Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Zone One is the best zombie book I have read in two years.  While World War Z takes a global and high level view of a zombie outbreak, Zone One’s is from the perspective of one man’s escape from the zombie “skels”.  Author Colson Whitehead sets this story in his native New York City, with frequent flashbacks to Mark Spitz’s life after “Last Night”.

This is a more cerebral book about how people react and society changes when the zombies come forth.  Colson does an excellent job of not talking about how a government decides and implements a policy, but portraying how that policy message is distorted when it reaches individuals.  I particularly enjoyed the interim government’s attempt to rebrand the camps set up to house survivors, renaming one “Happy Acres”.  Those little touches throughout the novel add to the good writing.

The basic plot is fairly straightforward – man escapes from zombies initially, then makes a solo run for life until he lands in a government refugee camp.  He is put to work helping to clear the clogged highways when he volunteers for a different duty; helping to clear Manhattan of the undead.   Mark’s small team of sweepers each have their own stories, which are told in due course.

If you hate novels that have frequent flashbacks then don’t read this book.  The plot is organized, but Whitehead starts with Mark Spitz in New York City and darts back to tell the story to help explain the mental and physical “tics” Mark exhibits.

Frequent shooting, clubbing, biting, and zombie hoards are found throughout this book, but thankfully absent are the incessant foul language and bedroom scenes that seem to frequent this genre.  I will have to take a good look at Whitehead’s other books in the future.

The first 21 pages of the book can be viewed online at Scribd.  Enjoy!

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