ZONE ONE by Colson Whitehead

Book Quote:

“…Most skels, they moved. They came to eat you-not all of you, but a nice chomp here or there, enough to pass on the plague. Cut off their feet, chop off their legs, and they’d gnash the air as they heaved themselves forward by their splintered fingernails, looking for some ankle action…”

Book Review:

Review by Bill Brody  (OCT 18, 2011)

Zone One by Colson Whitehead plays on the archetype of apocalyptic zombie literature. The unnamed protagonist is known as Mark Spitz, because he is afraid to swim. He is a sweeper, someone assigned by the pseudo-government in Buffalo to destroy any zombie AKA skel or catatonic victim AKA straggler of the plague that has destroyed civilization. The zombies are virtually mindless with a lust for human flesh that can only be quenched by destroying their heads. A zombie’s bite is what spreads the infection. Stragglers just stay immobilized where they stopped. They do nothing, even in response to attack. Both are routinely exterminated by a lethal strike to the head via bullet, baseball bat, axe or what have you. The authorities in Buffalo are sponsored by the remnants of corporations and are in touch with similar enclaves around the world

Everyone suffers from PASD, or Post Apocalyptic Stress Disorder. Every survivor has killed, starved, and betrayed others in order to survive and has horrific flashbacks. Nobody is immune to PASD. The horrors of Last Night (when the plague started) and its sequelae have taken all joy out of life. This is dystopia maxima.

Pheenies, non military survivors, do the grunt work. Mark Spitz is a pheenie, but as a sweeper, he is more or less privileged, better off than many and somewhat valued. He has always wanted to live in Manhattan. Now he has been assigned as part of a team to mop up zone one, the first part of Manhattan to be cleared of skels and stragglers and made safe for a rebirth of civilization. Mark is “everyman.” He never stands out; neither brilliant nor dunce, leader nor blind follower. He ekes out survival and remembers horror upon horror like everyone else except the skels, the stragglers and the dead.

We have a brilliant exposition of survivor guilt; of the dehumanization that derives from inhuman behavior. The prose is poetic and compelling. It has the awful beauty full of grue that is required to represent a world gone mad. No one is a survivor in this world; they are all dead, brain dead or going to die. The dead and the dying are all ugly. Paranoia is the norm. What is delusional are hope and belief in a future. Is this a judgment like Sodom and Gomorra, a revolt by Gaia, or just an unlucky roll of the dice over and over and over again unto bleak horror and total despair? We never learn why skels do not eat stragglers or why they do not fall on each other in an orgy of eat and be eaten. How can any creature, no matter how torpid survive with absolutely no food? Who cares in a story about zombies; and one so well-written!

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-0from 342 readers
PUBLISHER: Doubleday (October 18, 2011)
REVIEWER: Bill Brody
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Colson Whitehead
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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October 18, 2011 · Judi Clark · Comments Closed
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Speculative (Beyond Reality)