Zed Kindle ✓ Hardcover

Zed From the winner of the Orange Award for New Writing comes a blistering satirical novel about life under a global media and tech corporation that knows exactly what we think what we want and what we do before we do One corporation has made a perfect world based on a perfect algorithm now what to do with all these messy people Lionel Bigman is dead Murdered by a robot Guy Matthias the philandering founder and CEO of the mega corporation Beetle insists it was human error But was it Either the predictive algorithms of Beetle's supposedly omniscient 'lifechain' don't work or they've been hacked Both scenarios are impossible to imagine and signal the end of Beetle's technotopia and life as we know it Dazzlingly original and darkly comic Zed asks profound uestions about who we are what we owe to one another and what makes us human It describes our moment the ugliness and the beauty perfectly Kavenna is a prophet who has seen deeply into the present and thrown back her head and laughed


10 thoughts on “Zed

  1. Hugh Hugh says:

    Joanna Kavenna is becoming one of my favourite writers her four previous novels Inglorious The Birth of Love Come to the Edge and A Field Guide to Reality are all intelligent and interesting in different ways and her writing is often very funny I must admit that I was a little nervous when I heard that her latest book was a dystopian fiction set in the near future as this genre is not normally one that appeals to me as a reader When I was offered a chance to read an uncorrected proof copy by a friendly local bookshop I couldn't resist it Kavenna's imaginative vision is impressive and the book is funny clever brilliantly realised and full of interesting philosophical ideas but never loses track of the human and often feminine values at its coreThe Britain of the novel is dominated both socially and politically by Beetle a mega corporation that embodies all of the most rapacious features of Google Facebook Apple and Microsoft to name just five They have monopoly control of almost all aspects of life their cryptocurrency is the only remaining legal currency to earn it you need to work for them and to work for them you need to wear a Beetleband which monitors everything you do and contains a Veep or VIPA very intelligent personal assistant and they also control the apparatus of state security via their network of security cameras and robotic policemen ANTs Each person has an associated life chain computed by an algorithm which predicts all of their important decisions and fates and the law now makes a prediction of future criminal behaviour an offence in its own rightThe Beetle brand is owned by Guy Matthias who sees himself as an idealistic visionary and his project as essentially benevolent However his personal life is messy his wife is tired of his philandering and he uses lifechains to model his one night stands with a succession of brilliant young women His internal communication system is conducted via Boardroom a virtual reality system in which avatars meet in virtual roomsThe book is full of dark humour and Kavenna clearly had great fun inventing the terminology acronyms and the names of the Veeps which are full of allusions The Veeps conversations are also very entertaining as they often fail to see the sense of a word and spout irrelevant historyThe world of Beetle is disturbed when a man gets drunk and murders his wife and children This has not been predicted by any of his lifechains and the event is categorised as a Zed event His arrest is bungled resulting in an innocent man being murdered by an ANT and the conseuential chain of chaos threatens to destabilise the company which effectively declares war on Zed events and creates its own simplified language Bespoke making it mandatory for all interfaces with Beetle technology and resulting in comedy of misunderstanding There is also a human element to the destruction as a group of maverick scientists succeed in building a new type of supercomputer which can hack Beetle's encryption system and much of the second half of the book explores the chaos that ensuesThe book is not by any means perfect there are many ideas at play and some of these reuire digressive explanations but I found the whole thing compulsively readable and at times laugh out loud funny and it certainly made me think about many elements of our society the forces that control it and what it means to be human I really hope this book will find a wider readership


