10 thoughts on “Zero K

  1. Violet wells Violet wells says:

    I ve read all DeLillo s novels except his first, Americana I ve read Underworld three times and would make the claim that it s the best novel written by a currently living novelist When he s inspired his prose is as searing, insightful and exciting as it gets Unfortunately he s probably had his golden age White Noise, Libra, Mao II and Underworld are his four masterpieces, written between 1985 and 1997, and pretty much unrivalled by any other living writer as a brilliant sustained feat of exalted artistry Quite simply DeLillo has helped me understand the nature of the world we live in Since Underworld in 1997 he s, understandably, begun to wane Most noticeably his prose has suffered a diminishment of its old searing clarity, its inspiration and vitality So, Zero K In terms of theme and profundity this is probably his best book since Underworld however the inspired prose still isn t quite there He s nearly eighty years old though and as such this is a phenomenal achievement On page one there s an example of how good he can be at enabling us to see the depth charges of an everyday modern gesture when he describes the wearing of sunglasses in a room as bringing the night inside I m not even sure why that observation excites me so much But it does It reveals to me that not only has the world changed but gives me an insight into how it s changed No one, for example, would wear sunglasses indoors in a DH Lawrence novel Or there s this about airports I hate flying Those blanked out eternities at the airport Getting there, waiting there, standing shoeless in long lines Think about it We take off our shoes and remove our metal objects and then enter a stall and raise our arms and get body scanned and sprayed with radiation and reduced to nakedness on a screen somewhere and then how totally helpless we are all over again as we wait on the tarmac, belted in, our plane eighteenth in line, and it s all ordinary, it s routine, we make ourselves forget it Unfortunately these eloquent insights into our changing world aren t anywhere near as frequent as in his best novels Instead it s the novel as a whole that seeks to achieve this end DeLillo always pivots his novels on the outer edge of where the world is headed which is why he is almost unanimously deemed our most prophetic novelist And Zero K certainly maintains this prophetic stance To some extent he returns to one of the themes of White Noise a husband and wife who can t bear the thought of surviving each other s death He also returns to the central character of Cosmopolis the global financier The mission in Zero K is to survive death, the ultimate act of hubris Because a central theme of this novel is man s ever growing hubris and the irreversible damage this is causing our cultural, financial and physical environment This hubris is personified by Ross Lockhart, an example of a new cultural phenomenon, an individual who is richer and arguably powerful than most entire countries, a master of the universe billionaire who owns islands and huge land masses The novel is about Convergence, the project funded by Lockhart, intent on preserving life through cryonic freezing Bodies are stored in pods in the hope that advancing technology will soon allow organs to be refreshed with embryonic stem cells and nanobots Brain receptors will be re fed the memories acquired over a lifetime Lockhart s son, Jeffrey plays a similar role in relation to his father as Nick Caraway plays in relation to Gatsby he, ironically, is the past viewing and questioning his father s idealistic romantic vision of the future He, like Nick not morally flawless himself, is providing a grounded, humble moral perspective of what actually is going on here In some ways this is a 21st century version of Gatsby, a new technological dramatisation of the American dream For me, Zero K doesn t quite reach the heights of DeLillo s finest achievements but is still an important work by, in my opinion, the greatest living American novelist.

