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Zone One

3.25  ·  Rating Details ·  12,356 Ratings  ·  2,292 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 resettlem
Hardcover, 259 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Doubleday (first published October 18th 2010)
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Community Reviews

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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
Dec 27, 2011 karen rated it it was amazing


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
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
mark monday

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
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
Feb 27, 2014 Kemper rated it really liked it
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
Jeffrey Keeten
Jan 07, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
”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
Patrick Brown
Oct 23, 2011 Patrick Brown rated it it was amazing
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
Will Byrnes
Sep 09, 2013 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
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,
Oct 23, 2011 Francine rated it did not like it
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
David Brooke
Jan 18, 2012 David Brooke rated it it was ok
Below is the review, but I've also made it fight with another book at this site:

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
Jul 06, 2013 Brian rated it it was amazing
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 t
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
Aug 15, 2016 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
"Manhattan was the biggest version of everywhere."

"Up and down the island the buildings collided, they humiliated runts through verticality and ambition, sulked in one another's shadows. Inevitability was mayor, term after term."

This is a New York book: you can tell by how much shit it talks about Connecticut. (Abominable Connecticut; abhorrent Connecticut. Accursed, repulsive, maddening, degenerate Connecticut with its pustulant hordes, Bad News, repugnant, loathsome, mephitic fucking Connectic
Nov 28, 2011 Joe rated it it was amazing
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
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

I like horror. Rather, I like what I most recently expanded on in a piece about Coleridge's 'Christabel' written for class: the evolution of narrative when it comes to scaring the living shit out of us. The aforementioned composition is a narrative poem, and within it you can see the crossroads of Le Morte d'Arthur and Carmilla in ways I, personally, am very much intrigued by. Whereas vampires and the seductive guest are meant to stand for the aristocracy (assuming I have my recollected tid
Sep 18, 2012 Nikki rated it did not like it
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
Stephen M
Jan 21, 2014 Stephen M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 26, 2012 Maciek rated it it was ok
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
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. 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
Doug S.
Mar 28, 2012 Doug S. rated it it was ok
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
Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance]
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
Apr 15, 2012 Elaine rated it it was ok
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
Oct 31, 2015 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads, zombie, horror
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
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
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
Nov 28, 2011 Snotchocheez rated it it was amazing
Whoa. What a way to be introduced to a gifted author's work. I was half-listening to NPR's Fresh Air when Terry Gross was introducing Colson Whitehead (who I'd never heard of) as a novelist whose previous offerings had been short-listed for Pulitzer Prizes and PEN/Faulkner awards (my ears pricked up), who recently released his "zombie novel" "Zone One" (WTF? Full Attention Mode paid therewith). He read an excerpt and I was just blown away. Terry asked him what his inspiration was for this novel, ...more
Andrew Neal
Dec 16, 2011 Andrew Neal rated it really liked it
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
Asghar Abbas

I must say I really enjoyed reading this Dictionary masquerading as a Novel. If it were a little concise and actually about zombies, I'd have loved it.

But the Wordlings are amazing. So Bravo for that.
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Live Video Chat with Colson Whitehead 39 48 Sep 01, 2012 02:48AM  
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I'm the author of the novels Zone One; Sag Harbor; The Intuitionist, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; John Henry Days, which won the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Apex Hides the Hurt, winner of the PEN Oakland Award. I've also written a book of essays about my home town, The Colossus of New York, and a non-fiction ac ...more
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“We never see other people anyway, only the monsters we make of them.” 122 likes
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