Student Book Review: Zone One

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Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Sabrina Hill, a student of Dr. Dawn Walts at Lewis University. Sabrina has written a book review and it is posted below. You can read her full bio at the end of the post.

Not Your Usual Zombie Apocalypse: A Review of Zone One

Zombie apocalypse books, graphic novels and horror-survival’ games read or played via the Xbox or Playstation or what have you essentially surround the “hack-and-slash” genre of blood-splattering good-ol’ “shoot ‘em in the head” kind of zombies. Zone One, by Colson Whitehead takes a drastic turn from this blood-lust pandemonium that has swept the country (most notably in the graphic-novel-turned-immensely-popular-AMC-TV-show The Walking Dead) and focuses more on the intimate experiences of one B-grade mediocre man humorously dubbed Mark Spitz.

Mark Spitz is “their typical, he was their most, he was their average,” man who is the best suited to survive the end of the world. (Whitehead, 9) The novel takes place in New York’s effectively labeled ‘zone one’ area that is the island of Manhattan where a group of three amusing and well-rounded characters partake in “sweeping” the buildings for leftover skels (short for skeletons) and stragglers (skels who have reverted back to their old routines) left behind by the military. Though society has crumbled, a new order has risen out of the ashes of New York taking Buffalo as their capital. Mark Spitz and his company of two are in the process of sweeping zone one in order to make Manhattan once again habitable for humans.

Whitehead’s literary background serves him well in the novel. Through flashbacks, the present day becomes notably blurred (the novel takes place over one weekend sectioned as Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and gives effective exposition to the characters as well as the zombie event of “Last Night”. However, it also is Whitehead’s greatest weakness. Readers of the zombie/horror genre like fast-paced, chopping heads off, guts flying out, flat-out gore and therefore fans of that genre might not snuggle up to Zone One right away.

Whitehead gives the zombie name an air of nobility; it is a true novel in the sense of its reality to the Manhattan setting and the magnanimous characterization of Mark Spitz (who is always referred to using both his first and surname). Whitehead even stirs up pathos for the stragglers in Zone One because “it happened every so often that [Mark Spitz] recognized something in these monsters, they looked like someone he had known or loved. Eighth-grade lab partner or lanky cashier at the mini-mart, college girlfriend spring semester junior year. Uncle,” (16). Overall, Zone One may not be the quintessential zombie book, but it is perfect for avid readers looking for a well-rounded novel concerning real questions about humanity and about our undead counterparts.

— Sabrina Hill

Editor’s Note: Sabrina Hill is a junior at Lewis University who spends most of her time reading or writing all sorts of genres.  She loves experimenting with different writing styles and enjoys the struggle of creativity.  This is her first submission to the Jet Fuel Review blog.  Her review of the book Zone One by Colson Whitehead was written for Dr. Dawn Walts’ Topics in Literature: The Apocalypse in Literature.

3 thoughts on “Student Book Review: Zone One

  1. Gina Hill March 27, 2012 / 11:21 pm

    Excellent writing, I find this article both interesting and giving me the great desire to read the literature.

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