Book Talk: Zero Zone: A Novel by Scott O'Connor

“A literary thriller about an infamous desert art installation, the cult it inspired, and the search for a missing young woman that is "cinematic . . . readers will be compelled to start again at page one to discover how O’Connor pieces together his suspenseful, incredibly well-written narrative.”

―Library Journal

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About the Book

Los Angeles, the late 1970s: Jess Shepard is an installation artist who creates environments that focus on light and space, often leading to intense sensory experiences for visitors to her work.

A run of critically lauded projects peaks with Zero Zone, an installation at the once upon a time site of nuclear bomb testing in the New Mexico desert. But when a small group of travelers experience what they perceive as a religious awakening inside Zero Zone, they barricade themselves in the installation until authorities are forced to intervene. That violent showdown becomes a media sensation, and its aftermath follows Jess wherever she goes.

Devastated by the attack and the distortion of her art, Jess retreats from the world. Unable to work, Jess unravels mentally and emotionally, plagued by a nagging uncertainty as to her culpability for what happened.

Three years later, a survivor from Zero Zone comes looking for Jess, who must move past her self imposed isolation to face down her fears and recover her art and possibly her life from a violent cult intent of making it their own.

Reviews & What Readers Say

“ A a sophisticated thriller . . . O’Connor has constructed the plot of Zero Zone as a kaleidoscope, frequently shattering the chronology of events and remixing the parts. That may sound baffling, but it’s compellingly done―a constant process of filling in context and meaning, solving some mysteries and raising others . . . Zero Zone is an engaging reflection on the function of art and the responsibilities of the artist. Following these characters along their circuitous routes offers a rare chance to consider the risks that great creators take when they try to inspire us to action―but not too much.”

―Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“ A complexly structured novel that evokes the aesthetic thrills and apocalyptic impulses of its time and place as viscerally as a hot Santa Ana wind . . . Zero Zone . . . superbly captures an era when gurus both good and bad were plentiful, conceptual artists risked their own skins and psyches, and art seemed to open new windows on the soul."

Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal

“ A mesmerizing, prismatic, noir-inflected thriller about the intersection between trauma and art. O’Connor is a clear-eyed, compassionate writer, and this is a dazzlingly human haunted house of a book."

Ben Loory, author of Tales of Falling and Flying

" Harrowing, dexterous . . . With a noir tone and a rich assortment of characters whose lives unfold in chapters pared down to their essentials, the novel transforms a would-be abstract meditation on the influence of art into a vital, deeply engaging work. Writing with verve and precision, O’Connor serves up a thoughtful, original thriller."

Publishers Weekly

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320 pages

ISBN 978-1640093737

Note: Now available. Click here

SCOTT O’CONNOR is the author of A Perfect Universe: Ten Stories and the novels Half World and Untouchable, which was awarded the 2011 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for Fiction. His stories have been shortlisted for the Sunday Times/EFG Story Prize and cited as Distinguished in Best American Short Stories. Additional work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Zyzzyva, The Rattling Wall, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. He teaches creative writing at Cal State Channel Islands.

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