A New York Times Notable Book The wisest, richest, funniest, and most moving novel in years from Don DeLillo, one of the great American novelists of our time--an ode to language, at the heart of our humanity, a meditation on death, and an embrace of life. Read more...
- [-] Other Available FormatsOur PriceNew & Used Marketplace
Customers Also Bought
A New York Times Notable Book The wisest, richest, funniest, and most moving novel in years from Don DeLillo, one of the great American novelists of our time--an ode to language, at the heart of our humanity, a meditation on death, and an embrace of life. Jeffrey Lockhart's father, Ross, is a billionaire in his sixties, with a younger wife, Artis Martineau, whose health is failing. Ross is the primary investor in a remote and secret compound where death is exquisitely controlled and bodies are preserved until a future time when biomedical advances and new technologies can return them to a life of transcendent promise. Jeff joins Ross and Artis at the compound to say "an uncertain farewell" to her as she surrenders her body. "We are born without choosing to be. Should we have to die in the same manner? Isn't it a human glory to refuse to accept a certain fate?" These are the questions that haunt the novel and its memorable characters, and it is Ross Lockhart, most particularly, who feels a deep need to enter another dimension and awake to a new world. For his son, this is indefensible. Jeff, the book's narrator, is committed to living, to experiencing "the mingled astonishments of our time, here, on earth." Don DeLillo's seductive, spectacularly observed and brilliant new novel weighs the darkness of the world--terrorism, floods, fires, famine, plague--against the beauty and humanity of everyday life; love, awe, "the intimate touch of earth and sun." Zero K is glorious.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-12-14
- Reviewer: Staff
DeLillo's 17th novel features a man arriving at a strange, remote compound (we are told the nearest city is Bishkek)a set-up similar to a few other DeLillo books, Mao II and Ratner's Star among them. This time, the protagonist is Jeffrey Lockhart, who is joining his billionaire father, Ross, to say good-bye to Ross's second wife (and Jeffrey's stepmother), Artis. The compound is the home of the Convergence, a scientific endeavor that preserves people indefinitely; in Artis's case, it's until there's a cure for her ailing health. But as with any novel by DeLillo, our preeminent brain-needler, the plot is window dressing for his preoccupations: obsessive sallies into death, information, and all kinds of other things. Longtime readers will not be surprised that there's a two-page rumination on mannequins. But a few components elevate Zero K, which is among DeLillo's finest work. For one, DeLillo has become better about picking his spotsthe asides rarely, if ever, drag, and they are consistently surprising and funny. And his focus and curiosity have moved far into the future: much of this novel's (and Ross's) attention is paid to humankind's relationship and responsibility to what's to come. What's left behind and forgotten is the present, here represented by Jeffrey, the son whom Ross abandoned when he was 13. DeLillo sneaks a heartbreaking story of a son attempting to reconnect with his father into his thought-provoking novel. (May)
Putting life on ice
Don DeLillo’s novels are not for the faint of heart. Though not especially complex in style—he writes with a spare, arid lyricism—they have continually challenged readers with a dark worldview tied to the here and now. DeLillo is about to turn 80, so it might not be surprising that his new novel, Zero K, centers on death. Ever the visionary though, he has taken the subject in an unusual direction: the world of Cryonic suspension, where the dying are frozen, to be resurrected in the future when medicine has caught up to their maladies.
The novel is narrated not by one of the dying (except in the sense that we are all dying), but by Jeffrey, the 30-something son of billionaire Ross, whose second wife, Artis, is close to death. The three travel to a remote desert facility in a former Soviet republic where her “Convergence” will take place. Unsurprisingly, the state-of-the-art compound is an odd, futuristic place, isolated and conducive to meditative rumination, inspiring Jeff to all manner of thoughts about life and death (the first half of the novel, perhaps consciously, is reminiscent of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain). As Artis approaches her final hours, Ross decides that he will expedite his own death in order to be with her. His procedure will take place in an area called Zero K, shorthand for absolute zero on the Kelvin scale.
Zero K is about death, and the ageless question of whether we should have control over our own mortality, but it is equally about life and the complications that unite to make each of us who we are. Jeff is a highly flawed individual, struggling with OCD and obsessed with words, forever battling feelings of paternal abandonment and the inability to form lasting relationships. When he does enter a tentative romance with a woman, a single mother with a teenage son she adopted as an orphan from Ukraine, the novel seems to go in a new direction. But it circles back to the Convergence in its final pages, striving for a measure of optimism and hope amid a narrative of inevitability and despair. Ever uncompromising in his assessments, DeLillo has written another uneasy dissection of how we live and all we struggle to overcome. Still, one can’t help but notice that if spelled out with a cardinal number, the book’s title becomes “OK.”