  2. Blair Blair says:

    35 maybe? It's difficult to rate this It reminded me most of my experience with Joshua Cohen's Book of Numbers a book I hated at first and continued to find frustrating throughout but ended up loving and now regard as one of the greatest novels the 21st century has yet produced There are also superficial similarities in the books' plots for example chunks of the story being focused on a powerful tech mogul I'm not sure I can uite place Zed in the masterpiece category but it's far interesting than a middling star rating might suggestReading between the lines I think Zed must have been through some serious rewrites When first announced it focused on some of the same characters but was set in 1999 and titled Tomorrow; it's since been significantly pushed back from its original release date of May 2018 Even now a week before publication there are noticeable differences between the blurb and the version I read For example two of the characters referenced in the current blurb – the female PM and the hacker named Gogol – are only mentioned a handful of times in the book I perhaps ought to add a disclaimer that what I'm reviewing here may not be what appears in printWith all that out of the way the version I read is set in the nearish? future Beetle an enormous corporation whose closest real world analogue is probably dominates technology employment and justice The main characters are its CEO Guy Matthias; his right hand man Douglas Varley; their 'Veeps' virtual personal assistants who are sometimes embodied and sometimes not; Eloise Jayne a senior anti terrorism officer; and David Strachey a newspaper editor There's also a dissident who goes by many names but is most often known as Bel Ami The society these characters inhabit is founded on the idea that technology can reliably predict human behaviour The plot – such as it is – deals with what becomes of such a society when humans suddenly start being dangerously unpredictable This collapse is blamed on a factor known as 'Zed'; the term is a stand in for 'human decoherence' It took me perhaps 80 pages to feel I'd made any sort of connection with the narrative I was going to say that Zed is not an immediately engaging book but that's not strictly true – it has entertaining details from the start The names of the Veeps never failed to raise a smile It's the plot that never uite seems to get going The whole story feels like a tug of war on one side there's a meandering philosophicalsatirical account of a bunch of lost lonely people and on the other the sense that someone's been trying their best to mould it into a plot driven tech thrillerThe result is certainly enjoyable yet somewhat muddled This is a book which has clear undercurrents of brilliance intellect and imagination than whole swathes of current fiction but is often sluggish and mildly unsatisfying as a wholeI received an advance review copy of Zed from the publisher through NetGalleyTinyLetter | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr


  3. CJ CJ says:

    Dammit Tricked by cover porn Look at that cover it is gorgeous It has a very intriguing premise but was let down by the execution It reads like an early draft A few rounds of revising and editing could elevate this story into a masterpiece I did read an early copy so hopefully some of the issues I had with it were resolved before releaseIt is a satirical look at determinism vs free will in the digital age and tech giants profiting from the subjection of humanity In the not too distant future societies are surreptitiously controlled by a monopoly of tech giants whose tech and AI are based on the theory humans have free will but they are predictable It is a precursor to an Orwellian society as people still have a choice to opt into the Predictive Lifechain but if they don't they are manipulated or coerced into it or shunned by society as there is no data to verify they are a trustworthy citizen Beetle is the largest and most influential of these mega corps and its tech is deeply ingrained in society Guy Matthias a philanthropist and CEO of Beetle is an odious vile man who publicly believes the use of his deterministic AI platform to control the population creates a safe and stable utopia However privately it is a tool for him to avoid responsibility and accountability for his and the company's actions further his political agendas and petty vendettas against anyone who disagrees with him and mine for successful hookupsThis one was a struggle to finish Initially the balance between the world building and plot was off with paragraphs of info dumps unexpectedly popping up While the plot improved and was interesting there are too many ideas crammed in and it becomes a muddled incoherent mess and that is before it introduces the Bespoke Beetlespeak language Often it felt like it was written by a robot with the info dumps being contrary and contradictory for example These tiny things are called ubits If it helps then think of them as imaginary spheres If it doesn't help then don't A ubit is not what we imagine and yet it is It is anything we would like and yet all things at the same time This makes it an improbably flexible basis for computingNothing you are told is real Remember this until we tell you that something you are being told is real Actually the thing we are telling you that nothing you are told is real is actually real That thing is real about nothing being real Just that thing though and nothing else Is that clear? Ended up skim reading the last few chapters It was like the author didn't know how to wrap up the story after the climaxThank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the ARC


