. I would re...more
Nikki
After reading this article in the New York Times, I had to try reading this. I mean, I love genre fiction and I have a degree in English Literature, so you'd better hope I've got the intellectual side down since that's about all my degree seems to be good for demonstrating... Surely I'd get the best of both worlds out of this.

And, you know, apparently that degree doesn't say a damn thing, because I just found Zone One boring. I read the first twenty-five pages rather hopefully; something about t...more
Ademption
This novel gave me zombie nightmares for weeks. Normally I don't remember my dreams, let alone have nightmares. Curiously these zombies had somehow gotten mixed up with the concepts of records management, because in my waking life, I had recently taken a job where I had to refresh my records and information management (RIM) skills. A job where everyone earnestly talked of RIM skills and RIM training, and I did my best to hold my face in an expressionless mask and not giggle ten times a day. Espe...more
Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]
Holy. Fucking. WOW.
Review to come...

[Cut to the next day....] Okay, I've recovered my senses enough to put together a review now. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this is the pinnacle of post-apocalyptic zombie fiction. I didn't think it was going to be - I was more than 60pages into the book before I realised what I was reading was pretty special - but in all the PA fiction I've read, I can't think of a more nuanced, realistic, humorous, cynical, horrific and poignant approach to...more
Terence
Jan 06, 2012 Terence rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Zombie/horror fans
Shelves: horror-gothic
My 2012 reading schedule has gotten off to a good start with Colson Whitehead’s Zone One. I’ve managed to avoid the zombie genre (with the honorable exception of Night of the Living Trekkies, which is – of course - Star Trek) but ever since reading The Intuitionist, I’ve been a fan of Whitehead’s, and was more than willing to see what his take on it would be.

It is, in a word, bleak.

Whitehead doesn’t go into the origins of the zombie apocalypse nor does he offer any scenes of derring-do as heroic...more
Maciek
The problem of this book is that it doesn't really know what it wants to be. Is it genre fiction? Literature? Social commentary? Speculative fiction?

It tries to be a bit of everything, but doesn't really succeed. What really brings it down is absolutely glacial pace, and almost complete lack of plot. Even the action scenes are narrated in a way reminding one's grandfather sitting in his old chair and lazily reminiscing about his war experiences and going on all these tangents in a way which only...more
KFed
Dec 07, 2011 KFed rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
Zombies as emblematic of a post-apocalyptic -- which is to say post-racial -- America. Okay, Colson Whitehead. I see where you're going with this.

In haste: society gets overrun by a Zombie plague. The worst of it seems to be over, and we enter as America, this novel's specific setting, has begun to resituate itself and look ahead to breaking out of its small, scattered, quarantined communities into a nation once again. Hope for a return to normalcy; dreams of the American Phoenix (nicknamed, der...more
Doug S.
I have chosen to write this review in the form of a bunch of random thoughts...because I feel that this generally reflects Whitehead's writing style in this book.

Flows with dense, plodding language.

Ok. Maybe it doesn't flow exactly...

This interaction between two characters late in the story sums up the entire novel perfectly.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m getting there.”

In this brief bit of dialogue, the reader could easily be the first speaker, the author the second one. And despite the author’s reass...more
Adam
One of those literary and genre (as if “literary” wasn’t a genre) that wakes up critics on both sides that the other exists for about five minutes. While a lot of these sort of books tend to desecrate the traditions of the genre involved and make a product unsatisfying to all, zombies are such a tired, played out thing(though so much preferable to vampires of course) that I knew Whitehead could little harm. While critics on the literary side will and have said that Whitehead is laughing all the...more
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Anyone else love this book? 11 62 Oct 27, 2013 11:23AM  
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Zone One - Anyone else reading? 22 114 Oct 26, 2012 08:40PM  
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Think Galactic: Colson Whitehead at Harold Washington, July 18 2 9 Jul 17, 2012 04:56AM  
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Colson Whitehead was born in 1969, and was raised in Manhattan. After graduating from Harvard College, he started working at the Village Voice, where he wrote reviews of television, books, and music.

His first novel, The Intuitionist, concerned intrigue in the Department of Elevator Inspectors, and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway and a winner of the Quality Paperback Book Club's New Voices Awa...more
More about Colson Whitehead...
The Intuitionist Sag Harbor John Henry Days Apex Hides the Hurt The Colossus of New York

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“We never see other people anyway, only the monsters we make of them.” 81 likes
“Pain could be killed. Sadness could not, but the drugs did shut its mouth for a time.” 12 likes
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