  2. Ilse Ilse says:

    There is one who remembers the way to your door Life you may evade, but Death you shall not You shall not deny the Stranger. T S Eliot, Choruses From The Rock In death we are all equal Having to face that mortality and illness of their beloved ones is even beyond their control, as upon death all differences amongst people are erased, some of the high and mighty could consider this an inconvenient truth.The Convergence, a cult like movement based in a mysterious, sinister compound close to the border of Kyrgyzstan, half sunken in the ground a form of earth art, land art , envisages to solve this outrage for the very well to do Ending the Danse Macabre, defying the universality of death, preventing death taking all of use alike, by cryonic suspension Ross Lockheart, filthy rich, a man made of money earned by analyzing the economic impact of natural disasters, acts as a Maecenas to this futuristic project He invites his son Jeffrey to the compound to take leave from Artis, Ross s second wife and Jeffrey s stepmother, dying, delivering her body to be prepared for preservation, believing that in the future scientific progress of nanotechnology will resuscitate and restore her to full health, and finally resurrect her in a sophisticated mind and body, for living in an evolved world of light and peace Jeffrey realizes that his father, not wanting to outlive Artis, searching to elope the loss and devastating grief, is determined to join Artis in death by prematurely stepping into the transformation process still in good health, in the premise called Zero K a special unit for those willing to die before time, named after the absolute zero on the Kelvin scale , in order to live forever Is his father blinded by science Or is he deluded by arrogance and self deception Why does he get in touch with his son now, while he abandoned his first wife Madeline and son Jeffrey at 13 Skeptical to the whole endeavor, wryly describing his observations, the horror, the storage of bodies and removed organs in capsules and canopies, Jeffrey wanders through the lugubrious labyrinth of the compound, a spokesman for DeLillo s astute meditations on control of life and death Isn t death a blessing What will poets write about Although there is some humor in the absurdist s rieux of the people populating the compound, this dystopian and morbid tale is dark and unsettling Written in a cinematic style, there is an apocalyptic feel to the novel, enhanced by the soundless display of film footage of gruesome natural disasters, war, violence, self immolating monks and destruction on screens dropping down in the corridors of the compound, illustrating that the present world isn t worth living in any and the end is near anyway.Assuming DeLillo would intensely focus on the troubled father son relationship too, I largely missed evolution in or profound dissection of it Apart from some scarce shared moments of vulnerability and intimacy in the relationships between stepmother, father and son, and emotions stirring observing the process of dehumanization, shaving and preparing the bodies before freezing them the characters do not really come alive Lust for life is strangely and chillingly absent However the story didn t particularly move me, DeLillo raises perturbing philosophical and ethical questions, leaving it up to the reader to answer them A few times the renowned ending quote of Brave New World came to mind, I am claiming the right to be unhappy , which Jeffrey perhaps would flesh out as the right NOT to live forever This slim novel was my first meeting with DeLillo, procrastinating Underworld forever, but as Zero K is considered to deal with most of DeLillo s trademark themes, it was a thought provoking acquaintance, keeping me fascinated until the last sentence, nonetheless its horsing around with nanobots and the like.Counterbalancing the grimness, DeLillo returns to Jeffrey s ordinary life in New York There, a child revels in Manhattanhenge, enclosing gracefully a spark of luminosity and hope into this dark tale I would like to thank NetGalley and Scribner for generously providing me with an advanced copy.

  3. Kevin Kelsey Kevin Kelsey says:

    What was it beyond a concentrated lesson in bewilderment This is my third DeLillo novel I really enjoyed White Noise but thought the ending was a little fumbled, and I think Cosmopolis is a masterpiece of sorts a nearly perfect novel I also have a rule for myself that I m not allowed to have an opinion on a book if I haven t finished it I had a real internal struggle maintaining that rule with Zero K Nearly every page all the way up until around the 95% mark I wanted to just cut my losses and bail, the book is just so heavy handed There s no subtlety at play here Now that I have finished it, I can say that I gave it that shot, and it s just not good This novel would never have been published if it were written pseudonymously, that s basically all you need to know.The handful of good parts are fantastic, but they are literally only a handful This was New York Every living breathing genotype entered his cab at some point, day or night And if this was an inflated notion, that was New York as well We are born without choosing to be Should we have to die in the same manner Half the world is redoing its kitchens, the other half is starving No, no I m not ready for that You re getting ahead of me I m doing my best to recognize the fact that you re my father I m not ready to be your son It s only human to want to know , and then , and then , but it s also true that what we don t know is what makes us human And there s no end to not knowing.