  4. Adam Adam says:

    Joanna Kavenna’s Zed is a pitch dark comedy about an Orwellian future where Big Brother is not only watching but controls every aspect of society Imagine if Google merged with the NSA CIA Facebook and Apple as well as owned almost every media channel and newspaper in the country This is Beetle Everything is constantly filmed everyone is forced to wear a smartwatch that kept telling you what to do your refrigerator tries to control what you eat and personal assistants called Veeps–an AI comparable to a super advanced Alexa monitors you and reports everything to Beetle The dominant form of money is a cryptocurrency created and maintained by Beetle and around 90% of the population works for the company or a subsidiary of it If something negative were to befall the company then the public would never hear about it Why? Well it would be a matter of national security as the issue would have to be first treated as a potential terrorist threat And the good of society must come first of course Keep in mind there’s freedom of choice This is a free society after all No one is forced use Beetle’s technology It’s just that they would be labeled unverified so they wouldn’t have access to any Beetle jobs Or transportation Or money But its their choice Nightmarish right? That’s not the worst part The company has developed something called a lifechain which is series of algorithms that predicts all possibilities of what a person might do on any given day Probabilities are calculated with these lifechains and they are so accurate that Beetle has been able to influence the government to enact a law to “pre arrest” someone before they commit a crime The lifechain says they’re going to so why wait until they do it? This saves everyone lots of time and grief This theme also appears in Philip K Dick’s short story “Minority Report” Beetle has also invented ANT’s which are headless droids armed with guns who are perfectly programmed to arrest and secure their targets and in no way can anything go wrong since lifechains and Beetle’s AI are perfect What a perfect society Guy Matthias the head of Beetle just keeps making society better and better Citizen’s faces have become completely blank over the years so as not to express any kind of feeling in front of cameras or machines and Guy is so proud that citizens are now able to live in a society without offending anyoneBut what’s this? Something starts to go wrong The lifechain seems to have some errors People commit horrible crimes without the lifechain predicting them ANT’s start shooting innocents without provocation Since the AI’s and lifechains are perfectly programmed then it all must be attributed to human error of course Despite Beetle’s efforts this error gap between perfection and reality starts to widen This gap is called Zed named after the last letter of the alphabet representing all things that don’t uite fit within every paradigm Undefinable unuantifiable things things that shouldn’t be And Zed keeps getting bigger Kavenna’s wry wit shines throughout the story; the humor is both sharp and depressing as it feels like some form of this future isn’t far off from becoming a reality We view this society through the lens of several different characters the head of Beetle the nervous lackey a tech hating employee who sees through all the bullshit a top newspaper reporter a protesting citizen and various AI Veeps One of the most humorous and depressingly real scenarios is the adoption of something called Bespoke Guy Matthias the head of Beetle was once part of a conversation where someone much smarter than him was using words that he didn’t understand In response he now wants to make communication simple enough for everyone to understand so he invents a system that dumbs down vocabulary into fewer phrases to make it easier for everyone to communicate It’s hilarious and frightening and hits too close for comfort Zed is a satirical comedy of errors hilarious and poignant and horrifyingly relevant It is an extreme example of the direction our larger companies government and privacy laws are headed and if left unchecked it could lead to some form what this book portrays Even if you just take this story at face value it is still an entertaining intelligent and thoughtful read ARC via NetGalley Zed is being published by Doubleday Books and will be released on January 14 202080 10


  5. The Artisan Geek The Artisan Geek says:

    20420Looking back I wasn't taking with the story because I felt that the messagecommentary was louder than the actual story28220Had to put this one down for now there seems to be a lot of commentary here on society that I'm not grasping too well301119Thank you to Doubleday for gifting me a copy of ZedYou can find me onYoutube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website


  6. Geoff Geoff says:

    This was a really frustrating book for me to read I think the theme and issues are important but there were several aspects of both the style and the plot that made it fall flatIn terms of the style this was a bad mix of scifi and literary fiction I love both genres so I was really excited for this and it didn't meet my expectations It was bad scifi way too many info dumps that led to an excess of telling an not showing and I found the style and characters abysmal At points it seemed allegorical and dreamy but she clearly wanted us to care about the characters And although she clearly wanted us to care about the characters they were all incredibly shallowly drawn and oddly prone to fall in love with the central trickster figure In terms of the plot I think the author was going for a modern 1984 where instead of Orwell's political techno fascistic dystopia she presented a softer corporate dystopia where people are nudged and influenced and governments are captured and tech manipulated to promote corporate goals Fair enough that's happening right now and she did a great job of showing what a horror that societyour society is although the comparison to China were a little too hit the reader over the head But the details were maddening She made good points about nudges and libertarian paternalism who gets to decide which way to nudge people? but nudges don't nearly have the effect that she portrays them to have and that reduces the power of her clarion call Second I can't for the life of me understand why a tech company would want to take over police and justice functions from a government Why would GoogleFacebook want to be responsible for the liability of autonomous robots with guns and police power? What's in it for them to take over criminal justice and put at risk their core businesses?Finally and most annoying the central conceit of the book was that Zed puts a spanner in the works of Beetle's lifechain predictive models that are supposed to perfectly predict the future behaviors of all citizens And the techno gurus and data scientists are all astounded that their models have predictive error that people sometimes suddenly do random things Which is preposterous Measuring and understanding predictive error is core to building a model I can understand government and non data corporate officials not understand how models fail but portraying statisticians and data scientists as flummoxed by a model's error is just silly It's entirely possible I've missed something major with her style but on the whole I wanted betterRead an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review


