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The Zero Audible – Unabridged

3.8 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Let me say first that this novel does not make sense in the way your average novel will. It is probably not as patriotic as anything else you've read that retells the story of 9/11. Or as sympathetic. But it is definitely the most compassionate. THE ZERO tells the story of Brian Remy, a cop who was there when it all happened - and in the subsequent months sees his life begin to unravel as he suffers gaps in his waking consciousness (in much the same way as the main character in the film, MEMENTO). Remy's waking reality is the world gone surreal.

Remy can't figure out what's happening to him, and it's nearly impossible to what's real and what's not. Every time things he begins to understand what's going on, he blacks out; and so does the reader. This leads to what is possibly the most introspective novel written in the past ten years. THE ZERO will knock you off your feet. Walter's writing (in the tradition of Kafka) is precise, beautiful, destructive, and even mesmerizing. If this novel doesn't make it into the canon of great American literature, it'll be a crying shame.
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Format: Hardcover
First of all, let me emphasize that I believe Jess Walter is one of the brightest lights in fiction today. He is a remarkably talented writer, and deserves mainstream success. I thoroughly enjoyed CITIZEN VINCE, his Edgar-winning novel from last year.

THE ZERO: A NOVEL, however, is nowhere near as good as CITIZEN VINCE.

Why not? Let me list the reasons:

(1) THE ZERO has no coherent plot. Brian Remy is a heroic 9/11 cop who suffers frequent "gaps" in his memory after the terrorist attack. As a result, he drifts through the entire story of this novel without really understandng why he is doing what he's doing. This leads to a large number of disjointed scenes with almost no context provided. As a result, this novel has no narrative thread, which makes for a rather disorienting (and ultimately tedious) read. Put bluntly, this novel was very hard for me to finish.

(2) THE ZERO has no likable central character. Who is Remy? What is he doing? What are his motivations? Why is he torturing terror suspects and cheating on his girlfriend? The reader never knows, because Remy himself does not know, due to his frequent memory loss. As a result, the central character of this novel is remarkably vacuous and impossible to identify with. This book has a hollow center.

(3) THE ZERO has cartoonish supporting characters. Pretty much all the supporting characters in this novel are exaggerated stereotypes. We have embarssingly macho, stupid police characters. We have extremely cynical politicians and greedy businessmen. We have Remy's pseudo-intellectual son, who pretends that Remy died at 9/11. None of these characters is even remotely believable. All of the dialogue is stilted and unrealistic.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A perfect 10. The author takes the reader on a gritty, black edged, rocket fueled ride across the abyss of Ground Zero. And what a ride it is! The audacity of writing a novel loaded with satire and black humor on the outfall of a police officer's dealing with post WTC trauma and the politics of cleanup culminating with the sharp irony of survivorship. And it is just not the WTC site that is being "cleaned up". With a daring writing style and sharp characters that enhance a chaos of events, the author succeeds in creating a brute and edgy novel that rivals Catch 22's theater of the absurd.
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Format: Paperback
I'm not sure I would've read this if it had been described to me as a 9/11 novel, as I'm a bit 9/11'd-out. I bought it because I'm reading my way through all the books of Jess Walter, surely one of the best young writers today. Although this is nominally a book about 9/11, and harrowingly captures the chaos and insanity of the days, weeks, and months following the attack, it's more a book about the chaos and insanity of modern life, where terrorism morphs into entertainment--reality TV and mud-pit monster trucks,--and consumer products (First Responder cereal?!). Like the unlikely hero of this book, whose grip on reality slips in and out of his grasp, we're all trapped in some way in the Zero, characters in a script we're not sure is ours, at jobs we may not fully understand (did Remy, the hero, help start the Department of Documentation, tasked with literally piecing together the fragments of paper that fell from the Towers that day?) and people we don't always know or can't trust. The fragmented reality of Remy's post-9/11 life, which at one point is described as "textbook PTSD: visions, delusions, dissociative episodes," and maybe even "a mid-life crisis." What makes The Zero so brilliant is that it's a book about life today, specifically modern life in urban America, and merits savoring not only for the insights (and humor) it offers here, but for the genius of Walter's writing, with, in this book, its echoes of Kafka, Heller, and Vonnegut.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Brian Remy is a New York City cop. He was on the scene when the towers collapsed on 9/11, narrowly escaping himself (even though his son is telling people he died). And Remy has just shot himself in the head -- but he can't remember whether he did it on purpose, or accidentally. Indeed, he can't remember much of anything -- he sort of "wakes up" between gaps in his memory and has to piece together what he's been up to. Conscious Remy is good, "unconscious," off-the-page Remy is bad.

So the story revolves around the fact that he's in a constant struggle to figure out what he's up to -- helping a government agency infiltrate a terrorist cell? tracking down a woman who may or may not have died in the attacks? -- and we're as much in the dark as Good Remyis. "...and Remy found that he was smiling, not exactly remembering, but wanting to, and thinking there's not much difference, that the best memories might be those you don't remember."

Much, much more than just a study of a fascinating character, though, Jess Walter's novel The Zero looks at the absurdity of the culture and paranoia in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and how frequently the focus was removed from the victims and their families -- for selfish gain, for politics, or for any other reason. Remy's affable partner Paul explains, even though he knows he shouldn't mention it, how awesome it is that 9/11 happened because he is treated as a hero and gets to show celebrities around Ground Zero. Paul even gets to appear on a box of cereal -- "My agent says I was lucky to get the marshmallows," he tells Remy.

Remy and his struggle with his fractured memory are really a symbol of the underlying post-9/11 fractured culture (even though 9/11 appeared on the surface to be a unifying event).
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