My book club is a fan of Colson Whitehead. We read The Intuitionist (a beautifully odd book about elevator inspectors which I loved) several years ago, then The Underground Railroad (also very good, and the winner of many awards) when he came to speak at a university in city our city. We may have fangirled and fanboyed out a little in the signing line afterward. I had a library copy of his book, which he signed. Hopefully someone smiled after they checked it out after I turned it back in. Zone One was our latest book club pick.
This book is probably right about what you would expect for a Colson Whitehead apocalyptic zombie novel. It takes place awhile after the big wave of infections turned the majority of the population into your standard-issue zombies. The remaining humans, for the most part, have found their way to protected areas, but the zombies are still out there in force, just beyond the barricades.
The project now is to reclaim New York City, and that’s where we meet Mark Spitz (which is not his given name, it’s a nickname/joke that I had to Google to understand). He’s part of a team of civilians who are clearing out the city of stragglers after the army made the first pass. Primarily, teams of three check buildings block-by-block to check for any left-behind zombies that may be trapped in any of the city’s many office buildings.
For the most part, this isn’t meant to be an action-packed zombie novel (though, stick around long enough and you’ll get some). It’s a reflection on the continuing trauma of an ordinary person who has been on high alert for so long now that relaxation no longer feels right. Everyone who survived is now traumatized, showing it in various ways.
We learn the history of the zombification of America in flashbacks as Mark checks old office buildings for zombies. But the tenuous security of the city isn’t quite as concrete as it’s made out to be, and hope is a dangerous emotion to have. The zombies are many, and they never get tired.
Overall, I enjoyed it. Some of the ruminations went on a little long for me, definitely reminding me that this was a literary novel. But it definitely gave me some things to imagine when I rode the subway last week.