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The Zero: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – August 7, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Walter's darkly satiric and surprisingly poignant novel about heroic policeman Brian Remy's nightmare journey through a post- 9/11 New York City, is given a flawless rendition by Graybill. Key to his success is the voice he has selected for the hapless, mind- and body-damaged Remy, who awakes from a failed suicide attempt with a head wound, a shattered memory and the slowly growing understanding that he's involved in a political plot as evil as it is bizarre. Walter's prose keeps Remy drifting from confusion to self-doubt, guilt and, eventually, outrage—and Graybill hits all the right notes as he adds the dimension of sound. He's just as effective in delineating the fragile otherworldly wistfulness of Remy's girlfriend, his boss's bombast, the self-absorbed nattering of his motor-mouth ex-partner-turned-TV-pitchman and an assortment of accents and attitudes from a cadre of sycophantic, sinister, sadistic and generally smarmy secret agents—both American and Middle Eastern. It's a brilliant teaming of the right narrator to the right material.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Numerous thrillers have drawn on 9/11, but most have used those all-too-horrific events only as a frame. Walter digs deeper. This discombobulating but remarkably imaginative novel never names bin Laden or even the date, but we know where we are. Bits of paper from the explosions continue to rain down from the sky, and rescue workers continue to look for bodies at Ground Zero (or, the Zero, as the cops and firefighters who were there refer to it). One of those cops, Brian Remy, opens the novel by shooting himself in the head. But, minutes later, he can't remember doing it. Remy suffers from what he calls "gaps"--memory lapses in which he has no idea why he is doing what he's doing. These gaps are the main narrative device in the novel, and they take some getting used to, as the reader is every bit as affected by the blackouts as Remy. Gradually, both character and reader begin to piece things together: Remy has been hired by the "Boss" to lead a secret "documentation recovery" effort aimed at finding a link between the terrorists and a woman working in one of the towers. But to what end? Even in his lucid moments, Remy doesn't understand his assignment, which seems to have something to do with "applying models of randomness to the patterns in paper burns." There is plenty of stinging political satire here, but beyond that, Walter has taken the terrorist thriller into new territory, mixing the surreal cityscape of Blade Runner with a touch of Kafka and coming up with what may be the perfect metaphor for the way we experience today's world. Like Remy, we suffer from gaps whenever we watch the news or try to make sense of international affairs: randomness reigns. This isn't a perfect novel, but it takes a game shot at re-creating the emotional reality of the post-9/11 world. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
The whole plot was overly pretentious in an effort towards mysteriousness that never went anywhere. It was such a waste of time reading this. I got absolutely nothing but a headache from trying to follow the meaningless plot. It just felt like you put all this time in to getting to what was actually going on, only to find out that not much was really actually going on, that was just a good hook to make you buy it. Ugh. Annoying!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not an easy book to follow as other reviewers have noted. It reminded me of Nick Harkaway's "The Gone-Away World," in that the reader has no more information than the... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Azima
OK - I'm confused.
The author signs himself as Jess Walter, but prima facie seems to be a pastiche of Hunter Thompson, William Burroughs, Kurt Vonnegut and Rod Serling. Read more
As one of my colleagues said about this book, the trauma-resulting-in-fractured-narratives is getting really old, really quickly. Actually, it was old back in 2004. Read morePublished 6 months ago by JMC
Maybe it's me.... but I missed on this book. Did not feel any connection to the characters.Published 10 months ago by Jonathan Esteve
An artful blend of the grit and horror of 9/11 and one officer's PTSD, overlayed with gentle humor...a seemingly possible combination. Thoroughly enjoyed this book!Published 13 months ago by Desert Rose Author
The zero is challenging, illuminating, and very funny. It's well worth reading. While it's not to the level of Beautiful Ruins, The Zero sucks you in at the start and proceeds to... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Lou Kotler
I've enjoyed several books by Jess Walter but not this one. I never developed any sympathy for the characters. Read morePublished 18 months ago by thewayne
Do not know if this is too profound for my mind or just confusingly rambling.Published 19 months ago by Barbara Oberg, Sr