Title: Zone One
Author: Colson Whitehead
Genre: dystopian zombie fiction
PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt: an Afrofuturist book
My first introduction to Whitehead was through The Underground Railroad which was great. Then I read The Nickel Boys and was blown away. It was the best book I read in 2020. When I heard that he also wrote a dystopian book, which is my favorite genre, I knew I had to investigate. Bummer that I just didn’t love this one.
From Goodreads: 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 resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One—but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety—the “malfunctioning” stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives.
Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams working in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitz’s desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world. And then things start to go wrong. Both spine chilling and playfully cerebral, Zone One brilliantly subverts the genre’s conventions and deconstructs the zombie myth for the twenty-first century.
Admission: I listened to this book, which isn’t my preferred choice. That said, I have listened to plenty others and loved them, so I don’t think that was why I never connected. The story goes back and forth in time, which was a bit confusing. You follow Mark Spitz in those three days of his job, but you also learn about how the outbreak started, what people were doing on the “Last Night” and how Spitz got to this job to begin with. I was engaged in the story, but I guess I was expecting it to be more. More emotional, more powerful….something. But it was a good story, which I’ll take any day.