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3.41  ·  Rating details ·  105 ratings  ·  34 reviews
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
Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: January 14th 2020 by Doubleday Books (first published July 4th 2019)
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  • Zed by Joanna Kavenna
    Release date: Jan 14, 2020

    "Complex, funny, prescient, difficult: Kavenna's novel tackles nothing less than everything as it blurs the lines between real and

    Format: Print book

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    Availability: 10 copies available, 2897 people requesting

    Giveaway dates: Nov 13 - Dec 13, 2019

    Countries available: U.S.

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    Community Reviews

    Showing 1-30
    Average rating 3.41  · 
    Rating details
     ·  105 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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    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 ...more
    (3.5, 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 quite place Zed in the masterpiece category, but it's far ...more
    Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    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, Amazon, 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 ...more
    Dammit! Tricked by cover porn. Look at that cover, it is gorgeous!
    Zed by Joanna Kavenna

    It has a very intriguing premise, but was let down by the execution. It reads like an early draft. A few more 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 release.

    It 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
    Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    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 ...more
    Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
    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 more. It seems to be going nowhere slowly.
    Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    I’m sat here writing this review on my notebook PC while my smartphone randomly provides new music based on previous choices I’ve made. Meanwhile, my smartwatch feeds me a constant stream of various e-mails and alerts. Technology is just super convenient isn’t it? That idea that everything you could ever want, or need, is available at the touch of a button is a real lifesaver. If you think about it though, it’s also mildly disturbing. Spotify and Amazon aren’t just giving me what I want anymore, ...more
    Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
    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 flat.

    In 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
    Rachel Noel
    Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    *Book provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    This book was promoted as a sci-fi dystopian where everyone's lives are dictated by algorithms, with a strong philosophical and dark comedy bent. I'll be honest, I get why it's listed as science fiction, but it's really more of a drama than anything. I will give Kavenna full credit, this is the first time I've read a book about a dystopian society falling apart from the perspective of those running the dystopia. That was a very nice
    Alan Shaw
    I enjoyed some of this book and some of it I found a slog. The story begins well as a black and bleak comedy then loses its way, suddenly ups a gear and is almost exciting before simply fading away. The premise isn't particularly new - Big Bad Business and Big Bad Government collude in high-tech monitoring of everyone and everything for the usual ends of money power and control. It sometimes reminded me of Alena Graedon's The Word Exchange except that had heart - here the primary characters felt ...more
    The Artisan Geek
    Nov 30, 2019 is currently reading it
    Shelves: bookcase
    A sincere thank you to Doubleday for gifting me a copy of Zed!! :)

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    Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    This seemed like a straight forward indictment of current social media and smart home culture. But double speak is too tricky to be doomed. And governments and corporations/people are too eager for power to take responsibility. The only way out is to 1) be oneself and face poverty, censure, and jail time 2) become a disillusioned yet loyal corporate droog (is that a way out...really?) 3) Be Water as a hacker, but only if you are brilliant or 4) go insane and enjoy the ride to your inevitable ...more
    Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

    If you hated 'The Circle' for its twee shallowness and plotting, this is the book for you.

    I'd call it the fictional extension (or reductio ad absurdum) of Zuboff's 'Surveillance Capitalism'.

    Glancing through other reviews here, I discovered another one: for fans of Cohen's 'Book of Numbers'.

