Thursday, August 1, 2013

Zone One, by Colson Whitehead

*Updated; see below*

Initially, my view on this novel was to point out that one of the worst things is to get a book that is awful but just barely not sufficiently bad to simply slam closed and not finish reading.

And that this is one of those books.

I was planning to describe it, but really, why bother. Just avoid it.

But that's not entirely fair.  The concept is pretty interesting:  in the post-zombie apocalyptic USA, the worst is over and civilian sweeper teams go through lower Manhattan to clean out any remaining zombies in preparation for the re-population of the region.   The lead character, nicknamed Mark Spitz, drives the action as a member of one of these teams.

The problem is the writing.  Or perhaps more precisely, the writing style.   I don't know how to specifically critique it; good thing I'm not his editor.  Or maybe a bad thing, because even though I don't know how to describe the bad smell, I still know what smells bad.   Clearly Mr. Whitehead's editor didn't have this aversion to loose writing.

Update:  well one man's loose writing is another man's brilliant prose!   A friend, who's literary taste I quite trust, has quite the opposite opinion.  He thought the writing was amazing and says it made him smile throughout.   So in light of this, and since I really do like the concept and plot, instead of recommending against this book let's say that if the notion sounds interesting to you, give it a shot.

Zone One

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, by Charlie Huston

The hero of this novel, Web, ends up working as a crime scene cleaner.   Mopping up blood and other mess.   But the book isn't overly full of gore.   It is an interesting drama, a study of a troubled person and how he evolves as he tries to move forward in his life but ends up stumbling a bit, into some crime and intrigue and dismay.  To be clear though, this book is not a downer; Web does move forward and the ending is satisfying.   Worth reading.

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death: A Novel