Zone One

by Colson Whitehead
ISBN: 9780307455178

Yes, Colson Whitehead has written a zombie novel.

On one hand, this may seems strange because he’s not thought of as a genre writer but as a Serious Novelist. He’s written about advertising and branding (Apex Hides the Hurt), myths and history (John Henry Days), and accidents (The Intuitionist). On the other hand, who is to say that zombies are any stranger than ad executives? I mean, if you can write a compelling story about elevator inspectors, you can write about anything.

Whitehead can write, so of course he can write a zombie novel. That word might not appear in it, but it is quite clear what the infected are. It’s less clear what the remaining uninfected are — and that’s really the point of the novel. Do you want to live through civilization’s collapse? Really? What does survival even mean in that context? What do we bring back first? How absurd are we?

It’s creepy as hell. You might be thinking “of course it’s creepy, zombies!” but the most skin-crawling scenes for me were not so much about the infected, but about how everyone else behaved. If you are a Whitehead fan, read it. If you are a fan of smart but not pretentious novels, also recommended. If you are mostly looking for a good zombie story, there is a fair amount of shuffling, swarming, and skull destruction but possibly not enough zombies per page over time — though I think you might be happiest with the ending.

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