Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Zero

I can be pretty opinionated (please...pretending to be shocked does not become you). However, there are plenty of times when I experience or read something that I just don't know what to think. The Zero by Jess Walter is just such a novel.

My friends will all attest to the fact that I tend to read darker novels. Rarely will you find me settling in with a light comedy or romance novel. In fact, I was embarrassed* when folks discovered I had read Twilight. Well, The Zero, which is set in the days and months following 9/11, is a dark, twisted maze that serves to indict many of the political leaders of that time.

The story is told from the perspective of Brian Remy, a New York cop who was at the scene when the World Trade Center went down. Remy seems to suffer some kind of post-traumatic break that causes huge gaps in his memory. As such, you experience mere blips of Remy's depressing life by jumping from scene to scene as his condition deteriorates. As he transitions from what is essentially a glorified tour guide leading celebrities through the post-tragedy carnage to an operative at some secretive government agency that seems hell bent on magnifying the terrorist threat (even if it has to manufacture it), there is very little that bonds me to Remy and makes me want him to succeed.

I didn't like the book, but I can't dismiss it outright either. Though confusing and depressing at the best of times, Walter manages to get across at least a couple of poignant messages in all of that jumping around, one of which is levied by the character that might actually be the only real terrorist in the book. “That’s what happens when a nation becomes a public relations firm. Everything is the Alamo. You claim victory in every loss, life in every death.”

If you need resolution at the end of a book or some semblance of a happy ending, you may want to leave this one on the shelf.

*Allow me a small amount of book snobbery, and I'll readily admit to my low brow taste in movies (raise the roof for the Step Up series, ya'll). Of course, wait 'til I try to convince you I saw Gnomeo & Juliet simply because it was a riff on Shakespeare. Snort.

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