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Zone One (2011)

by Colson Whitehead

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,524978,174 (3.33)178
Mark Spitz and his squad of three "sweepers" move through Zone One of lower Manhattan, a walled-off enclave scheduled for resettlement in the aftermath of a zombie plague. The great masses of the undead have been violently dispatched by a Marine detachment. It falls to Spitz and his fellows to take care of the handful that remain, as well as a second-tier of the infected known as "stragglers": zombies who have bypassed the cannibalistic urges of their more lethal fellows in favor of a hollow-eyed, eerily nostalgic repetition of some mundane act.… (more)
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» See also 178 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
I read this for the "Diverse Voices" square. "Zone One" by Colson Whitehead. Whitehead is an African American author. I read one other book by him "The Underground Railroad" and decided that if that book was fantastic, this would be too. Unfortunately that wasn't true. This book was divided into three parts and the only part that became mildly interesting was the "Saturday" section. "Sunday" was the shortest and for that I'm thankful. Though the writing was top notch, the flow was off and I was bored. Maybe if this was told in the first person it would have worked better.

Story begins with a Mark Spitz (not his real name) remembering visiting his Uncle in New York. From there the book lumbers along til you get to the point, the world has devolved due to something that has turned some of us into skels (zombies). Mark and his unit have come back to take over what is called Zone One (island south of Canal Street). The idea is that they sweep buildings to ensure that all of the undead are out down. Mark is part of a three person (don't know why so few) unit that is sweeping. We find out units at play throughout the course of the story. Mark and his unit mates (Gary and Kaitlyn) all have roles to play in this new world.

Beginning with a countdown (Friday) you know something is going to happen by the end of the book. Too bad I could see it coming a mile away. Hello plot contrivance my old friend. What? Yes, I know you have nothing to do with this, but you have to admit this was a mess.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are just hodgepodge tales of things that happened to Mark pre zombie plague and after. It is not told in a linear format so enjoy that. It jumps around a lot to the point that I stopped trying to make sense of the timeline. I just didn't care and wanted to be done.

I also started thinking about The Walking Dead and realizing that show even with it's heaps of issues, is still better than this book. There's actually development of some of the characters over time and even when it feels like the A plot has ground to a halt, there's still something to root for. I didn't care a whit about any of the characters we meet. We don't get to know them at all.

I think Whitehead wanted to show that at our core, humans, are selfish and when push comes to shove we will trample on each other to get out alive. But that's too cynical for me. We read of some settlements that are set up now that the worst of the plague seems to be over. But what's that plot contrivance? Yeah I don't know, that all got ignored for that whatever ending.

Part of the book is taken up by people's "Last Night" tales, AKA the last night before the end of the world as they knew it. That was an interesting idea. Whitehead would have been better off just making that the book. Follow unit members as they go to secure a building, settle up for the night and tell each other their stories. Also tell it in the damn first person. Sigh.

The flow was awful. "Friday" was the worst of the sections. If you can get through that, cheers.

The setting is in America and mostly in New York with some forays here and there with Mark Spitz.

The ending was an eyeroll moment. I actually want to read another book for this square, but will see where I get with my reads. Back to the library this goes. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
After a zombie apocalypse, the survivors struggle to pick up the pieces. A new government is formed and groups of sweepers go through Zone One, an area of New York City, to ensure that all zombies are truly eradicated. This book is told from the point of view of one of those sweepers as he does his job and reflects back on how it got to this point.

This book doesn't seem to have the large-scale appeal of Colson Whitehead's other books, but I truly enjoyed it and felt it was a perfect read for the time we're living through now with the world reacting to a global pandemic.

I could see how others might not love this book, especially if they were looking for a more traditional horror story about zombies. Here the z-word is never used; instead there are "skels" (the brain-eating, violent variety) and "stragglers" (undead and shuffling about with no purpose). The story is more about the people and how they are attempting to bring back some sense of normalcy in a world that will never be the same again.

Much of the book is told in flashbacks and ruminations as our main character thinks over all the things that have happened since "Last Night," the day that the zombie outbreak happened. This sort of musing and contemplation is not going to appeal to those who want an action-packed, 'let's slay zombies' kind of story (although there are some of those moments as well).

But for me, it was so interesting and engrossing, as Whitehead unpacks so much here about society. Consumerism is a big theme throughout, but there are other deep topics touched upon as well. There were so many passages that resonated deeply with me; I put some of those in the "Quotations" feature here on LibraryThing because they were too good not to share.

The ending is ambiguous and open to interpretation, which I suppose isn't for everyone but I think it worked well here. It seemed fitting with the elusiveness of hope that is seen throughout the book.

The audiobook narrator did a fine enough job for a book that is primarily in one character's head throughout. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | May 15, 2020 |
After an hour and a half of listening to this audiobook, I realized I hadn't really figured out what was going on yet. I didn't really care, either. And I didn't feel like continuing anymore.
I may try and listen to it, or read it again, I don't know. But for now, I'd rather spend my time on something else.
This review perfectly sums up what I felt about this novel, from what I did listen to:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/228359431?book_show_action=true&from_r...

