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Oct 26, 2011
Here's a story for you: A mysterious plague has turned most of humanity into cannibalistic zombies, with a handful of survivors struggling desperately not to be overwhelmed by the undead. It could be a hit cable series--okay, it is a hit cable series--but it's also one of this year's most highly anticipated American novels: Colson Whitehead's Zone One.
"Mark Spitz" (we never do find out his real name) is utterly mediocre, the sort of solid B student who "was not made team captain, nor was he the last one picked... [who] sidestepped detention and honor rolls with equal aplomb." It's precisely that averageness, that ability to keep his head down and carry on, that's kept him alive since everything fell apart. Now he's hooked up with a larger group that's trying to restore civilization, and he's part of a team that's been sent into "Zone One" (New York City below Canal Street) to sweep every building and clear out all the remaining flesh-eaters.
Whitehead gives Zone One plenty of gory action scenes from beginning to end, but in a world where everyone suffers from one form of "Post Apocalypse Stress Disorder" or another, the quiet moments can be just as chilling. Yet even with all the existential bleakness, Whitehead works in plenty of dark, biting humor, ultimately leaving us with a scathing, but Character Approved, funhouse reflection of our contemporary lives--just in time for Halloween.
[Image: Erin Patrice O'Brien]