If you like: zombies * military * suspense
Zone One takes place in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak. We join Mark Spitz, along with his unit, as he attempts to secure Manhattan for future occupancy. The story take place over the course of a weekend, with flashbacks ranging from the Last Night of normalcy to the recent past of the Omega Unit. Though cleanup efforts are thoroughly underway, the zombie outbreak is by no means under control. The survivors inhabit a series of safe camps, as well as the unit attempting to retake the island. A strange balance exists between surviving the day and preserving everything possible so life can return to normal once the city is restored.
Although outbreak stories have many commonalities, Zone One has a few fresh ideas. A small percentage of those infected do not become flesh craving monsters. Instead, they return to an isolated moment and location and remain there as if frozen in thought. The various stragglers that Mark Spitz encounters provide many opportunities to reflect on the benign things that have been lost in this new world. The sharing of Last Night stories is also a key part of the world in Zone One. It is inevitable that people would want to share their experience of the day the world fell apart. It happens with any major tragedy. In Zone One, this telling takes on a ritualistic significance, and the weight of sharing the tale is both cathartic and destructive for the teller. This has led Mark Spitz to develop a system of telling based on perceived relationship, and adds a strong element of realism to the story.
Zone One is a story about slowing putting things back together while they continue to fall apart. The characters are focused on the long-term outcomes without worrying as much about the zombies on the other side of the wall. Turning a blind eye to the impending danger fills the reader with dread about what’s to come. It is told over three days, and this limited window immediately puts the reader on edge. The subtle inclusion of minor things beginning to fail also puts the reader on edge. Though there are moments of intensity, the real horror in Zone One comes from the slow sense of unraveling. The conflicting nature of the situational reality and the PR coming from the new government provides glaring commentary on the nature of spin, and what happens when politicians are more focused on sound bites and selling a story than getting to the root of problems. Zone One will really please fans of the genre who want a different take on surviving the outbreak.
If your coworker’s arm is looking tastier by the minute, read Zone One.
Whitehead, Colson. Zone One: A Novel. New York: Random House, Inc., 2011. Kindle Edition.