Tl;dr: bored, moving on. 2 stars. ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
If you're looking for fast-paced zombie action, look elsewhere. If you're looking for a beautifully written novel that happens to be about zombies, here you go. ( )
3 vote tombrown | Feb 21, 2020 |
Zone One
Author: Colson Whitehead
Publisher: Doubleday
Publishing Date: 2011
Pgs: 259
Dewey: F WHI
Disposition: Irving Public Library - South Campus - Irving, TX
_________________________________________________
REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Summary:
Shambling down Broadway...a pandemic is devouring the living leaving zombies behind, some active and hungry, others pantomining moments from the life no longer theirs. An outpost of humanity is returning civilization, one piece at a time. Corporate sponsorship. And end to looting. Hunter-killer sweep teams cleaning up behind the Marines. Zone One is New York City from Chinatown south of Canal Street. Mark Spitz is a sweeper. He and Team Omega are going through the mundanity of straggler removal. Until a world that has fallen apart decides that there is still room to go.
_________________________________________________
Genre:
Utopia
Dystopia
Satire
Fiction
Urban Life
Zombie
Horror
Survivors

Why this book:
Zombies. Survivors, Clever writing.
_________________________________________________
Favorite Scene / Quote/Concept:
I always got the loss aspect of zombie stories. Saw them as commentary on culture, society, and capitalism eating itself as it dies. But that line about loneliness. That’s powerful. Like “The Road” powerful.

Hmm Moments:
Uhh oh...Spitz sees Kaitlyn and Gary as family...they’re doomed.

Wisdom:
The horse drawn carriages collecting and processing the taken down zombies. Cart before the horse doomed, just like the whole Buffalo trying to reclaim NYC for prestige and political reasons instead of strategic ones. Moving faster than their resources will allow.

Juxtaposition:
LOL. So is the omnipresent grime under Gary’s fingernails the origin of the zombie plague?

The Unexpected:
Playing with THEM??? The smile. Are they more there as a thinking predator than they’re given credit for. The work of gypsies. Yep...sure enough. CHOMP.

Predictability/Non-Predictability:
When the walls fall, the survivors survive...until they don’t.
_________________________________________________
Last Page Sound:
That’s horrible. So he got ate? Meh, let down of an ending. ...he got away??? I don’t like his odds.

Questions I’m Left With:
Very much a cerebral exploration of the end of society. But, does it end? Does Buffalo survive? Does Mark Spitz?
_________________________________________________ ( )
  texascheeseman | Nov 6, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Whitehead, Colsonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Corral, RodrigoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koay, Pei LoiDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Bill Thomas
First words
He always wanted to live in New York. His Uncle Lloyd lived downtown on Lafayette, and in the long stretches between visits he daydreamed about living in his apartment.
Quotations
The last time he saw his childhood home was on Last Night. It, too, had looked normal from the outside, in the new meaning of normal that signified resemblance to the time before the flood. Normal meant "the past." Normal was the unbroken idyll of life before. The present was a series of intervals differentiated from each other only by the degree of dread they contained. The future? The future was clay in their hands.
It was hard to argue with the logic of the Island die-hards and their sun-drenched dreams of carefree living once every meter inside the beach line had been swept. The ocean was a beautiful wall, the most majestic barricade. Living would be easy. They'd make furniture out of coconuts, forget technology, have litters of untamed children who said adorable things like, "Daddy, what's on demand?"

In practice, something always went wrong. The Carolinas, for example. Someone snuck back to the mainland for penicillin or scotch, or a boatful of aspirants rowed ashore bearing a stricken member of their party they refused to leave behind, sad orange life vests encircling their heaving chests. The new micro-societies inevitably imploded, on the island getaways, in reclaimed prisons, at the mountaintop ski lodge accessible only by sabotaged funicular, in the underground survivalist hideouts finally summoned to utility. The rules broke down.
Mark Spitz had met plenty of the divine-retribution folks over the months. This was their moment; they were umbrella salesmen standing outside a subway entrance in a downpour. The human race deserved the plague, we brought it on ourselves for poisoning the planet, for the Death of God, the calculated brutalities of the global economic system, for driving primordial species to extinction: the entire collapse of values as evidenced by everything from nuclear fission to reality television to alternate side of the street parking. Mark Spitz could only endure these harangues for a minute or two before he split. It was boring. The plague was the plague. You were wearing galoshes, or you weren't.
He missed the stupid stuff everyone missed, the wifi and the workhorse chromium toasters, mass transportation and gratis transfers, rubbing cheese-puff dust on his trousers and calculating which checkout line was shortest, he missed the things unconjurable in reconstruction. That which will escape. His people. His family and friends and twinkly-eyed lunchtime counterfolk. The dead. He missed the extinct. The unfit had been wiped out, how else to put it, and now all that remained were ruined like him.
When he used to watch disaster flicks and horror movies he convinced himself he’d survive the particular death scenario: happen to be away from his home zip code when the megatons fell, upwind of the fallout, covering the bunker’s air vents with electrical tape. He was spread-eagled atop the butte and catching his breath when the tsunami swirled ashore, and in the lottery for a berth on the spacecraft, away from an Earth disintegrating under cosmic rays, his number was the last one picked and it happened to be his birthday. Always the logical means of evasion, he’d make it through as he always did. He was the only cast member to heed the words of the bedraggled prophet in Act I, and the plucky dude who slid the lucky heirloom knife from his sock and sawed at the bonds while in the next room the cannibal family bickered over when to carve him for dinner. He was the one left to explain it all to the skeptical world after the end credits, jibbering in blood-drenched dungarees before the useless local authorities, news media vans, and government agencies who spent half the movie arriving on the scene. I know it sounds crazy, but they came from the radioactive anthill, the sorority girls were dead when I got there, the prehistoric sea creature is your perp, dredge the lake and you’ll find the bodies in its digestive tract, check it out. By his sights, the real movie started after the first one ended, in the impossible return to things before.
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