cover image Empty Hearts

Empty Hearts

Juli Zeh, trans. from the German by John Cullen. Doubleday/Talese, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-54454-2

In this intriguing near-future dystopian thriller from Zeh (Compression), Germany, now ruled by populists, has implemented massive budget cuts; France has left the EU; and there’s a global financial crisis. Britta Söldner has come up with an innovative algorithm to capitalize on the increased depression these events have caused: Lassie, which uses data mining to search the internet for people considering suicide. She invites those identified as candidates to her business, the Bridge, which ostensibly provides “healing therapy for suicide prevention.” Most are dissuaded from self-harm, and Britta links the others with organizations looking to deploy them in suicide missions for a fee paid to the Bridge and the participants’ survivors. After a failed terror attack on an airport, carried out by would-be suicide bombers who weren’t identified by the never-wrong Lassie, Britta fears a rival entity might be responsible. Britta’s search for an explanation will keep readers turning the pages. Not every detail rings true, but Zeh makes it easy to suspend disbelief in this cold-blooded and macabre future. (Aug.)