The Zero and the One by Ryan Ruby

The Zero and the One by Ryan Ruby

Reviewed by Jack Cameron Stanton

But it’s nonsense! No one kills himself for abstract principles like that. Not even my brother. Principles are a thing to live for, not reasons to die.

The Zero and The OneThe Zero and the One, Ryan Ruby’s debut novel, has been dubbed a philosophical thriller. Featuring plenty of twists in the story and style, it offers moments of Gothic storytelling, mystery suspense, and the wise contemplations of fine fiction. It is a brilliant story told by a shy intellectual, Owen Whiting, who is recovering from the death of his friend Zach.

Owen’s best friend Zach commits suicide for reasons he conceives are morally dignified, leaving behind a guilt-ridden Owen, best friend and accomplice in the suicide. But how did their suicide pact go so wrong, and why did it happen in the first place? What started as a moral experiment played out in their lives quickly became a reality, and although Zach frequently theorised about how suicide was ‘a principled act of defiance . . . a defence of the freedom of the will against our servitude to causality’, he never thought Zach would actually go through with it. Or did he?

Zach and Owen met at Oxford University and immediately formed a fast friendship, mostly because Zach’s unwavering charisma pulled Owen away from a life of solitude and scholarly discipline into an underworld he never could’ve discovered on his own.

As students of philosophy, their lives become an increasing set of challenges and moral experiments, as they drift from Oxford to the hidden wonderlands of Berlin, until Zach proposes a transgression like no other: a suicide pact.

But running alongside the narrative of Owen and Zach’s newly kindled friendship is a story in the future. Owen is lonely once again, attending Zach’s funeral in New York and ruminating on how all of this came to be. Zach has committed suicide and although everyone in mourning doesn’t understand why, Owen knows more about it than he’s letting on . . . There is a mystery inside this book that unravels slowly, compellingly.Ryan Ruby

Ryan Ruby’s book echoes plenty of classic novels: at times it rings of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, and even The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. It has been dubbed a philosophical thriller and accomplishes this blend of genres by foreshadowing a dark Gothic twist within it. On the surface, The Zero and the One is a story about a young man lost in the big world, but things quickly take a surprising, sinister turn, and the pace of the story accelerates right along with it.

It’s obvious that as a writer, Ryan knows exactly what he’s doing. The double narratives take a staggeringly unexpected turn about halfway through the book and catapults toward an ending that is totally out of sight and fulfilling. It will surprise, haunt, and excite you all at once.

Born in Los Angeles, Ryan Ruby was educated at Columbia University, Oxford University and the University of Chicago. He has been a bookseller in Los Angeles, a tour guide in Berlin, a lay-about in New Orleans and a lecturer in philosophy at the City University of New York. He lives in Berlin.

Grab a copy today, start reading the opening pages, or check out Better Reading’s Q&A with Ryan Ruby!

Related Articles

Where I was Meant to Be: Q&A with Gwyn Perkins

News | Author Related

7 November 2019

Where I was Meant to Be: Q&A with Gwyn Perkins

Gorgeous Mother's Day Picture Book: Take a look inside There's Only One Mum Like You by Jess Racklyeft

Kids & Ya

5 April 2019

Gorgeous Mother's Day Picture Book: Take a look inside There's Only One Mum Like You by Jess Racklyeft

Dreamy Picture Books: Author-illustrator Jess Racklyeft reveals her all-time favourite picture books

Kids & Ya

29 March 2019

Dreamy Picture Books: Author-illustrator Jess Racklyeft reveals her all-time favourite picture books

All Mums Are Different: The Inspiration Behind There's Only One Mum Like You by Jess Racklyeft

Kids & Ya

28 March 2019

All Mums Are Different: The Inspiration Behind There's Only One Mum Like You by Jess Racklyeft

Beautiful Tribute to Mums of All Kinds: Review of There's Only One Mum Like You by Jess Racklyeft

Kids & Ya

26 March 2019

Beautiful Tribute to Mums of All Kinds: Review of There's Only One Mum Like You by Jess Racklyeft

Dreaming of Dior... start reading One Enchanted Evening by Charlotte Smith

News

23 November 2017

Dreaming of Dior... start reading One Enchanted Evening by Charlotte Smith

    Fairy-tale Inheritance: One Enchanted Evening by Charlotte Smith

    News

    21 November 2017

    Fairy-tale Inheritance: One Enchanted Evening by Charlotte Smith

      Weddings and Wills: Come Rain or Shine by Tricia Stringer

      News

      14 November 2017

      Weddings and Wills: Come Rain or Shine by Tricia Stringer

        The Very Noisy Baby by Alison Lester

        Kids & Ya

        7 November 2017

        The Very Noisy Baby by Alison Lester

        Brilliant Dark Mystery: Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra

        News

        7 November 2017

        Brilliant Dark Mystery: Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra

          Publisher details

          The Zero and the One
          Author
          Ryan Ruby
          Publisher
          Affirm Press
          Genre
          Fiction
          Released
          01 April, 2017

          Synopsis

          A shy, bookish scholarship student from a working class family, Owen Whiting has high hopes of Oxford, only to find himself adrift and out of place among the university’s aristocrats and posh radicals. But his life takes a dramatic turn when he meets Zachary Foedern, a visiting scholar from New York. Rich, brilliant and charismatic, Zach takes Owen under his wing, introducing him to a world of experiences Owen has only ever read about.From Oxford to the seedy underbelly of Berlin, they practise what Zach preaches, daring each other to transgress the boundaries of convention and morality, until Zach proposes the greatest transgression of all: a suicide pact. But when Zach’s plans go horribly awry, Owen is left to pick up the pieces in New York. Now he must navigate the treacherous boundaries between illusion and reality to preserve a hold on his once bright future. No one – least of all Owen – will foresee where that leads him …About the author Born in Los Angeles, Ryan Ruby was educated at Columbia University, Oxford University and the University of Chicago. He has been a bookseller in Los Angeles, a tour guide in Berlin, a layabout in New Orleans and a lecturer in philosophy at the City University of New York.His fiction, literary criticism and political commentary have appeared in a variety of literary magazines, including Paris Review Daily, n + 1, The Baffler, Conjunctions, Dissent and Lapham’s Quarterly. Ryan Ruby lives in Berlin.
          Ryan Ruby
          About the author

          Ryan Ruby

          Born in Los Angeles, Ryan Ruby was educated at Columbia University, Oxford University and the University of Chicago. He has been a bookseller in Los Angeles, a tour guide in Berlin, a layabout in New Orleans and a lecturer in philosophy at the City University of New York.His fiction, literary criticism and political commentary have appeared in a variety of literary magazines, including Paris Review Daily, n + 1, The Baffler, Conjunctions, Dissent and Lapham’s Quarterly. Ryan Ruby lives in Berlin.

          Books by Ryan Ruby

          COMMENTS

          Leave a Reply

          Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *