(2006) is a work of literary fiction by Jess Walter about a police officer, now working on an important homeland security project, who is left a fragment of his former self in the aftermath of 9/11. Brian Remy comes to after the disaster with a gun in his hand and a possibly self-inflicted wound to his scalp—his landlady, upset by the sound of the shot, threatens to call the police. The rest of the novel is told in similarly patchy vignettes, as Remy tries to remember who he is, what he believes in, and why his nation is in such paranoid shambles. As Remy comes to terms with the new normal, both for himself and for his country, he must return to his lost memories to attempt to recover the man he lost in the bombing.
The novel opens five days after September 11, 2001—the day the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda bombed the World Trade Center in New York City, killing or injuring nearly 10,000 people. Protagonist Brian Remy is a proclaimed “hero cop,” a first responder who showed up on the scene the day of the attack and helped save lives. Though Remy can't remember a thing, he and his equally addled partner pulled living and dead bodies out of the rubble, helped put out fires, and healed wounds on the streets of New York.
Since that day, nothing has been the same. Remy is losing huge swaths of his memory. Calling these losses “gaps,” he can't seem to reconcile his old life with this new life after the bombings. Remy's son, Edgar, wears a black armband and pretends his father is dead—in many ways, Remy feels dead, having lost so much of himself. He comes to after self-inflicting a gunshot wound to his own head, which he can't remember doing; he also can't recall his new girlfriend's name or explain why he seems to be going blind. Remy's old partner is, perhaps, the only person crazier than Remy at the moment. Recently, Remy's partner’s photo was put on a box of first responder-themed breakfast cereal. The city has no idea how to cope with the lingering smoke, both literal and metaphorical, which shrouds the city.
Ironically, other than his mysterious lapses in memory and his apparent desire to shoot himself in the head (an act which royally pissed off his landlady, who threatened to call the police on him), Remy's life is pretty good. His partner, April, whose name he forgets in the aftermath of the bombings, is kind and sweet to him. His son, though acting strangely, is clear about his father's condition, and is coping with his grief in the way he has been instructed. Nevertheless, Remy feels that something is amiss. His mounting paranoia is mirrored in the words of officials, who claim that any questioning of the events from 9/11 is “writing a love letter to our enemies.”
Things become sticky when Remy is recruited by a shady government organization that wants to recover every lost piece of paper from the World Trade Center bombing. Remy agrees but soon feels as if the organization he is working with has nefarious intentions. Remy, whose memory is still quite fuzzy, can't quite pinpoint the source of his unsettled feelings but decides to investigate regardless. As he tries to figure out what exactly he is up to and why, he comes across a plot that could put the nation in danger. To stop this plot, Remy must fill in the gaps in his own mind to rediscover himself; the only way to do that is to go back to Ground Zero, where the ordeal began.The Zero
is a darkly comical depiction of post-traumatic stress disorder on both an individual and a national level, and a portrait of the impact of paranoia on otherwise ordinary lives.
The author of eight books: six novels, a memoir, and a collection of short stories, Walter’s books have been translated into more than 25 languages, and he has won a number of awards, including an Edgar Award and a nomination for the National Book Award. His titles include Citizen Vince
, Over Tumbled Graves
, Beautiful Ruins
, and others. The Zero
was nominated for several awards, including the 2006 National Book Award, the Washington State Book Award, and the Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Association Award.
Jess Walter is an American author of eight books; six novels, a memoir, and a collection of short stories. His books have been translated into over twenty-five languages, and he has won a number of awards, including an Edgar Award and a nomination for the National Book Award. His titles include Citizen Vince, Over Tumbled Graves, Beautiful Ruins,
and others. The Zero
was nominated for a number of awards, including the 2006 National Book Award, the Washington State Book Award, and the Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Association Award.