Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Too highbrow to read zombie apocalypse novels? Intellectual reader, may I introduce you to Zone One by Colson Whitehead. Whitehead, who has what you would call literary street credit with novels like The Intuitionist and John Henry Days, has written what one might not think possible: a well-written, witty, and literary zombie apocalypse novel.

“Zone One” is lower Manhattan. Mark Spitz, member of a civilian team working to clear the infected, is a survivor of the infection that separated people into two groups – the living and the living dead. The Marines have cleared out most of the dangerous living dead, but as they try to resettle Manhattan, civilian teams are used to clear the stragglers. The novel takes place over three days, but spans longer due to Mark’s flashbacks to the pre-infection days and the immediate post-infection fight for survival.

Zone One is by no means a bloody, epic battle for survival type of novel – it is much more nuanced than that. It is more of one man’s “What would I do?” in a zombie apocalypse. As usual, Colson Whitehead’s writing is wonderful, wry, smart, and engaging. Zone One is highly recommend for those who enjoy fresh, interesting fiction. If you like Zone One, you might want to try out The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt or Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh.

Bottom line: 4/5, give it a try if you like the genre or his earlier work. Perhaps have a dictionary or thesaurus handy as you read. This generally seems to be a polarizing novel, I loved it, but I know a few people who couldn’t even finish it. For what it’s worth, my favorite Colson Whitehead novel is The Intuitionist.

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