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Bibliophile | Dangerous games offer big prizes in 'Going Zero'

Going Zero
by Anthony McCarten
Macmillan

It is a competition to test the latest developments in spyware pioneered by FUSION, the successful tech company run by Cy Baxter and his partner Erica Coogan, and librarian Kaitlyn Day finds out that she was going to be one of the participants.

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The Going Zero Test, run in conjunction with the US government, selected ten people to compete. After being given a two hour head start, the competitors had to do everything necessary, but within the law, to avoid being captured for thirty days in order to win the three million tax-free dollars.

So that is ten individuals with various levels of resources and expertise trying to go off-grid and disappear for 30 days while super-smart data scientists, intelligence agents, programmers, hackers, cyber sleuths and analysts form both private and public sectors, supported by thousands of people in the field, hunt them down.

One by one, the participants get caught and their ingenious, but not foolproof avoidance techniques are revealed. Then there was only Kaitlyn, who was a book person, and had not bothered much with advances in technology when the rest of the world had gone digital a generation earlier. Also, Kaitlyn has a secret, and it still isn’t possible to hack inside a human being.

This is a monolithic game of hide and seek and the drama is as intense as “a nature documentary where a fawn grazes ignorantly while unseen wolves converge”. This is the world that George Orwell warned us about where keeping America safe can justify wide scale information gathering and invasion, and the right to privacy doesn’t exist anymore.

The tension mounts to capture the last remaining competitor because that will mean that FUSION will be awarded a $90 billion dollar contract with the CIA to revolutionise surveillance forever.

Be scared… be very scared because with a certain amount of money and power, normal rules don’t apply. Anthony McCarten’s exciting novel makes you think how long it will be before monitoring becomes control and free will morphs into compliance, and indeed if this is already happening.

Lezly Herbert


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