... 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 ... One of the challenges of writing fiction about a great artist is how to convincingly create the presence of artistic genius. For instance, if the novel is about a brilliant poet, sooner or later we’ll want to read some immortal verse. If, as in this case, the central character is a famous installation artist, we need to see some of those astonishing sites. Fortunately, O’Connor meets that burden. He provides alluring descriptions of Jess’s famous pieces ... I wish O’Connor hadn’t felt it necessary to give Tanner a gruesome skin disease that covers his entire body. At its best, that 'ugly equals evil' motif is a remnant of cheap fairy-tale propaganda. At its worst, it’s a pernicious moral equation that perpetuates prejudice against people with disfiguring conditions ... Aside from that misstep, though, 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.
The liminal space between art, artist and audience takes an unexpected, beautiful and haunting form in Scott O’Connor’s masterful Zero Zone, which brings to light the intangible thoughts and feelings swirling around an interactive art installation in the desert ... An intimate experience of art from the inside out, Zero Zone raises questions about to whom art belongs: its creator or its recipients. Untangling the web of answers makes for a tantalizing inquiry.
... sets itself apart from the literary thriller pack thanks to its highly original premise and empathetic range ... O'Connor once again plumbs the depths of trauma with careful attention to psychological detail ... O'Connor excels at sympathetically depicting the extremes of human thought, building careful psychological portraits of characters yearning for something like transcendence ... O'Connor takes care not to paint anyone as an uncomplicated villain, an approach that pays off as the novel becomes a reflection on forgiveness, letting go of the past and healing ... While it builds to a suitably harrowing climax, Zero Zone quickly reveals itself to be a meditation on art in the body of a thriller.
After finishing this cinematic novel, some readers will be compelled to start again at page one to discover how O’Connor pieces together his suspenseful, incredibly well-written narrative and to contemplate the artworks described.
... magnetic ... O’Connor shows how art can affect both its creator and its audience in unexpected ways ... O’Connor dovetails Jess’s perspective with those of the Zero Zone survivors, excavating the truth like an archaeologist unearthing a skeleton. Recommended for fans of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto (2001).
... enthralling ... a spooky, sometimes sepulchral portrait ... plot summaries do not begin to do justice to the author’s measured invitations to join him into the vertiginous worlds his characters inhabit. It’s a combination of a literal ghost story—O’Connor is also an accomplished television writer, and his story arc training serves him well—and a metaphysical attempt to question the ground on which we stand, the air we breathe. What is real? he asks, providing no answers ... Not the least of his technical accomplishments is writing the tale largely through the point of view of Jess and Isabelle without raising questions of gender—or breaking a sweat. Like Alice, they fall into their dreams of life, and we are there for the journey ... the creation of his anti-hero Tanner, a pustular prophet with growths all over his body who nevertheless has a mesmerizing effect on those he entices into his orbit, is an amazing achievement ... an awful, completely convincing creature of our times, worthy of Dostoyevsky (or Stephen King).
... harrowing, dexterous ... O’Connor moves nimbly among points of view and shuffles back and forth in time, allowing the reader to piece the story together, only to zoom out and reveal that Jess’s relationship with the seekers is more complicated than it intially seemed. 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.
While each character’s narrative should compel readers to invest in the backstory and tragedy of the lethal intersection between life and art, the novel never finds its footing, succeeding only in revealing a completed puzzle and asking readers to pick apart the pieces ... A novel about experiential art based in light and space loses focus along the way.