  7. Anna Anna says:

    I reserved ‘Zed’ at the library when it was still on order so it retains that divine New Book Smell I was very excited to read it as Kavenna’s A Field Guide to Reality was unexpectedly wonderful and ‘Zed’ appeared to be a zeitgeist novel about surveillance capitalism And indeed that is what it is The contrast with A Field Guide to Reality is so strong that I’m rather surprised they’re by the same author Whereas A Field Guide to Reality had a dreamlike whimsical atmosphere ‘Zed’ has a distinctively bleak and deadpan narrative voice Although both are very well executed I found A Field Guide to Reality emotionally satisfying The appeal of ‘Zed’ is on the intellectual side although I greatly appreciated the dark humour The plot centres upon Beetle which is essentially google five years from now In near future London everyone wears BeetleBands that tell them to calm down owns fridges that nag them to eat better and uses Beetle’s cryptocurrency Most unsettling of all policing has been outsourced to Beetle algorithms and ANTs Anti Terror Droids Of course Beetle continues to espouse choice freedom etc etc The cast includes the extremely narcissistic CEO of Beetle several of his underlings and a few people who are trying to cause disruption The title refers to an error term in the predictions made by Beetle The ‘Zed’ unknown error triggers outbreaks of chaos and undermines Beetle’s reliability Of the uncanny technologies mentioned in the book I found ‘Bespeaking’ the most interesting This is an extrapolation of that gmail feature that tells you how to respond to an email I hate that and have switched it off which you can do now although when first introduced this was not the case When videochatting Beetle’s ‘Bespeak’ feature essentially dumbs down what you’re saying into what it thinks you meant Automatic newspeak for the 21st century in the name of clarity and efficiency The problems that this causes for Guy the CEO of Beetle are very funnyWe need to stop humanity making so many errors” he said the next time he spoke to Guy“The Real Douglas Varley when you are Bespoken I not understand you” said Guy “You need to make your input clear otherwise your output is unclear”“Am I being translated into Bespoke?”“Of course Deity”“My input is clear I think” said the Real Douglas Varley “Maybe Bespoke needs adjusting”“I need you to tell me what is happening Or you will lose your job It’s very easy”But it wasn’t easy “Deity I’m ending the call I’m extremely angry with you This is totally not good at all”“Yes of course”“Swearing Deity Penis”I also found it very amusing when the AI personal assistants all of whom have Dickensian names are afflicted by Zed and start mocking humanity in a peculiarly existential manner By contrast the sections concerning an automated justice system in which people are to blame for being shot by robots were rather chilling The court scenes have a distinct whiff of KafkaWhat about Lionel Bigman?” said Laura Adebayo“In the case of the tragic suicide by droid of Lionel Bigman I am afraid there was nothing we could do” said Varley“How did he commit suicide exactly?”“His behaviour was suicidal All the available footage has corroborated this”“Which we can’t see because of the New Official Secrets Act” said Laura Adebayo“Beetle is not responsible for legislation in our country” said Dougas Varley“Are you sure?” said Laura Adebayo“Objection” said Ted Henderson again“Objection sustained” said the judgeThus ‘Zed’ is a rather effective dark comedy of monopoly surveillance technology I liked the little detail of the Beetle logo slowly metamorphosizing on the chapter title pages The business about uantum computing however did not work as well What held the book together so neatly was dialogue and narrative voice Appropriately enough the characters were largely ciphers I found the ending rather less memorable and interesting than what had come before view spoilerhowever it would probably would have rung false to end on a note of systemic change The fact that a major media scandal about Beetle was uickly suppressed and the news cycle forcibly moved on rang depressingly true No obvious antidote to surveillance capitalism is currently available that I know of so a book like this is difficult to conclude on a hopeful note hide spoiler


