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The Zero


The Zero is a groundbreaking novel, a darkly comic snapshot of our times that is already being compared to the works of Franz Kafka and Joseph Heller. An extraordinary story of how our trials become our transgressions, of how we forgive ourselves and whether or not we should.


From its opening pages—when hero cop Brian Remy wakes up to find he's shot himself in the head—novelist Jess Walter takes us on a harrowing tour of a city and a country shuddering through the aftershocks of a devastating terrorist attack. As the smoke slowly clears, Remy finds that his memory is skipping, lurching between moments of lucidity and days when he doesn't seem to be living his own life at all. 



  • National Book Award Finalist
  • PEN/USA Literary Fiction Finalist
  • LA Times Book Prize Finalist
  • Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award



They burst into the sky, every bird in creation, angry and agitated, awakened by the same primary thought, erupting in a white feathered cloudburst, anxious and graceful, angling in ever-tightening circles toward the ground, drifting close enough to touch, and then close enough to see that it wasn't a flock of birds at all—it was paper. Burning scraps of paper. All the little birds were paper. Fluttering and circling and growing bigger, falling bits and frantic sheets, some smoking, corners scorched, flaring in the open air until there was nothing left but a fine black edge . . . and then gone, a hole and nothing but the faint memory of smoke. Behind the burning flock came a great wail and a moan as seething black unfurled, the world inside out, birds beating against a roiling sky and in that moment everything that wasn't smoke was paper. And it was beautiful.



"'The Zero' could end up as the 'Catch 22' of 9/11 ... (with) its brilliant ironies, its deadpan truths, its insider smarts and its everyguy hero ... (Walter) elevates 'The Zero' above mere satire to Kafkaesque parable." -- THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


"Walter is a gifted writer with unusual breadth. And among the already proliferating and formulaic body of film and fiction grappling with Sept. 11, 'The Zero' is a standout." -- SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE


"Stunning and provocative ... exquisitely written ... 'The Zero' is by turns heartbreaking and deadpan funny." -- SEATTLE TIMES


"Brilliantly and ingeniously ... the surreality of Walter's novel pretty much matches that of our own world. Except the book is far funnier."-- BOSTON GLOBE


"… a noir page-turner with powerful social commentary ... full of dead-on insights into our culture ... nails our often surreal post-9/11 world." -- WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD


"Mr. Walter (is) a ridiculously talented writer ... The best of 'The Zero' breathes life into the author's idea of post-9/11 life as a fever dream for its characters." -- NEW YORK TIMES, Janet Maslin


"Walter has created a satire/tragedy that Franz Kafka and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. might appreciate … a dark allegory about the attack, the aftermath, and what has happened to America." -- USA TODAY


"This is political satire at its best: scathing, funny, dark. And the actual mystery rivets" -- ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY (Grade A) 


"(A) brilliant tour de force ... the breakout novel of a brave and talented young writer." -- KIRKUS REVIEWS (starred review)


"Walter establishes himself as the current master of fractured U.S. history with all of the surrealism and black humor necessary for such an undertaking. Kafka would have to laugh." -- LIBRARY JOURNAL


"A deliriously mordant political satire ... Walter's Helleresque take on a traumatic time ... carries off his dark and hilarious narrative with a grandly grotesque imagination." -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY


"Walter's irreverent take on the 9/11 attacks ultimately renders "The Zero" more moving and honest than any of the books bursting with patriotism and pieties on the subject. As Joseph Heller did for World War II with "Catch-22," Walter expertly captures the absurdities that ensued from the tragedy of the terrorist attacks, and in doing so has written one of the best books of 2006." -- BOULDER DAILY CAMERA


"... a Kafkaesque splicing of the ordinary and the extraordinary ... The narrative and description throughout have a compelling hypnotic beauty … one of the funniest -- and darkest -- satires I've read in a quite a while." GLOBE AND MAIL (Toronto)