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What I read: Going Zero by Anthony McCarten

Going Zero is a captivating thriller that examines the consequences of widespread surveillance and the loss of privacy in the digital era. The novel follows the competition between Cy Baxter, a billionaire tech tycoon (please tell me I’m not the only one who pictured Mr Zuckerberg in this role) who has created a system that can track anyone, anywhere, anytime and Kaitlyn Day, a librarian who is one of the ten participants who have to escape his system for 30 days to win $3 million.

“The truth is, we’re all just one click away from being someone else.”

The novel is fast-moving and tense, as Kaitlyn uses her intellect and ingenuity to outwit Cy’s capture teams and stay off the radar. Along the way, she also discovers some secrets about her own history and the fate of her vanished partner.

“Some relationships bust you up. Some make you.”

The novel raises some significant questions about the balance between security and freedom, and the ethical challenges of using technology to monitor and control people.

“Privacy is a human right. It’s not something you trade for convenience or security. It’s essential for dignity and freedom.”

The novel also shows the contrast between Cy’s extravagant and influential lifestyle and Kaitlyn’s modest and isolated one, and how their different backgrounds and motivations shape their actions and choices.

“Finally, it’s not the lies we tell others that do the most damage, it’s those we tell ourselves. From this all troubles rise.”

The novel also has some twists and surprises that keep the reader interested and excited.

What I enjoyed most:

  • Cat-and-mouse chase
  • Smartly crafted plot
  • A good holiday read
  • Cinematic / Netflix potential
  • Significant insight into data privacy issues (so much more than what you would need TrueCaller for!)

The novel is well-written and well-researched, with realistic details and scenarios that make the story credible and pertinent. The characters are well-developed and complex, with flaws and strengths that make them human and relatable. The dialogue is witty and sharp, with some humour and sarcasm that lighten the mood. The novel is a fascinating read that will appeal to fans of techno-thrillers, conspiracy theories, and social commentary.

With thanks to Pan MacMillan SA for the opportunity to read this book. 

About the Book:

Going Zero by Anthony McCarten – Pan Macmillan

About the author*:

“He is a New Zealand writer and filmmaker who has written several big-budget biopics about famous historical figures. He has been nominated for four Academy Awards, including twice for Best Adapted Screenplay. He is also a novelist and playwright who has published ten novels and several stage plays. He is married to Eva Maiwald and they have three children. He currently lives in London, England.

Some of his most well-known works are:

  • The Theory of Everything (2014): A biopic about the life and love of physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane Wilde. The film won the Oscar for Best Actor for Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Hawking.
  • Darkest Hour (2017): A biopic about the leadership of Winston Churchill during the early days of World War II. The film won the Oscar for Best Actor for Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Churchill. McCarten also wrote a book based on his research for the film, titled Darkest Hour: How Churchill Brought Us Back From The Brink.
  • Bohemian Rhapsody (2018): A biopic about the life and music of Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock band Queen. The film won the Oscar for Best Actor for Rami Malek’s portrayal of Mercury.
  • The Two Popes (2019): A biopic about the relationship between Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, who became the first pope to resign in 600 years. The film was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor for Jonathan Pryce’s portrayal of Pope Francis.
  • Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody (2022): A biopic about the life and career of Whitney Houston, one of the best-selling music artists of all time. The film stars Naomi Ackie as Houston and is directed by Stella Meghie.”

*Wikipedia,org, Anzliterature.com, IMDB.com