Book review: Zero K

DON DELILLO’S 16th novel arrives after a six-year pause for thought which initially appears to have zero effect on theme or form.

Billionaire Ross Lockhart’s efforts to freeze and indefinitely prolong the life of his dying wife, as warily observed by son Jeffrey, cover familiar DeLillo ground — death, language, terrorism, NYC — while his dialogue is unchanged, at turns frustrating and exhilarating.

For Zero K’s subterranean first half, deep in a secret lab, this stilted extemporising, those beloved lists, do nothing but echo around the precise blankness; only when Jeffrey breaks free do his observations find context, which is the point — the city, its humanity, gives DeLillo life.

Like Jeffrey, he is in danger of being lost to the “touchscreen storm” as the world itself is “being lost to the systems”. 

Crucially though he does not fight gnawing obsolescence, his arid humour forever skewering a death-fixated culture, brokering a fragile truce with the setting sun.

Don DeLillo

Picador, £16.99; ebook, £7.36


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