    Last pitch: the jacket has a recommendation from Rachel Cusk - if this puts you off, let it. If not, dive in!
    Amber Sherlock
    A terrifying and frankly, bizarre insight into an Orwellian future of total control, murderous AI and algorithms to predict crime. Corporate giants control all - how to live, think, act and pre-arrest any potential dissidents. A great concept, but the execution ultimately lets the book down slightly.
    Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Zed explores a society where a huge tech corporation, such as Google/Apple/Amazon, has quietly taken over, socially, politically, economically, and ingrained itself into every aspect of existence. The corporation of the novel is Beetle, most people are employed by Beetle in some form, are paid in a cryptocurrency owned by Beetle called "Beetlebits" and monitored by "Beetlebands" that, for your own health and safety, track your location, eating habits, search histories, language and even future. ...more
    Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
    3.75s rounded up to 4. I honestly don’t even know how to begin to review this book. A work of dystopian fiction, Zed is quite funny, more than a bit sad, like “aww... bless their hearts” sad (& for those of you who don’t speak southern that means: those poor dumb/otherwise impaired people),not 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, Amazon, Facebook, etc.,
    Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Joanna Kavenna’s Zed was a satirical and Orwellian look at what the future might be, If we give in to the posturing of large corporations. Already they control so much of our lives, and this warns us not to let it go too far. The story begins through the eyes of a police officer whose job is to be the liaison between Beetle and the police (representing the government). As the book goes on, she opens her eyes and fights back against unfair decisions she sees AI’s make, killing people whose ...more
    Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: fiction, dystopia
    This book was an incredibly hard one with which to keep slogging on. It has an interesting premise that draws on today's issues and takes the strength of the IT megacorporations and extends that to a point at which society is over-run by algorithms and machines. I was reminded of the Terminator films where the machines take over, of Philip K Dick's Minority Report in which people can be prosecuted for what they will do in future but haven't yet done, and of course the Google - Amazon - Apple ...more
    Aug 17, 2019 marked it as to-read
    PW Starred: " 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 ...more
    Anne Goodwin
    Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    In an all too easily imaginable near-future, the digital world has become more real than the real. With data mined from multiple devices, Beetle, one of the world’s most successful tech companies, can construct an individual’s life chain, with uses ranging from predicting the probable pleasure to be derived from an evening’s R&R, to prosecuting prospective criminals for as yet uncommitted crimes. All in the public interest, of course, and citizens are perfectly at liberty to opt out if they ...more
    Tim Julian
    Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Dystopian near-future satire along the lines of Dave Eggers' The Circle or Annalee Newitz's Autonomous. Here we have all-powerful tech corporation Beetle which alongside droid Personal Assistants, omnipresent spycams, talking fridges and the rest has developed algorithms to predict human behaviour. This has led to "probable future crimes" being justification for criminal charges. When a law enforcement droid kills the wrong man it throws up questions about the infallibility of the "lifechain" ...more
    Megan Forrest
    Oct 02, 2019 rated it liked it
    Zed is a dystopian fiction novel that combines the worst elements of our society. Not only does technology and the technologists control our world, recommend how we live our lives and attempt to dictate every part of our daily activities, but it also predicts what we will do through the use of 'life-chain' predictors. The problem is Zed - errors in the algorithms that mean the code just doesn't work. Of course, the technologists won't give up that easily! This is a satirical look at what our ...more
    Nov 30, 2019 marked it as to-read
    Zed is a dark comedy dystopia where only a few learn lessons, and even those that do learn can do nothing about it. Beetle is a large conglomerate that controls/knows everything about us. (Think Google or Amazon on steroids) One day a horrible, anomalous event happens and daily life is thrown into chaos. Court cases, rude AI, collapsing relationships, and death follow. Presentation is everything here. The ridiculous "innovations" to improve life and the continual technobabble and double speak ...more
    William Weir
    Sep 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
    Struck me as Black Mirror (aren’t all near future dystopias?) crossed with The Capital (aren’t all sociopolitical satires?). Touches on some important themes and like all decent satire stretches them without coming across as unrealistic. Personally I found it unengaging, with too many unmemorable characters and a rather confused storyline. Maybe that was intended to mirror the confusion of Zed and if so it worked. Strikes me the author is a decent writer, this just wasn’t the book that showed ...more
    Elizabeth Hamilton-pearce
    It’s a familiar premise, a dystopian, surveillance state with an uber corporation at the helm but it is wittily done.

    I found myself smirking out loud fairly regularly in the first third but as the book progressed it lost my attention and I found the second half a bit of a slog. I think I just didn’t care enough about any of the characters.
    Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    A fun read in a dystopian way. Leans heavily on 1984 but none the worse for that. Darkly hilarious and all too believable a future of we get too sucked into Twit/Face/Goo/Zon. I was trying to think of a collective noun for the Big Tech but just came up with ‘Twitfaced’ - how one feels after posting rubbish on Social Media. Inspired me too re-read 1984 and now Brave New World
    Jul 29, 2019 rated it liked it
    This was a DNF at around 23%. I enjoyed the writing style and the thought of a totally enterprise controlled society is intriguing, very Orwellian, but the pace was very slow, I was lost most of the time, and while I enjoyed some of the characters, they didn't stand out enough for me to continue with the story.
    Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
    I enjoyed the heck out of this book. The humor is as perfectly absurd as what's happening on the page. However, it was a little prescient reading this in the midst of the Google/Alphabet super computer announcements.
    Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    A very odd book indeed, but very prophetic, warning as it does of the dangers of allowing technology to overtake humanity. The fact that I read it on the Kindle didn't escape me!
    Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
    Great idea poorly executed
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    Joanna Kavenna is a prize-winning British novelist and travel writer.

    Kavenna spent her childhood in Suffolk and the Midlands as well as various other parts of Britain. She has also lived in the United States, France, Germany, Scandinavia and the Baltic States.

    These travels led to her first book, The Ice Museum, which was published in 2005. It was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award in that
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