  4. Lyn Lyn says:

    Weird book.Don DeLillo has long been on my radar His 1997 novel Underworld is on several lists as being one of the greatest books ever But it is 800 some odd pages Many readers will say, 800, so what, I ve read plenty of books that big Well, yes, I have too, but let s do some math I m 47 this year Let s suppose I live another 30 years and that s a big IF, and I can read 100 books each year for the rest of my life That s another 3,000 books That s a lot of books But it is a drop in the bucket of all the books out there, and no matter how hard I try, there are a vast multitude of books I ll never get to, many I would no doubt like a lot.So.That Malthusian recognition of the scarcity of time and the overwhelming plethora of good books makes me seriously consider taking on big ass books since they are taking up space on the ever decreasing and certainly and irrevocably finite list of books.OK, so back to Zero K, and trust me I have not been wandering around aimlessly, DeLillo is asking these kind of questions, but in a broad scale, he s painting on a big canvas What is life Is it quantity Is that what matters most, is life the goal, are we all in a great race to see who can rack up the most years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes Is a long life the best life Does death, or a good death, mean anything by itself What about relationships Fathers and sons and mothers and lovers and job interviews What about eternal life What if we can undergo a procedure that would allow us to see many, many sunrises and sunsets, and maybe read a hell of a lot books if you re in to that sort of thing DeLillo describes, in his introspective kooky way, a billionaire whose wife is dying and he takes her to a cult like place in Central Asia to answer just those kind of questions The protagonist and narrator asks his father, the billionaire, hasn t this question been asked before To which said rich guy answers, yes but it is a question now ready to be answered.And so it goes.The setting and themes reminding me, curiously, of Robert Silverberg s 1976 novel Shadrach in the Furnace and a little cryptically, because of the quasi religious nature of the clinic cult, of his 1971 novel The Book of Skulls DeLillo s style of writing is thoughtful and meandering and endearing in its way and I was intrigued and enjoyed some of this book Other parts left me scratching my head and wondering what in the hell he was talking about Reading DeLillo was like talking to an eccentric college professor at a party obviously extraordinarily intelligent and interesting, but also three sheets to the wind and running off in wild, seemingly unintelligible tangents.Not anywhere closer to spending 800 pages with him.

  5. Elyse Walters Elyse Walters says:

    I m a Don DeLillo newbie The very first line of the book grabs your attention Everyone wants to own the end of the world I wonder am I the only one who took a break after just one sentence to locate the group Tears For Fears on their iPhone.To sing along to Everybody Wants to Rule the World sing dance a little I m sure the talented Don DeLillo wouldn t have cared if an old favorite song got me in the mood for his book Jeffrey went through great lengths of travel thousands of miles before arriving at a cryogenic compound to be join his father, Ross Lockhart, and his stepmother, Artis, who is dying His father arranged the travel plans Jeffrey blindly took the adventure but really didn t know what he d be walking into Since Jeffrey is the narrator, we are invited into his mind, moods, opinions, questions he has about his father mother step mother his personal interpretations his descriptions and questions about death His dad walked out when he was 13.and he has no idea why he left his mother Even when Jeffrey is angry we see his sweetness I imagined Jeffrey with a forgiveness card in his back pocket always on hand when needed Jeffrey asked Artis if she thought about the type of world she might be returning to She didn t Memories were part of her thoughts, water drops in the shower , Artis was aware that she was in a transitional place with people coming and going I never got the feeling that anyone was interested in any afterlife Value our present life is what stood out as the powerful message Funny scenes with mannequins Quite visual Since I m no longer a DeLillo virgin. I m looking forward to reading White Noise next, which I ve already purchased Thank You Scribner Publishing, Netgalley, and Don DeLillo

  6. Angela M Angela M says:

    This started out feeling really creepy to me and I wasn t enjoying it Now that I ve finished reading it, I m finding it hard to stop thinking about it About one third of the way through I thought about setting it aside but I changed my mind at least a couple of times and decided that I had to give it a chance This was by DeLillo after all, and because he has so eloquently spoken to me in past novels and caused me to think about the things that happened in my lifetime the impact of technology, the assassination of a president, 9 11 I continued because I knew there would probably be something provocative, something profound, and there was But I had a hard time connecting with the characters until close to the end Jeffrey Lockhart, from whose perspective the story is told goes on a long journey at the request of his father Ross , to a place called The Convergence It s an eerily stark place but yet the halls are lined with various pastel blue painted doors and another with mud colored doors and and naked mannequins in various places This is where his father s wife, Artis will commit herself to death and seek a cryogenic solution to a time when her health can be restored by future medical discoveries Theres s a cult like aura to this place and Jeffrey, while curious and trying desperately to understand it all, is repulsed by it all especially at his father s suggestion that although a healthy man in his sixties, he is considering the same fate for himself to be together with his wife.Jeffrey roams the halls and screens appear with horrifying visuals of natural disasters, floods , fires , tornadoes and monks setting themselves on fire, acts of terrorism While it is blatantly obvious that DeLillo wants us to take note of these things happening in the world at large , I was also impacted by what happened in Jeffrey s life Abandoned at 13 by his billionaire father, obsessed with naming people and things, I felt no emotional connection to Jeffrey That changed for me when he returns from The Convergence and we see his relationship with a woman , named Emma and her son It is this relationship that brings the broader happenings in the world down to the personal level I was not sure how to rate this book My first inclination is to give it 3 stars meaning I liked it , didn t love it because I really didn t enjoy reading a lot of it In the end , I have to move it up 4 stars after considering what DeLillo portrays here about death and life , and and even though horrifying, I won t forget the minute I connected emotionally to Jeffrey Lockhart Thanks to Scribner , NetGalley and Edelweiss.

