Zone One

  • by Colson Whitehead
  • Narrated by Beresford Bennett
  • 9 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In this wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, a pandemic has devastated the planet. The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead.
Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuild­ing civilization under orders from the provisional govern­ment based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street - aka Zone One - but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety - the “malfunctioning” stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives.
Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams work­ing in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitz’s desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world.
And then things start to go wrong.
Both spine chilling and playfully cerebral, Zone One bril­liantly subverts the genre’s conventions and deconstructs the zombie myth for the twenty-first century.

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What the Critics Say

"A satirist so playful that you often don't even feel his scalpel, Whitehead toys with the shards of contemporary culture with an infectious glee. Here he upends the tropes of the zombie story in the canyons of lower Manhattan. Horror has rarely been so unsettling, and never so grimly funny." (The Daily Beast)
"Highbrow novelist Colson Whitehead plunges into the unstoppable zombie genre in this subtle meditation on loss and love in a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, which has become the city that never dies." (USA Today)
"For-real literary - gory, lyrical, human, precise." (GQ)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Tomorrow needs a marketing rollout.

Everything they say about this book is true. It is slow, confusing, and lacking action...AND it is funny as hell and breathtakingly beautiful.

I don't want to get into a "literary fiction" vs. "mass market fiction" argument here. This book is just not going to do it for a lot of people, and it has nothing to do with education, intelligence, status, etc.

I was almost one of those people. I have a Master's degree in English Lit., but I gave up most serious literature years ago for good, pulpy fun. I spent much of the first two hours listening to Zone One while secretly composing in my head a scathing review about how dull and pointless it seemed.

Then something happened. I got it. I went back to the beginning and listened again. When I got to the end, I went back to the middle for yet another go.

What I found was a moving story, excellent character development, sharply written lines (like the one I used for my headline above), some social commentary (though perhaps a bit obvious...yes, we know, modern folk DO act like the walking dead much of the time), and a different way of looking at the zombie apocalypse.

So I loved it, but you may not. Still, I believe there is room in the genre for Zone One.
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- Annie

Stream of conciousness in the interregnum

I am a fan of the post apocalyptic, zombie, last man on Earth genres. It was that interest and the numerous positive Audible reviews which led me to purchase this book.
On a positive note, the story is set in a time which is not typically featured in stories in this genre, i.e., after the zombie apocalypse has run it's course and a previously collapsed human society has revived enough to be organized to support a zombie clean-up effort and restoration of organized human society with bureaucracies and institutions. This period known as "the interregnum" is a word that the author introduced me to, over and over again.
I listened to roughly 2/3 of the book before I finally gave-up,... why? Well, I really had difficulty staying focused on the story (something which is not common for me) because the stream of consciousness nature of the story. It jumps from the present to the past and back again all in a few minutes of listening while at the same time using literary illusions that constantly took me out of the story and made me suspect that the author was showing-off his vast vocabulary. After hours of listening I didn't feel like I knew the characters and worse... I didn't care to. Perhaps my experience was doomed in the telling? The reader had a way of reading that really grated on me (a lilt at the end of his sentences perhaps?). Listen to a sample before you purchase!
Wait for the "Zone One" movie featuring Brad Pitt, I suspect the movie will be more entertaining than the book.
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- Bruce

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-18-2011
  • Publisher: Random House Audio