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Extended Audio Sample Zone One: A Novel Audiobook, by Colson Whitehead Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (6,815 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Colson Whitehead Narrator: Beresford Bennett Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2011 ISBN: 9780307940933
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In this wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, a pandemic has devastated the planet. The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead.

Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuild­ing civilization under orders from the provisional govern­ment based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One—but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety—the “malfunctioning” stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives.

Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams work­ing in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitz’s desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world.

And then things start to go wrong.

Both spine chilling and playfully cerebral, Zone One bril­liantly subverts the genre’s conventions and deconstructs the zombie myth for the twenty-first century. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “The zombie genre provides unlikely inspiration for the author’s creative renewal…The latest from a generation of literary novelists who are erasing the distinction between art and pulp.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “A satirist so playful that you often don’t even feel his scalpel, Whitehead toys with the shards of contemporary culture with an infectious glee. Here he upends the tropes of the zombie story in the canyons of lower Manhattan. Horror has rarely been so unsettling, and never so grimly funny.”

    Daily Beast

  • “For-real literary—gory, lyrical, human, precise.”


  • “Highbrow novelist Colson Whitehead plunges into the unstoppable zombie genre in this subtle meditation on loss and love in a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, which has become the city that never dies.”

    USA Today

  • “A sharp commentary on the rat race of contemporary life…Zone One lifts all the gore and gunfire and oozy bits one might expect from the genre. But this is Whitehead, so there’s also popular culture to critique and parallels to draw between zombies and contemporary society.”

    Houston Chronicle

  • “In precise, elegant prose [Whitehead] deliberately layers the ever more disturbing elements of the story, one upon the other, allowing the reader to discover the horror in the same fragmentary manner we imagine frantic survivors might…Resembles Cormac McCarthy’s The Road…An intense meditation on the way we cope with disaster and the stubborn, often inexplicable, persistence of the human will to survive.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • “Stylishly entertaining…[Whitehead’s] sentences are interesting, his plotting brisk, his descriptions lucid, and his asides clever.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “If you’re going to break down and read a zombie novel, make it this one.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Leave it to the supremely thoughtful and snarkily funny Whitehead to do interesting things with a topic that lately has seated itself in the public’s imagination…Not just a juicy experiment in genre fiction but a brilliantly disguised meditation on a ‘flatlined culture’ in need of its own rejuvenating psychic jolt.”

    Seattle Times

  • “Colson Whitehead’s Zone One isn’t your typical zombie novel; it trades fright-night fodder for empathy and chilling realism…yielding a haunting portrait of a lonely, desolate, and uncertain city.”


  • Zone One is not the work of a serious novelist slumming it with some genre-novel cash-in, but rather a lovely piece of writing…Whitehead picks at our nervousness about order’s thin grip, suggesting just how flimsy the societal walls are that make possible our hopes and dreams and overly complicated coffee orders.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “A zombie story with brains…[Whitehead is a] certifiably hip writer who can spin gore into macabre poetry.”

    Washington Post

  • “Uniquely affecting…A rich mix of wartime satire and darkly funny social commentary…Whether charged with bleak sadness or bone-dry humor, sentences worth savoring pile up faster than the body count.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “It’s a book you want to read rather than one you should read…while still providing the chilling, fleshy pleasures of zombies who lurch, pursue, hunger…One of the best books of the year.”


  • “Whitehead writes with economy, texture and punch…A cool, thoughtful and, for all its ludic violence, strangely tender novel, a celebration of modernity and a pre-emptive wake for its demise.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • Selected for the November 2011 Indie Next List
  • A New York Times bestseller
  • A 2011 Library Journal Best Book for Fiction
  • A 2011 Barnes & Noble Best Book for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Dan | 1/29/2014

    " This book was slow, it was tedious, and I don't know why I was reading a zombie book anyway. The continual shifting to long flashbacks from the present made it difficult to follow, and the story really didn't develop, it had little plot. It was more about the main character's thoughts and reflections, I guess on his experiences and his view of culture. It was also very New Yorkish in its setting. Overall, it was not fun to read, though it had a lot of good writing, the story was almost non-existent and it was not a satisfying read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elyse | 1/24/2014

    " Actually could have given this book more stars but thought the ending was lame. Warning - it has little dialogue most of it is internal observations of the main character. Not a big fan of this type of writing but it works in this book. For a "zombie" book it is depressing more than gory or scary. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mieke Mcbride | 1/10/2014