  8. Laura Laura says:

    375⭐️s rounded up to 4 I honestly don’t even know how to begin to review this book A work of dystopian fiction Zed is uite funny than a bit sad like “aww bless their hearts” sad for those of you who don’t speak southern that means those poor dumbotherwise impaired peoplenot need a box of tissues sad slightly terrifying and crazy In the very near future Beetle is the huge tech company that runs the world Literally It’s the NSA Apple Google Facebook etc etc all rolled into one on steroids People drive beetle made smart cars actually the smart cars drive the people Beetle bits are the only accepted currency everyone has their own Beetle personal assistant that can come in both real fake bodies and a disembodied voice on their Beetle bands which everyone has to wear on their wrists in order to do anything in society like work buy things appliances and everything else Beetle has cameras on every street only to keep people safe wink wink and in every room in your house again solely for safety Your Beetle fridge tells you if you’re eating right and that ‘maybe you’d like a yogurt instead of that bacon for breakfast’ to keep you as healthy as you can be Beetle owns the media but there is no bias and reporters or robo hacks can still write whatever they want wink wink Thanks to Beetle the world is full of cities and copies of cities and copies of copies of cities that are all smart and PERFECT wink wink Beetle does your “lifechain”where you see exactly what decisions you will make and exactly what happens to you when you make them That way the authorities can arrest people for future crimes so nothing bad ever happens any Obviously Beetle is all about the health and happiness of the people nothing or less okay do I need to keep saying ‘wink wink?’ Or do you get it? Then Zed happens What is Zed you ask? That is a great uestion Zed is bad That we know Zed events cause the lifechains to go wonky as things happen that weren’t predicted People do things for unknown reasons the personal assistants go just as crazy as real people and all because of Zed Like I said this book was uite funny and also a bit scary as some of it hit a bit close to home in the age of technology we live in which I’m pretty sure was the point I catch on fast but surely this could and would never happen wink wink?? It was a bit like reading the thoughts of someone high on shrooms while riding ‘ it’s a small world’ at times but it was meant to be that way so even those slightly confusing all over the place parts were funny and easy to get through This was my first Joanna Kavenna book but it won’t be my last I won this book in a goodreads giveaway


  9. Mary Mary says:

    It started well a great concept and very witty I want to know what the ending is but I just don't want to read it any It seems to be going nowhere slowly


  10. Elizabeth Tabler Elizabeth Tabler says:

    I received a copy of this from Netgalley and the Publisher in exchange for my open and honest reviewJoanna Kavenna’s highly unusual and unpredictable novel Zed is not what you expect Going into the story and looking at the gorgeous cover you would think that what you are in for is a deep science fiction story While reading it your perception of the story changes to confusion Then you realize what this is is a stylistic darkly humorous techno thriller that is about how digitally enthralled we are with technology and human nature then the ins and outs of the technology itself The story starts with Douglas Varley a technologist for a large company called Beetle Beetle reminds me of what could be in 10 years and no laws Beetle has integrated itself into every facet of human life From the regulation of physiological things “You might need to do some deep breathing Eloise Your pulse is elevated and something is burning” To society people are paid in beetle credits Predictive algorithms predict crimes before they happen programs speak for you and humanity is uantified down to data points and numbers Other characters company owner Guy Matthias and police officer Eloise Jayne also have interesting parts that balance out the weird dynamics of such a dizzying computer driven world All of these data points and prediction belie the one unuantifiable behavior humans have choice The choice humans have to behave unpredictably This story is written in almost a frenetic style It bounces from one character to the next then through technical jargon and back again It is spastic and at times challenging to follow Stylistically the idea behind the novel is excellent Technology has infused our existence We talk to our phones than we talk to people We talk about idealistic human behavior but often lack context We live in soundbites in this digital world But because of the frenzied pace of the story and dialog I had a difficult time making connections with the story Instead of caring about any of the characters It all blended in a freewheeling cacophony of digital noise In hindsight this may have been the point all along from author Joanna Kavenna But for me as a reader it felt very flatIf you would like to read of my reviews or various other bookish things please come by my blogat


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