As a child I was always interested in novels based around worlds of fantasy and science fiction, anything that showed a spark of magic amidst the boring world of reality. I spent my time reading of heroes conquering beasts and monsters, ending in the hero saving the world or humanity. I always hoped that something out of the ordinary would happen and I, myself, would be presented with the opportunity to be become one of the heroes I idolized. Zone One is an example of one of the stories I would have picked up expecting to experience the journey and toil of a hero overcoming a large otherworldly problem, had I discovered this book on my own I would have been disappointed considering Zone One is the exact opposite.
Mark Spitz talks about how he too had always hoped for an adventurous adult life, “as a kid he’d invented scenarios for adulthood: to outrun a fireball, swing across the air shaft on a wire, dismember a gargoyle army with an enchanted blade that only he could wield.” (Whitehead 244) It is kind of a sick joke that Mark Spitz gets his adventure, just in the form of a plague that wipes out all of civilization, including those he cares about. This makes me rethink my wish for a life out of the ordinary, I feel a sort of appreciation for how easy I have it. If a zombie plague were to happen right now, I have a pretty good idea of how it would go down for me. I think I would end up returning to my family and try to survive it with them until one us ended up infected. If I were the first one to go, I’d die, but if it was one of my family members I predict we’d all get infected because we’d wait too long trying to live out his or her last moments of life and be bitten. I want to say I’d be a survivor like Mark Spitz and his sweeper unit, but if I want to be true to the novel with my prediction, I know I lack the the willpower to pull the trigger on a walking corpse.
From this joke that Whitehead plays on Mark Spitz’s character I gain a new form of respect for his resilience in the time of the plague. Mark Spitz acknowledges the irony of his situation, but rather than dwell on it he finds humor in it, “All the other kids turned out to be postal workers, roofers, beloved teachers, and died. Mark Spitz was living the Dream! Take a bow, Mark Spitz.” (244) yeah, Mark Spitz is living in the zombie apocalypse, but at least he’s not dead.