26 February 2012

Zone One (Colson Whitehead)

I could so easily make this review just a grumpy refutation of the wrong-wrong-wrongness of other reviews of Zone One, Colson Whitehead's masterful zombie novel. But this book just made me so dang happy, I'd rather just react to my own experience, which was unimpeachably positive.
The immediate narrative follows Mark Spitz (a nickname the protagonist acquired in what he keeps referring to as "cursed Connecticut") and the rest of his sweeper unit through the ruins of lower Manhattan. Most of humanity worldwide has succumbed to a plague that's turned millions into shambling, mindless, ravenous beasts, called "skels" by the still-sentient remnants left behind to alternately flee and kill their once-fellow man. Spitz is part of an effort by the provisional U.S. government in Buffalo to reclaim the island from skels and their even more unsettling cousins, the stragglers--former people trapped helplessly in a single moment, unresponsive and unreachable--as part of their "American Phoenix" PR campaign, an endlessly hilarious and macabre conceit that imagines corporate sponsorship of the post-apocalypse, complete with theme music and branded merch.

But the bulk of the book, as befits a story that takes place after the end of the world, happens in the past, in the memories of Mark Spitz and the other survivors he's encountered since Last Night. Whitehead writes with such gleeful ease, and he's so funny, it's easy to forget this is an unbearably tragic novel, burdened with loss and loneliness; he accomplishes what the best sci-fi writers do (and seriously, let's just shelve this one there, OK? unless you persist in believing that "literary" just means "well-written"), finding the mundane in the bizarre, the life that continues in the face of the unthinkable and unreal. I loved, loved, loved this book.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
Muse at Highway Speeds by http://museathighwayspeeds.blogspot.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.