David Brooke's Reviews > Zone One

Zone One by Colson Whitehead
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's review
Jan 18, 2012

it was ok
Read from October 28 to November 07, 2011

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 in first person, the protagonist may start to give some much needed back story, but his story will wander and eventually the protagonist will actually lose track of the point of his story, and ask his buddies “hey why was I talking?” Great question for the lead character to be asking when the reader doesn’t know why they’re even reading it themselves. This one takes an instant blow to the chin for being extremely frustrating and annoying.

Taking place in Manhattan in the not to distant future, Whitehead does take the time to discusses zombie behavior, which follows in George Romero’s steps in using zombies as social commentary. In Zone One zombies linger in their cubicles waiting for the copier to make the print outs that will never come, stand in iParty starring at guerrilla costumes wishing they could afford what they are wearing, or laze in recline-able chairs endlessly pressing the power button on the remote control. It’s social commentary at it’s finest, but really could be reduced to short story.

A big twist at the end deals with the protagonist's race, and I found this twist utterly pointless. I suppose the author is trying to say, “when all humans are at odds with an enemy that is not human, they forget about race and racism disappears,” but this point isn't very clear.

And that’s ultimately the problem. The entire book isn't very clear. It reads like the ruminations of an old woman trying to figure out what it all means: God, meaning, was that crab cake I ate in 76’ bad? The reader can't get a bead on why we should care about anyone or why we should care about any of it. For a book trying to do something different with zombies and move away from violence and action it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be.

The book feels like it never got beyond the short story phase, but to get it on the rack the author stuffed it with 120 pages of filler. A frustrating experience.
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03/10 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4)

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Olivia Lovag I'm at page 170 and I got that exact feeling. After 100 and some pages something finally happens - the protagonist finds himself under a zombie attack (what a thrilling surprise for a zombie novel...) and then it goes back to the same disposable filler stream of consciousness. I'm only finishing this because I've read more than 50%. But really this a a great waste of time and paper. I really hope the ebook sold more than the paperback.

Scott I agree. The book was confused, particularly how it rambled incomprehensibly between present narrative and random flash-backs. Plus nothing really happened, and the book didn't make me care one way or the other.

David Brooke Scott wrote: "I agree. The book was confused, particularly how it rambled incomprehensibly between present narrative and random flash-backs. Plus nothing really happened, and the book didn't make me care one way..."

It was on a bunch of lists when it came out but nobody seems to talk about it anymore. For good reason!

David Antrobus Although I largely disagree and enjoyed this novel, this is a well-argued and nicely balanced and constructed review, but I do think you need to correct something that might impact those readers who are not drawn to first person perspectives. This novel is *not* written in first person: it's third person limited.

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