A dystopian vision matched by a dark new voice in indie literature.
Things can't get much worse in Oregon native Vanessa Veselka's dystopian debut novel Zazen. Bombs blow up buildings left and right. Restaurants can barely keep food stocked. Della, the book's protagonist, has given up her study of paleontology to work in a vegan restaurant where customers are as obnoxious as they are ridiculous. Vaselka has Della tell her story with bitter humor and a critical eye, noting particularly the ineffectual gestures of protest made by Della's radical, vegan, yogic contemporaries. While the instability of the world around her poses a constant threat to her sense of self, Della must decide whether her crumbling world is one to flee from or settle into, and Veselka focuses on Della's confusion to ramp up the tension. Della's caustic outlook can be a bit overwhelming at times, yet it's Vaselka's brave willingness to creating a flawed heroine in a flawed world that makes the fictional universe of the darkly satiric Zazen so believable.