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Zone One
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on 22 January 2015
A little difficult at times,but i like it for that
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on 3 May 2016
I love a good zombie book, so when this one was recommended to me (at an academic conference of all places) as being a literary take on the genre, I thought I'd give it a try.

I've got to say, after reading it I'm not at all sure that the "literary zombie" works. The first section read as overwritten with far too much description. In fact, this continues throughout the novel (why use one word when eighty will do?) and as a result it gets hard to follow where in the narrative you are with the main character, Mark Spitz. There's an awful lot of introspection/how he got where he was which is mingled with the main action and it can sometimes be hard to follow the train of thought.

That said, after the first third (where I nearly gave up), I started to get it a bit more. This, it seemed to me, is a satire on how we live now (like zombies) - it's all too easy to see yourself as one of the stragglers that Mark Spitz is clearing up. I loved the idea that Mark Spitz had the feeling that optimism (hope for the returning world) would destroy the human race. (At the same academic conference where this was recommended to me, the notion of "cruel optimism" was discussed - the feeling that things will get better when they never do and never will which undoes people).

This was okay as a book - I had to read it in one sitting or I would have given up completely and also lost my thread. It's not the best zombie book I've ever read, but it is a thoughtful one.
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on 5 May 2017
I wasn't quite sure I'd like this at the beginning - it took me a bit to get my head round this unusual book. In the end, I thought it was one of the best books I've read in a while. The description of the effect of an apocalypse on the survivors is a masterpiece; the writing is sharp, the humour dark. A gripping, fascinating book that manages to be a fine literary work while having zombies in the storyline...
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on 8 October 2013
Was looking forward to this, but almost abandoned it out of boredom 1/3 way through. I picked it up again and was glad I finished.

Everyone knows this is a literary novelist's take on the genre, so it's not a screenplay in disguise. But I really think he should have used a standard device - say, the ticking-clock countdown to an event - to give structure and move the plot along. He even had an event for the countdown, the convention of delegates in zone one, but I only found out about this about half way through and in the meantime had to put up with the random observations and reminiscences of a few undramatic characters during a badly-defined period of three days. Surely if you send a squad of soldiers into the field you have to create an Aliens-style scene that establishes the essence of each character?

The mid-sequence flash-backs have been criticised for implausibility, but for me the confusion they created was most annoying. I had to track back a few times to find my bearings. And I didn't get a great sense of place.

But it is worth it. The pace picks up in the second half, the writing is mostly cool and amusing (some slang that bothered me), and the satire and criticism is good. The reflections on the past lives and the rights of the zombies (skels and stragglers) were good and surprising, and there was a general tone of the futility of the past. And the future? The post-apocalypse utopia turns out to be run by a delusional, wrist-slapping military bureaucracy, a mediocre world for mediocre people: Utopia still means Nowhere, which is different from the survivalist fantasy. Plus the ending has a nice joke about learning to swim.
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on 26 July 2014
Initially I was put off by the author's convoluted style but I struggled on and the story about a world overrun by Zombies suddenly leapt, somewhat ironically, to life. Both the characters and the world they inhabit are so well drawn and with such a biting wit, that it easily escapes the usual stereotypical zombie, apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic novel yet still retains all the expected conventions. With an ending that stays with you long after the book has been put down, this easily earns its 4 stars.
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on 19 October 2011
This is one of the best post-apocalypse/zombie/survival novels I've read since last year's The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell. Lovely writing captures the dislocation, madness and loneliness of survivors as they try to rebuild their world and come to terms with all they've seen and lost. The story is told over three days in the life of a civilian "sweeper" Mark Spitz with often jarring flashbacks to his life before the plague and during his battle for survival in the wastelands.

If you're looking for page after page of gore then you will be disappointed. This is a strange, smart and haunting book that has a lot to say and it will live in the memory.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 17 April 2014
The action in this book takes place over three days – Friday, Saturday, Sunday. But the main narration is from the perspective of one man, known these days as Mark Spitz, and he spends an awful lot of time thinking about the old days before The Last Night. This has the unfortunate effect of slowing down the action which is actually taking place right now, in front of him, most of which he is involved in, and his introspective pauses seem to last for an awfully long time, usually when he is being attacked by a ‘hostile’. Unrealistic? Definitely – but there is a germ of a great story hiding in between all the deep thinking.

Mark is one of the crew working their way through Manhattan, cleaning out the last of the ‘skels’ and ‘stragglers’ preparatory to the big plan to rebuild the city; to start to claim back the country. And it is in these situations that we hear his story; what his life had been like, what it could have been like, but never thinking about what the future could hold – living for the next five minutes was one victory at a time. To envisage a future is forbidden.

I kept reading this book because I wanted to know how the story panned out, but I did find the constant to’ing and fro’ing in the timeline made the journey a rather disjointed one. It detracted from the overall impact of what the story could have been, and ultimately the read is a rather disappointing one, largely because of the writing and narrative style. A pity; quite good, but could have been a lot better.
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on 17 June 2014
This is a really interesting take on the zombie genre. The writing is gorgeous and the characterisation is interesting but the story is slow. Not your typical zombie story.
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on 17 April 2013
I can't believe how refreshing this book is. After many poorly written examples of zombie fiction this book is a welcome change. It's not filled with blood and gore, but I don't see that as a bad thing. It's much more about atmosphere, although there are a few action scenes thrown in to keep the pace up.

The story takes place over three days in New York after a zombie pandemic. We follow a man who is working as a 'sweeper' in part of the operation to clear a walled-off part of the city from the few remaining zombies. The US Marines have already cleared out the violent ones, leaving around 1% of 'stragglers' who just stand around, reinacting some aspect of their former lives.

Most of the story deals with the way that the survivors deal with the aweful things they have seen and done as part of 'post-apocalyptic stress disorder'. Flashback scenes fill in the backstory of the main character to provide some variety. This is written in a style that I haven't encountered before in zombie fiction, but I thoroughly recommend it.
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on 25 January 2012
After checking some reviews in newspapers, Zone One sounded highly intriguing. A zombie novel leaning over into the literary section? Sure. Patrick Ness gave it a thumbs up in The Guardian? Ok. But, while the premise is good, there is, to say the least, a lot of air that needs taken out. Just when it builds, it rambles on down a road laden with past memories and...it's book that needed a really good editor. I actually feel a little ripped off. It took me several attempts to finish it, almost to the point that I was going to leave it on the shelf or give it away to a charity shop. Pointless anecdotes, satire that doesn't bite, Zone One could be a great read, it just suffers from being frustrating, lacking in any real pace when it needs it, and in the end, I sat reading it into the very late hours with my ipod on playing some atmospheric music (the band/artist Oneohtrix Point Never) just so I could get it read. I feel bad for writing this review. I just can't recommend it to anyone. This was mind-numbing.
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