Thursday, December 13, 2012

Reading Journal: Zone One, by Colson Whitehead (2011)

What I was most taken with in this novel was the slow build that the author pulled off in the first 50 pages; after about six, I gritted my teeth for the long haul, but when it comes to the scene he's setting - New York, post zombie apocalypse - his beginning is truly in media res, and he rewards your effort by throwing you another bone every few pages, be it the meaning of a snippet of dialect or a pre-catastrophe memory that lets you a little further inside one character or another. You're hooked by the time he starts digging deeper into the characters than their simple function, that of Skel sweepers - zombie killers, emptying out mostly office buildings - when he truly begins showing you the toll the work is taking on the few survivors rehabilitating the city. Where the metaphor takes off is near the end of the book's first part and the beginning of its second, when the stragglers enter the picture: beings halfway between lost skels and unaffected humans - the Big Contemporary Metaphor of those who still have a chance, i.e., the skin in the game. He moves his prose along at a decent pace for a writer with such an academic pedigree, never slowing the action too long or over-stretching the flashbacks that humanize our heroes. It's definitely a book worthy of its hype, and it pays out on every extra bit of energy its reader expends.

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