Kristiana's Reviews > The Zero

The Zero by Jess Walter
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's review
May 28, 10

bookshelves: 2010, at-work, fiction
Read from May 25 to 27, 2010

I love books that make me think and confuse me and keep me on my toes. The Zero did all of those things and at the end I was wonderfully confused. I read reviews to try to make sense of this National Book Award finalist - which kind of feels like cheating, but I can't help myself. I like to make sure I didn't miss anything.

Hank often asks me what I'm reading, because that is how I answer the question 'How was your day?' I usually answer, 'I'm reading a ____(good, interesting, weird, history, nonfiction, boring etc.) book', in short I am usually vague. This week every night I would come home and explain to Hank what was going on in The Zero, what it reminded me of and what I thought was great and confusing and what I thought might happen. It was really fun to be out of my reading rut and be intrigued and excited by a piece of fiction.

The Zero is a post 9-11 book, but it never uses words like '9-11, the towers, terrorists, ground zero or any of the words used to trigger that event. I didn't know that it was a post 9-11 book when I started it and it had a timeless feel to it. I really thought it was a made up terrorist attack for awhile. Using the term 'The Zero' throughout the book helped transform the story into something else, something mysterious. Unreliable or confused point of views and drops in the story line were interesting and creative. The story started strong and I got a little confused in the middle, but by the end I couldn't wait to see how things ended.

I read in the New York Times review that Walters spent time at ground zero after the attack ghost writing a book. Like Remy, Walter really did encounter a sign reading: "God Bless America. New Furniture Arriving Every Day." This background adds to the strangeness of the The Zero, knowing that some of the strange things that happen in the novel really aren't exaggerated from real events.

There were so many quirks in the book that really endeared it to me, many of the parts that reminded me of other books and movies. I won't mention them by name because they're not the same at all and I fear correlating the two will make the book disappointing. All that to say, read it and enjoy the craziness. It's satirical, it's dark, it's great.

The scene between April and Remy at the beginning of part two is amazing. I was tempted to transcribe the whole thing, but that would be spoiling it. The ideas about relationships are beautiful, but the part right before it, discussing the newspaper and grief and the Zero plays a part in making the sentiments on relationships really stand out. I just listened to it again, still good.

"history has become a thriller plot"

"the real money, nostalgia. Do you want me to see if they want yours too? my what? experiences"

"who really knows more than the moment he is in?"

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