Book Review

Zone One by Colson Whitehead 

a literary zombie novel. does it work? oh yes it works!

Written May 25th, sweat drenched after watching the first episode of Treme on a treadmill… this will almost certainly be the final Torontonian Triumph of the Now

The pitch is this: zombies, but for grown ups.

Literary zombies.

A literary zombie novel.

A gruesome, gun-toting, trad zombie narrative, but written by a writer who was a few years away from consecutive Pulitzer prizes (for The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys).

This is loooooooooong nineties stuff, this pitch.

This is publishing execs after a looooooooooong lunch throwing ideas, mini-basketballs and little baggies around.

A literary zombie novel. 

Like, guys, how would like a literary zombie novel go down? [Bong rip]

Like, you’re serious, right?

Like, a piercing psychological study of a trauma-ravaged everyman who slowly surpasses blunt nihilism and succumbs to a creeping and irrevocable need for constant danger to pull him out of suicidal hopelessness? [chunkily chunks a chunky line of chunky chunk]

How about, yeah, it’s like, proooooooooperly emotional, about how the destruction of reliable human relationships destroys the ability to feel anything, about how hope is fucking dangerous and leads to a false sense of security?

Yeah, yeah, and like it could even feel a bit like an allegory for climate change or capitalist inequality or something?

No, it shouldn’t do that, it should reference those things as part of the ways in which the survivors have adapted, spiritually, to the zombies, right?

What do you mean?

Like, it’s a consumerist world that’s been destroyed, it is internet and iPads and online dating and public transport and video games and supermarkets and running water and healthcare and avoidance of Violence from the day-to-day that has been lost; like, everyone’s fucking depressed half the time in the world we do live in, imagine this but a thousand fucking times worse, right?

Maybe it doesn’t sound like it should work, but it does.

The creeping dread, the slow and ever unsteady “progress against the zombie threat” that, as in all examples of this genre, is never one-way…

the absence of survivor’s guilt, the growth of survivor’s remorse

the lack of hope, the lack of a happy ending, the lack of of of-

It’s a beautiful novel, and proof that any story, told exceptionally well, can be an exceptional story.

Highly recommended.

Second only to The Underground Railroad of the Whitehead that I’ve read (which is quite a few).

Bye! is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

1 comment on “Zone One by Colson Whitehead 

  1. Pingback: Andrea Víctrix by Llorenç Villalonga – Triumph Of The Now

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