cover image Zed


Joanna Kavenna. Doubleday, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-3855-4547-1

In this tangled, riveting parable of the modern surveillance state, Kavenna leads readers through an eerie near-future England dominated by the Beetle corporation, whose increasingly invasive technology monitors everything: people’s health, transportation, and even the contents of one’s refrigerator. Beetle claims the BeetleInsight AI can predict all potential futures, but its engineers struggle to foresee events in Category Zed, which are influenced by unpredictable human irrationality. The story is told through multiple, interweaving points of view, including those of Beetle’s CEO, a high-ranking Beetle engineer, an anti-terrorism government employee, a grieving newspaper editor, and a mysterious person who lives on the fringe of society with others unwilling to adopt Beetle technology. When George Mann murders his entire family, Beetle sends a droid to apprehend him, but the droid mistakenly kills Lionel Bigman instead, triggering a cascade of BeetleInsight errors. Beetle’s engineers must grapple with the flaws in their technology, while people skeptical of Beetle begin to wonder whether they too are in danger. Kavenna delivers this gripping narrative with wit and dark humor, leaving readers both entertained and a little paranoid. Agent: Jessica Friedman, Wylie Agency. (Jan.)