  7. Bandit Bandit says:

    This isn t the first time I m trying DeLillo, but I don t know if I d go back to him after this Yes, empirically I understand, this is the sort of book that wins awards, it s dealing with heavy subjects mortality, meaning of life, etc , it s written in that specific language of structured beauty, it is the very edifice of eligibility for the famous lists and shelves, butit is absolutely unenjoyable to read, profoundly unengaging, thoroughly unentertaining The concept is interesting initially, but it gets buried under the ineffectual, somewhat repetitive in composition and sentiment ramblings, the characters utterly fail to compel or rouse basic interest The book deals with alienation, but it didn t have to be alienating Well written stylistically, but soulless, with about as much warmth and life to it as its subject of preservation And, to stretch the pun, polarizing most likely, since I can absolutely envision readers to be as enad by it as I wasn t The best thing about it was its brevity, only a few hours and one turn of phrase, which I really liked and seem to have promptly forgotten Thanks Netgalley.

  8. Scott Firestone Scott Firestone says:

    This was my first DeLillo book, and it might be my last He was never really on my radar, but the premise of Zero K sounded intriguing A young man s incredibly wealthy father and stepmother decide to put their bodies into a sort of stasis until medical technology reaches a point where they can live new lives again I thought it might be a meditation on fathers and sons coming together to work through their pasts Instead, it s just a mess The story is slow, plodding, and seemingly pointless and it goes in directions that work against the narrative rather than for it It sets itself up as asking important philosophical questions But the questions don t seem that important and neither do the answers According to the description this book is setting the horrors of the world terrorism, fires, conflict against the beauty of life, but I didn t see that I must have missed the beauty amid the estranged and distant father, the weird compound where this procedure takes place, and the way the book tries desperately to get me to believe the narrator and his step mother are reconciling, but that s just not convincing The writing is good This is the song and dance version of what happens to self made men They unmake themselves That s GOOD Unfortunately, Zero K is like a beautiful pool of water, but one that s so shallow it can t support any life.

