Zone One By Colson Whitehead
A land of opportunity for the living and walking dead
Saturday 29 September 2012
Over the last 15 years New York novelist Colson Whitehead has penned several literary style novels including a classic coming-of-age novel, a book about a mid-life identity crisis, and a story of a female elevator inspector who inhabits a parallel universe. In this latest novel he immerses himself in an entirely new subject area – the shambling world of the catatonic zombie.
Like many modern zombie narratives, Zone One kicks off with a plague. A pandemic has wiped out America, sorting humanity into two camps, the living and the walking dead. But now the worst is over and Manhattan is being resettled. Armed forces have reclaimed an island south of Canal Street, and squadrons of human "sweepers" are clearing out the remaining "stragglers" – a sub-species of flesh-eating cadaver. Working for this citizen militia is Mark Sptiz, a boy from the suburbs who's always longed to reinvent himself as an urban sophisticate. As he patrols the streets of post-apocalyptic down-town, he imagines ushering in a new age of metropolitan chic.
Colson's gender-bending fantasy is as much a satire of modern consumer culture as a visit to the land of the living dead. He has re-branded his native city in the advertising-speak of corporate sponsors and invented a schmaltzy new national anthem. His "stragglers", like Dante's ghosts, have trouble moving on and have taken to occupying key haunts from their previous lives, including shopping malls and the photocopying room at work. Spitz lives in daily terror that at any moment a friend, relative or colleague might suddenly reveal themselves as the monster they've always been. This is the story of hard-won survival of the self-avowedly average. Whitehead's flamboyant juxtapositions of language and cultural tropes are what make the novel both fun and frustrating.
At times his distinctive sentences walk a fine line between the sensational and silly. While the novel might not hit the spot with horror aficionados, it's a good introduction for those tempted to dip a toe in previously unchartered waters.
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 German man found living with 300 rats in tiny apartment
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture