Books Gone Bad, Review or Ignore?

The staff at the Zombie Emergency Relief Organization loves zombie books, zombie movies and even zombie TV shows. By keeping on the cutting edge of what is out there, we identify untruths and areas of confusion that need to be clarified in order to further our mission of making this a kinder, gentler world for zombie kids.

Unfortunately, some of the books we review are, to be honest, boring, unimaginative, and poorly written. That breaks our hearts. We WANT to give positive reviews. We thrill to the reading of tales that are fast-paced, smart, and keep us up until 4 a.m. to see how things turn out. Reviewing those books makes our Friday book review fun. The authors enjoy hearing some praise (writing a novel is damn hard work), for those with publishers (like our favorite publisher, Permuted Press, who sends free books for review) it is an acknowledgement of their savvy in the field of zombie lore, and it benefits our readers, who hunger for well-written stories that defy genre stereotypes. On a personal note, good book reviews generate shares, likes, and new visitors to our blog. All actions we heartily endorse.

So what happens when we give a bad book review? The author generally doesn’t share, people aren’t eager to read it, and our blog doesn’t benefit. The problem being that we can’t, in good conscience, write the kind of snarky, bad book review that will go viral and generate hits. We respect writers too much.

Our experience so far has identified two kinds of writers: those we call professionals, meaning they can take criticism, process it, and move on, and those we consider amateurs, who only want to validation that they are a great writer and consider criticism a sign of a stupid reader. Amateurs spend so much time defending the sanctity of their writing that they leave no room for discussion or reflection. We wish we could identify these writers prior to reviewing their work, because then we could avoid them.

Now, we’re not looking for sympathy. We appreciate everyone who offers us books to review and suggests books we might enjoy. Our post today is only to gather some feedback as to whether it is worthwhile to post truly bad reviews, or whether you only want us to review books in the zombie genre that possess some redeeming qualities. Answering our poll will allow us to serve you, and the orphaned zombie children, better. Thanks, Your Friends at the Zombie Emergency Relief Organization.

Book Review Friday: Zone One by Colson Whitehead

zone one

Whenever a literary writer ventures into genre territory, there is a burst of intellectual excitement to see what a “real” writer can do with genre material.  This snobbishness underlies a belief that genre writing is a lesser literary form that can easily be mastered by those who have written serious fiction. Author Colson Whitehead has an impressive resume including prestigious awards and nominations, but it is no guarantee he can write a good zombie novel.

Zone One refers to a part of lower Manhattan being reclaimed for human resettlement after the zombie apocalypse. Main character Mark Spitz is part of a group of sweepers responsible for going building to building and room to room to eradicate the remaining zombies after the military has rid the area of the majority of them.  Zombies in Zone One fall into two categories: those with cannibalistic tendencies and the stragglers, zombies stuck in an endless loop of repetitive action such as working a copy machine or surfing a long dead internet. The concept of these walking corpses, still somehow tethered to long ago actions and impulses, is an interesting addition to zombie lore. These stragglers are not necessarily dangerous, instead they mirror the stale, predictable actions of the survivors. This new world, sponsored by corporations and managed by the military, hardly seems worth the effort.

In Zone One those in power believe that the zombie problem can be fixed as if it were a lame Super Bowl half time show. If you add enough pomp, pageantry, and a few catchy slogans, America will be ready to return to normal. Unfortunately the one item missing from this brew is hope. Without hope, this reader lost interest in the plight of Mark Spitz and the other survivors.

Zone One is plodding and depressing, but serviceable. The living exhibited the expected trauma and hopelessness at their plight. The zombies continued to be mindless and overwhelming in number.  At the end, it seems, man is destined for extinction.  A sad end to a hopeless novel.

Zone One: A Novel is available at Amazon.