When Zone One by Colson Whitehead came out in October, like most reading zombiephiles I was a bit perplexed. After all, this was no one-hit-wonder debut novelist writing yet another post-apocalyptic zombie story the likes of which has been seen over and over since the world caught The Walking Dead fever. This was Colson Whitehead, as in “award-winning novelist of best-selling literary fiction” Colson Whithead. And he wrote a book about zombies.
Zone One by Colson Whitehead is literary fiction’s answer to the zombie genre. It’s The Things They Carried with the undead.
The story spans three days in the life of a man nicknamed Mark Spitz, as he and his squad of fellow “sweepers” move through what used to be Manhattan, but now is known only as Zone One. The three-person squad is responsible for cleaning up the last few zombies left in Zone One after a massive military operation has wiped out most of the undead of the city in the first step along the road to reclaiming the world for the living. The zombies (known as “skels” for their skeletal appearance) are only the tip of the horror iceberg, as Mark Spitz reminisces about the time he spent in survival mode, running just one step ahead of death before joining what was left of civilization in recovery.