cover image Zero K

Zero K

Don DeLillo. Scribner, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5011-3539-2

DeLillo's 17th novel features a man arriving at a strange, remote compound (we are told the nearest city is Bishkek)—a set-up similar to a few other DeLillo books, Mao II and Ratner's Star among them. This time, the protagonist is Jeffrey Lockhart, who is joining his billionaire father, Ross, to say good-bye to Ross's second wife (and Jeffrey's stepmother), Artis. The compound is the home of the Convergence, a scientific endeavor that preserves people indefinitely; in Artis's case, it's until there's a cure for her ailing health. But as with any novel by DeLillo, our preeminent brain-needler, the plot is window dressing for his preoccupations: obsessive sallies into death, information, and all kinds of other things. Longtime readers will not be surprised that there's a two-page rumination on mannequins. But a few components elevate Zero K, which is among DeLillo's finest work. For one, DeLillo has become better about picking his spots—the asides rarely, if ever, drag, and they are consistently surprising and funny. And his focus and curiosity have moved far into the future: much of this novel's (and Ross's) attention is paid to humankind's relationship and responsibility to what's to come. What's left behind and forgotten is the present, here represented by Jeffrey, the son whom Ross abandoned when he was 13. DeLillo sneaks a heartbreaking story of a son attempting to reconnect with his father into his thought-provoking novel. (May)