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BOOK REVIEW: THE ZERO
BY JESS WALTER

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Jess Walter is an author of wide versatility. From the thoughtful objectivity of EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW, an investigative report on the 1992 tragedy Ruby Ridge, Idaho, to the semi-comic Edgar award winning CITIZEN VINCE, Walter finds a fresh way to engage his readers with each successive book.

Walter's latest novel is THE ZERO. With a subtitle of "A Novel of September 12," THE ZERO introduces us to Brian Remy, a retired NY cop who survived the tragedies as the World Trade Center was destroyed. As the book opens, Remy lies in a heap on the floor of his apartment and gradually realizes that he has been wounded in the head by a glancing blow from a handgun bullet. Suicide or accident? The reader is never sure. After his emergency room visit to have the wound cleaned and bandaged, Remy is plagued by gaps in his awareness. He repeatedly finds himself coming to full consciousness in a strange situation with no memory of why he is there at all, and no sense of what action is expected on his part. And if that were not enough, his eyesight is failing due to detached retinas.

As the action develops, it seems that in his semi-fugue state Remy has signed on to help several competing agencies as they track a suspected terrorist cell in New York. His repeated attempts to convey his confusion and memory loss get him nowhere, as everyone he meets, from medical personnel to coworkers and friends, is so wrapped in individual reaction to the turmoil of the city that it begins to seem that John Donne was wrong. Each man IS an island, and what's worse - we cannot hope for a means of reliable connection between islands.

There are several enigmas here, and they serve to enhance the reading experience. Was Remy at the World Trade Center on that fateful morning? His present assignment seems to be to locate one particular woman who may have survived by leaving her office just in time. Did she in fact survive? These and other questions both large and small are woven throughout the entire narrative.

Walter writes with an ironic voice, and small tidbits approach real humor, modified only by the overall tension and pathos of Remy's story.

Plagued with approaching blindness and coping with intermittent amnesia, Remy remains the single character in the book who retains a measure of insight and concern for the others he meets and works with.

I can't recommend Walter highly enough. After you're read and pondered THE ZERO, it's worth some effort to read other earlier books by him.

REVIEWED BY WOODSTOCK

DO NOT REPRINT WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE REVIEWER, WOODSTOCK

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