Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Zombies Are Coming.....

Somehow I've managed to avoid zombie books even as they've swept across Book Land.  One must establish standards.  I don't read zombie books, I don't read romance novels, and I sure as hell don't read Nicholas Sparks.  I have to leave something for Gianna, right?

Hellooooooo Colson!
Then I faced a dilemma.  Colson Whitehead, as I've mentioned before, is my literary husband (no, he's not aware of this fact as far as I know).  I think he's a brilliant writer and John Henry Days is one of the great books of this century thus far.  I found out that there would be a new Colson Whitehead novel back in February, and immediately added it to my list to read.  (One crazy thing about working in the book business is that I am always reading books that won't actually go on sale for many months to come.  It throws off my internal calendar a bit; Texas is about to experience its first decent cold front of the fall and in my mind it's summer 2012.)  And then I found out that the brilliant Colson Whitehead's new book...was about the zombie apocalypse.  The horror!

So I read my first zombie book, not counting Joyce Carol Oates's Zombie, which is actually about a Jeffrey Dahmer-esque serial killer.  Zone One, Whitehead's new novel, takes place in New York City about the zombies have taken over.  The living (as opposed to the undead) set up a new government in Buffalo and launch an offensive in the Big Apple to attempt to set up a free zone for humans.  Soldiers have wiped out the aggressive, can't-be-stopped zombie hoards in zone one and mostly what remains are the anomalous zombies who just sort of short circuit and get stuck where they are when they become undead.  If they were at work Xeroxing reports, for example, they're just loitering by the copy machine.

No, not this Mark Spitz.
Zone One's hero is Mark Spitz, a member of the civilian sweeper crews sent to remove the zombie stragglers in lower Manhattan.  Yes, Mark Spitz is the name of a famous swimmer too.  It's intentional.  Mark Spitz is dealing with the threat of zombies, the Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the memories of the life he lead before the zombie-creating virus.  Over the course of three days, Zone One increasingly builds in intensity and terror, punctuated with Whitehead's sophisticated wit.  If we've learned anything from Lost, it's that you cannot escape the island.

I love this book.  It's one of the best novels of the fall, and Whitehead's best book in years.  And normally I ignore the New York Times Bestseller List because I don't care for James Patterson or Nicholas Sparks, but to see that Zone One will debut on the list next week makes me happy.  Colson Whitehead deserves the critical and popular love granted to peers like David Mitchell, Zadie Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jennifer Egan, and Dave Eggers.  And then he deserves the honor of becoming Mr. Liz Sullivan....awkward?

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