The future is complicated. But that's not why Joanna Kavenna's new dystopian novel "Zed" (Doubleday, 336 pages, ★★★ ½ of four stars) triggers a disturbing buzzing in your brain that lasts long after the last page. What is troubling is that this nightmare, in which technology has gone wrong, feels like a plausible way to solve the most pressing technological problems at the moment.
The story begins in a few years in London, where executive George Mann murders his wife and two young sons before going to a nearby pub. The city's extensive network of security cameras locates Mann, but the anti-terrorist droid (ANT) attempting to arrest him wrongly kills an innocent viewer.
This should not be done in the orderly technology of the mega-corporation Beetle, whose ubiquitous Lifechain algorithms predict the next minutes, hours, days etc. of everyone and calculate the likely behavior and events. Mann's bloody rampage and belated arrest of the droid hampered the system and triggered a domino effect of unexpected mishaps that threaten corporate goliath's impact on life in the western world.
Guy Matthias, the ingenious owner of the beetle, originally intended to create a benevolent society based on technological conveniences and innovations in the field of artificial intelligence. But Matthias became a greedy, passionate egomaniac, and Beetle (think of Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook as well as the CIA) became intrusive and authoritarian – for the good of all, of course.
Almost everyone works for Beetle or its subsidiaries and has to wear super smartwatches – beetlebands – that monitor and report every thought, feeling and action. Beetlebands contain very smart personal assistants (veeps), like Alexa on steroids, although personable. Beetle cryptocurrency is the only legal currency. Cars are driverless. AI is embedded in everything: talking refrigerators recommend healthier foods; Brushing your teeth sends physiological data to analyze your health. BeetleInspire proposes better alternatives non-stop. Beetle executives send lifelike avatars to virtual meetings in the boardroom.
Lifechain, which is so accurate that predicted criminal behavior is punishable, crashes. Other disturbances, known as "Zed events", affect the predictions of the system, lead to malfunctions of the Veeps and confuse Matthias & # 39; speech-censoring, tailor-made program.
British writer Joanna Kavenna is the author of four earlier novels, including the award-winning debut “Inglorious” and “A Field Guide to Reality”. With philosophical foundations (determinism versus free will) she floods this story with imaginative real and virtual characters that offer hope against technotyrannics, for example by an idealistic newspaper editor who owns a musty paperback with "All the President & # 39; s Men" – the-grid hackers who crack Beetle's encryption system.
& # 39; Consider & # 39;:Chuck Palahniuk, the author of & # 39; Fight Club & # 39;, takes readers to the writing school