NPR : Fresh Air

A 'Zone' Full Of Zombies In Lower Manhattan

Play associated audio

A zombie plague has wiped out 95 percent of America. Camps of survivors band together in pockets across the country, waiting for small squadrons of human "sweepers" to inch their way across major cities, destroying the remaining zombie-like creatures hiding out in office buildings and shopping malls.

But now the human sweepers have to tackle their biggest challenge yet: clearing the undead from Lower Manhattan.

That's the setup of Colson Whitehead's post-apocalyptic zombie novel Zone One. The book tracks a team of human "sweepers" as they make their way through a walled-off area of New York City over the course of three days.

Team leader Mark Spitz must stay calm to avoid the zombies lurking around every corner. But he keeps having flashbacks to the worst days of the zombie apocalypse, when everything — and everyone — in his life was destroyed.

"Mark Spitz is trying to reconcile moving to the city and becoming a real New Yorker with this empty landscape that confronts him," Whitehead tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "In Zone One, I'm describing New York a couple years in the future, and it looks pretty much the same but the ruined city is superimposed on the city that's still standing."

Whitehead, who also wrote Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days and The Colossus of New York, explains that he wrote his latest novel in part to pay homage to the grime-filled New York of the 1970s — and to the science-fiction and horror novels he read as a child.

"It was staying in the house, being a shut-in as a 10-year-old and just curling up with The Twilight Zone or a stack of comic books that made me want to be a writer," he says. "I envied kids who played soccer and football, but that was not my gig."

Whitehead says writers would be unlikely to survive an apocalyptic event — as would Olympians and other high achievers.

"In the apocalypse, I think those average, mediocre folks are the ones who are going to live," he says. "I think the A-pluses will probably snuff themselves. The C-minus personalities will probably be killed off very quickly. But it's the mediocre folks that will become the heroes. ... Anyone who survives will be a hero."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


Reading Gaol, Where Oscar Wilde Was Imprisoned, Unlocks Its Gates For Art

In 1895, Wilde was convicted of homosexual activity and sentenced to two years Reading Gaol. Built in the mid-1800s, the facility was operational until 2013. Now, it's hosting an unusual art exhibit.

Trick Or Treat? Critics Blast Big Soda's Efforts To Fend Off Taxes

Several U.S. cities have sugary drink taxes on the ballot. As efforts to reduce soda consumption gain traction around the world, critics say the industry is using the tobacco playbook to fight back.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour - October 21, 2016

Virginia’s online voter registration will be extended after a system crash. Montgomery County keeps Marriott headquarters local with big incentives. And Washington D.C. dukes it out with Washington state over their shared moniker.


Tesla Has Begun Making All Its New Cars Self-Driving

Elon Musk, Tesla's CEO, says once the technology is fully enabled, the cars will be able to drive with no human input. Musk says previously built Teslas can't be retrofitted with the latest features.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.