Zone OneZone One by Colson Whitehead
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

sort of like The Road–i don’t get what all the fuss is about.

i read a long article recently (wish i could remember where–if my brain belatedly pukes it up, i’ll post the URL) about literary fiction writers who try to write genre, and the pitfalls they fall into. chief among them was not really understanding the history of the genre–not grasping what’s been said 1,000 times, and how it’s been said. i get that feeling a lot with this novel.

post-apocalyptica? check. zombies? check. point of view of some low-level grunt? check. the combination is not new.

i can’t find any new message in the combination this time, either. i read the first 100 pages and could not stop my mind wandering. (in truth, i tried reading it like 3 or 4 times, because it came highly recommended by a reader whose discernment i trust). but every time… it was like the literary equivalent of a chicken salad sandwich, probably with too much mayo–i kept sliding off into thoughts of–well, anything else.

science fiction is supposed to take you to a new nexus of humans and technology, or a future you had not imagined, or give you a genuinely alien thought, to name a few. (i’m quite certain sf is broader than this, but those are the high points, i think). this book just gives you mayo.

i read a short story from Maureen F. McHugh’s After the Apocalypse not too long ago about a guy who has been dropped into a city full of zombies, and it was absolutely hair-raising. it can be done. i’m just pretty convinced it wasn’t done, here in Zone One.

i may give this book one more try, in a few months. if i find something in the second half to redeem the first, i will post an update.