“Zone One” by Colson Whitehead


I read Zone One as part of a choose-your-own-Colson-Whitehead-novel book group–Zone One, John Henry Days, or The Intuitionist. Alas, since I lead the group, I had to read all three, which was not what I would have planned if I’d remembered the Morning News Tournament of Books was coming up. But I enjoyed all 3, found them similar and different and am glad I read them all.

Zone One is Whitehead’s take on the zombie tale. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic NYC. The narrator, nicknamed Mark Spitz, is part of a civilian group of 3 sweeping the city for skels (zombies) or stragglers (people who got bitten, but didn’t turn rabid, but instead returned to a particular point where they stay frozen) missed by the mass killings the Marines did in the first waves after the plague hit.

As with John Henry Days, the main character is lacking in emotional maturity. Also similar is the commentary on our culture of shallow consumption. It ticks along at a good pace, with the beautiful sentences that Whitehead is so good at crafting. He does a good job at crafting a believable and chilling near future.

The book is structured into three days in Mark Spitz’s life (always both names are used). We get stories of his past and survival plus those of others he encounters as we go along, most of which are well spun. Two that rankled, though, was the withholding of how he got his nickname, and how the anecdote was related in Saturday’s narrative though it took place on Sunday.

One particular character’s Last Night story (about a birthday party) was chillingly all too easy for me to imagine and may well haunt me forever.

One Response to ““Zone One” by Colson Whitehead”

  1. Amber Stults Says:

    Sounds like this may be a worthwhile read.