Going Zero, Andrew McCarten

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Technology based thrillers like GOING ZERO can, sometimes, make this reader wary. Very wary, as the "tech" is often so far off course it endangers teeth and the book's ability to stay in one piece. Not so in GOING ZERO - the tech here might be a tad ropey in places, but the application was so believable, and the potential outcome so engaging, I was happy to let it roll along at, it has to be said, a clipping pace.

Basically the idea is that there's a big, high-tech company, run by one of those wunderkind tech bro types - Cy Baxter, although in the background there's a team of people, and one woman in particular who keep the show on the road. The company has developed a ground-breaking bit of spyware that can allegedly track anyone, anywhere on earth, and to prove that it does what it says on the box, a sort of reality show / come contest has been devised. Contestants are chosen and pre-warned that there will be an announcement, which will come with no warning, when they will have two hours to "Go Zero" or disappear. Then if they can stay off-grid, hidden and untracked by the spyware for 30 days they will receive a prize of $3million, and Baxter stands to win a $90billion contract with the CIA which will revolutionise surveillance and government oversight of people forever more.

Only one of the contestants, Kaitlyn Day, has something a bit more than the cash prize on her mind, and she's as determined as Baxter to get what she wants. Which one of them will ultimately win this particular little battle is down to a whole bunch of very human interventions.

As mentioned, technology based thrillers like this are often overblown, plain wrong or just so far out that you need a map, torch and a lot of determination to stay with it. GOING ZERO is drenched in tech goings on, and a hefty amount of data protection violations (which lets face it ... is a bit of a myth these days with the poor systems and processes employed by way too many organisations. Sorry day job... I digress), but none of it is utterly implausible, and quite a bit scarily prescient. The human aspects - the foibles, failings, and egos involved also help to create a story here that's really quite gripping and hard to put down. The author is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, and whilst the whole thing feels very much like it would work as a movie, more importantly, it worked on the page - as an engrossing reading experience. 

It's nicely balanced between the techy and the human stuff, with jeopardy, determination, sheer stupidity, and some nice touches of humour and surprise, helped along by an excellent central female character who takes her "book person" identity and has a red hot go at sticking it to the tech bro. Something well worth cheering for...

Book Source Declaration
I received a copy of this book from the publisher or author.
Year of Publication

Ten people have been carefully selected to Beta test a ground-breaking piece of spyware. Pioneered by tech-wunderkind Cy Baxter, FUSION can track anyone wherever they are on earth. But does it work?

Each participant is given two hours to 'Go Zero' – to go off-grid and disappear - and then thirty days to elude the highly sophisticated Capture Teams sent to find them. Any Zero that beats FUSION will receive $3million in cash. If Cy's system prevails, he wins a $90 billion-dollar contract with the CIA to develop FUSION and revolutionize surveillance forever.

For contestant Kaitlyn Day, the stakes are far higher than money, and her reasons for entering the test more personal than Cy could have ever imagined. Kaitlyn needs to win to get what she wants, and Cy will stop at nothing to realize his ambitions. They have no choice but to finish the game and when the timer hits zero, there will only be one winner…

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