My experience with reading DeLillo’s work is very limited, beginning only during my first semester of university when my professor said we’ll be reading “Cosmopolis”. I found it to be a quirky and rather strange book, and while I had qualms with it, there was still a significant sense of enjoyment after finishing it.
The same cannot be said for “Zero K”, which was pushing my patience from about page 70, and made it fully run out half way through the book, at chapter 10 (page 137). If “Cosmopolis” manages to still make a point with its strange, and at times dull and redundant, writing, then “Zero K” sucks all the life out of a topic that should’ve been emotional.
The story’s protagonist Jeffrey Lockhart remains dull and forgettable even up to the halfway point of the novel, being defined only by his endless uncertainties and muddled, pseudo-philosophical thoughts. His father Ross is defined as a poor father and a rather poor human without that necessarily being stated, running a program that freezes people in the hopes of defrosting them in the future. The nuances of the project aren’t fully worked out either, the reader being told bits and pieces of it. Artis remains a mostly undefined character up to the halfway point of the book, only being the center of attention because she is dying and the conversation of how the process works is thus grounded with her as the specific example.
The writing is quite muddled and slow, making it difficult to immerse into the story. Jeffrey makes for an unreliable and problematic narrator, with his constant side thoughts and overlapping ideas. The only thing about him that was mildly entertaining was his insistence to name strangers, which reminded me of someone close to me in real life. There were also a couple of quirky moments with some simple but nonetheless clever thoughts that made me hope, temporarily, that perhaps things would change and the story would pick up, lines like:
“What’s the point of living if we don’t die at the end of it?” (p. 40)
Sadly, that was far from the case, and “Zero K” managed to suck all the life out of a topic that was supposed to feel human and emotional, something that the reader should be invested in and care about considering all discussions about whether such a process of freezing and defrosting in the future could be possible. If anything, DeLillo made me hope even more strongly that science will never achieve such a thing, for humans are quite the selfish and terrible creatures that would only wreak more havoc, given the possibility of an “eternal” life. Adding nothing new to the subject matter or genre, the best way to describe the book is to use one of the lines from it as an analogy:
The room was small and featureless. It was generic to the point of being a thing with walls. (p. 20)