  9. Darwin8u Darwin8u says:

    I d never felt human than I did when my mother lay in bed, dying This was not the not the frailty of a man who is said to be only human, subject to weakness or vulnerability This was a wave of sadness and loss that made me understand that I was a man expanded by grief Don DeLillo, Zero KI first jumped into DeLillo s unique, hypnotic prose when I read Mao II His words swelled for me like a sacred mantra There were other writers before that seduced me, that blew me away with their measured writing, or their erratic narration, but DeLillo was something else His prose is poetic, weird, haunting, searing Images grow and then dematerialize He hints at the future, creates a fabric of tension, and pulls back Each of his books seems to push towards a vision of our end He looks at the refuse of civilization, the excesses of capitalism, the end zone of ancient time He is a dark worm, pushing through the dirt and the grime and the dark caverns created by our existential rot He is obsesses over words, descriptions, names He is a prose prophet for a technological age He doesn t always hit it out of the park dare I call those Pafkos Many of his recent books Cosmopolis, Point Omega, The Body Artist didn t seem to live up to the expectations created by Mao II, White Noise, Libra, Underworld His five novels from the Names 1982 to Underworld 1997 seems only equaled by Philip Roth s series of five novels from Operation Shylock A Confession 1993 to The Human Stain 2000.The last couple books DeLillo delivered seemed to be experimentations, theories, unfinished paintings that hint at the ground DeLillo loves technology, paranoia, death, history, humanity, religion With this novel, DeLillo seems to have perhaps not jumped up to his highest shelf See MII, WN, L, U , but close This is a book that belongs next to Falling Man, End Zone, Americana , the Names.I don t want to give too much of the book away, but as I read this unsettling novel, I kept on thinking of modern day technology pharaohs My brother and I were having a conversation the other day about how the life of a millionaire and a billionaire isn t that different There is just so many things you can literally buy Even when they are buying expensive shirts and pants the styles and cuts for those worth 100M and those worth 100B aren t going to be THAT different Yes, the billionaire might own an Island instead of just a home, but ultimately, the billionaire can t live in than one home at a time The millionaire might be able to buy 4000 pants when you and I can only, rationally, expect to buy pants in the 40 140 range However, the Billionaire isn t able to just add a couple zeros to the millionaire s pants There is no market for 40,000 pants So, the average B lives about like the average M , except in a couple small ways Death, or the desire to escape death, may be one of those places where only those with significant, GDP sized capital, can tread Thus those with wealth that involves 9 zeros become the modern day pharaohs of death They are the only ones with the capacity to fight against the dying of the light with money, medicine, and technology Money absolutely has become their god, and perhaps in 10, 15, or 20 years their GOD might actually deliver them from death Instead of pyramids of stone, we might see pyramids of stainless steel and ice Frozen mummies surrounded by bytes instead of jewelry and gold, these modern day pharaohs may one day soon be waited on by high priests with PhDs in computers science the ceremonies and rituals of religion will be replaced with a transhumanist incantations and rites But when our modern day pharaohs side step death, what does that exactly mean as far as life That is the territory of DeLillo Listen to his prose prayers, and prepare yourself for salvation, death, and perhaps even eternal life I m going here by reputation not experience since I have yet to read these two.

  10. Seemita Seemita says:

    Originally appeared here with edits The battle to outlive life and peek into the world beyond it has been an area of great fascination From ages, this unknown, unattainable stage has drawn the attention of thinkers and the results have spanned the entire continuum of credibility and flimsiness.Zero K fits somewhere on this scale.The novel follows Jeffrey Lockhart, who is invited by his wealthy father, Ross Lockhart, to witness the final days of his ailing wife, Artis, at an isolated compound, in a remotest corner of Russia But the compound isn t any ordinary brick and mortar structure it is a highly advanced, scientifically augmented laboratory where living men and women surrender their bodies to be preserved in cryogenic pods and whereupon, a series of radical and cutting edge innovative methods are applied to them with an objective to bring them to life in much robust, transcendent and resilient human forms The amount of time this transformation might take No one quite tells me that Jeffrey, after seeing Artis slip into the other world, returns to his daily humdrum at New York and continues living a normal life, albeit with occasional flashes from his Russian detour, until one day, it is Ross turn to embrace the pod and he is summoned again The amount of time that has lapsed between the two trips Two years As a premise, this book held promise The composition of the controlled environment within which passionate, eclectic ideas collided and thrived was deftly done While I ain t sure how DeLillo goes about his novels since this was my first of his , I found traces of diligent ground work here that added to a certain veracity of such an experiment I also found a veritable sincerity in the painstakingly long and patient narrative barrels deployed by him to connect to those, uninitiated in the scientific realms But as most of these explanations happened as long conversations or pep talks to the lab inhabitants, it quickly turned tedious and tryingly commonplace This excess ended up robbing off the empathy that I might have showered on Artis, Ross or Jeffrey for their sacrifices, separation and longing to reunite, which runs as a key theme underneath the visible props I found it interesting to view the work as an approach to securing love Ross firm assertion of investing in the biomedical experiment as a means to extend his time with Artis beyond her mortal body is in stark contrast to Jeffrey s detached yet sincere stand towards Emma While Ross believes in the permanence of a physical form and a feral reluctance to renounce it as essentials to the perpetuation of a love story, Jeffrey, as easily, embraces emotional intimacy as the chief criterion to achieve the same objective Who is to say whose love holds the most resplendent flames This book, in subtle undertones, asked questions on life, love and death and the extent to which we are willing to travel to find their answers But perhaps, the binding rigmarole of present day impaled the lofty enterprise of future halo.

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