    " Loved the beginning and end of this book, but the middle dragged, mainly because this book doesn't really include a plot, just a compelling main character and a fascinating universe. Unlike other entries in the zombie genre, in Whitehead's world, zombies are not a homogeneous bunch. Yes, most are the brain eating variety, but for a minority who are "turned," they become "stragglers," or brainless people stuck in time, doing whatever they were most comfortable doing in life-- be it working the cash register at the grocery store, washing the dishes, whatever. This inclusion of the stragglers is what made this book most interesting to me, though I do wish that Whitehead had done something more with this clever innovation (like, actually put a plot around it). The story picks up well into the zombie epidemic, but the flashbacks throughout the novel convince me that I'd have enjoyed this more if it the story had been about the beginning. Whitehead does have a great way with words (there's a scene with Mark Spitz's parents that I can't get out of my head), but all in all, not a book I'd recommend (unless you're really in the mood for something slow). "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Lenny Grossman | 1/7/2014

    " Yaaaaawn. Is it possible to write a boring zombie story. Yes, indeed it is. Trying to go all literary on an apocalyptic subject just didn't work for me. I'd rather turn to Stephen King. He does it much better than Whitehead. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Emily Landry | 12/28/2013

    " This is honestly one of the worst, most terribe books I have EVER read. I want a refund! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Christine Gaskins | 12/25/2013

    " The use of words was nice but to me it was, overall, dull. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Paul | 12/25/2013

    " 3 1/2 stars. A little confusing and a few words did seem out of place. But overall, a good satire. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark | 12/16/2013

    " You know, Colson Whitehead writes really well and this kind of amounts to a metaphor for modern society but zombies really creep me out. I finished this last night and I didn't sleep well at all, kept seeing zombies. Just shows you that Whitehead's writing is very evocative. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brian | 9/13/2013

    " Not much plot, but the writing is top-notch and the discourse on contemporary culture is very entertaining. A literaray zombie novel. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 J.C. | 4/28/2013

    " couldn't get past page 50. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Becky Crowe | 12/7/2012

    " Ok tale of 3 days of post-zombie world post immediate survival. Not terrifically interesting if you've read other zombie things or watched zombie stuff. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shawn Manning | 10/14/2012

    " Having heard the hype about this & being a zombie fan I had to check it out. The author does a nice job of throwing some surprises in and his use of language was top notch. Now, having said that, I am not sure that I would read anything else by him as this sort of thing is not his regular beat. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 AJ Conroy | 5/18/2012

    " The concept is interesting-- recovering and rebuilding after a zombie apocalypse. But the writing itself seemed over-wrought, like it was written for an MFA program. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 John | 4/11/2012

    " Billed as a thinking mans zombie book. Too introspective for me. I read this genre for fun, not for morose analysis. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Megan | 3/23/2012

    " As you know, I like me some good ol' fashion collapse of society, post-plague tales. This was no exception. I removed a star for lack of plot, because really, sometimes good prose about the human condition can only take you so far. Still, pretty good! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Deidre | 12/6/2011

    " Boring. Blah blah blah. I am so disappointed. Ultimately I can never get those hours back that I spent trying to find some redemption from this work. What a shame "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elizabeth | 11/8/2011

    " Thanks for that dose of crushing despair, Whitehead. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Virginia | 11/7/2011

    " Kind of disappointed. The pacing was too slow. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 April | 11/6/2011

    " Very well written, but where was the plot? I liked Ashes by Ilsa Bick much better. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Mia | 11/6/2011

    " Very disappointing. I was hoping for an exciting post-apocalyptic tale and instead got this meandering, unfocused and kinda dull reflection of modern day life. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Holly | 11/4/2011

    " This novel was just an excuse for CW to write a sentence like: "Give me your poor, your hungry, your suppurating masses yearning to eat." Just kidding. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hans | 11/2/2011

    " A smart and sophisticated step beyond the male melodrama of The Walking Dead. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jack | 11/2/2011

    " Very disappointing combination of evocative language with poor characters and a story that never quite takes off or sucks you in. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Joan | 11/2/2011

    " very disappointed in this book.....it sounded like there would be lots of action and suspense.....unfortunately none of either......won't recommend this book to anyone "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Matthew | 11/2/2011

    " Not what I expected. Lots of world-building that went a little too slow, but some of it just blew me away. Good stuff. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Frederick Scott | 10/31/2011

    " Not what I would call a zombie story. The zombies are background noise to the stream-of-consciousness style of writing. The timeline is vague at best, wandering from past to present with little notice of the change. I ended up skimming a lot of pages due to them being excessively descriptive. "

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About the Author
Author Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous books. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and recipient of a Whiting Award and a MacArthur Fellowship.

About the Narrator

Beresford Bennett is a voice talent and audiobook narrator.