Colson Whitehead’s new novel explores the city — after the apocalypse

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In Colson Whitehead’s new novel, “Zone One,” gentrification is the least of New York City’s problems. More pressingly: it’s overrun with zombies.

Whitehead’s new book — which will be released with a reading on Oct. 19 at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene — is set in post-apocalyptic New York, after it’s been decimated by a pandemic. Our guide through Whitehead’s bleak re-imagining of the destroyed city is Mark Spitz, a “sweeper” for a civilian squad whose primary responsibility is exterminating “stragglers,” a particular breed of undead who are so emotionally tied to their old lives that they are doomed to repeat their former routines — but carry and spread the infection as they do.

“I tried to keep my usual preoccupations and meditated pace while tackling a genre that usually has much more action, gore and death, and usual fare,” Whitehead said. “I wanted to explore the different ideas of self.”

Part modern allegory, part social satire, “Zone One” is as whip-smart and carefully crafted as you’d expect from a pro like Whitehead. And lovers of zombie lit will be pleased that “Zone One” has plenty of gore to go around; after all, its author drew inspiration from horror films of the 1970s and ’80s.

“It’s a horror novel, so I wanted to stay in conventions,” he said. “This is a good opportunity to pay homage to my childhood — while other kids were playing sports, I was watching the ‘Twilight Zone.’ ”

Colson Whitehead at Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. between S. Portland Street and S. Elliott Place in Fort Greene, (718) 246-0200]. Free, 7 pm. For info, visit

Updated 5:27 pm, July 9, 2018
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