Books & Literature

Book Review: Going Zero, by Anthony McCarten

THRILLER: Going Zero, a high-concept thriller from Oscar-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten. Erase yourself. The hunt has begun. Perfect for fans of I Am Pilgrim and The Circle.

So convincingly told it feels like a peek at the future.
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Feature image credit: Pan Macmillan Australia

Who wins when both are equally invested in opposite outcomes?

Like any high stakes game, Going Zero requires players that have the skills and knowledge to win. In Anthony McCarten’s latest novel, the game is simple. Ten players (Zeroes) are given two hours each to “Go Zero” and vanish; to get off grid and remain untraceable. This is so they can survive 30 days without being detected by Cy Baxter’s Fusion spyware technology and win $3 million in cash. If no Zeroes succeed, then Cy wins a $90 billion contract with the CIA. Both sides should stay within the boundaries of the rules.

There are two phases to this novel. Each new chapter within both phases is titled in a countdown sequence to the end of day 30 (when the game ends). They also list the places where the action is taking place and have different plot points. Phase two of the novel starts with six days and 19 hours left for the game to end.

The suspense and excitement between the final two adversaries were both created and broken only by the occasional catching of the other Zero players in phase one of the book. This made the pace of the book medium at first, only to speed up to full intensity by phase two, which is solely focused on the capturing of Kaitlyn Day by Cy and the Fusion team.

In phase one, the psychological drivers of each character are uncovered ever so slowly to establish the relationship between the two final adversaries. Cy is at first in awe of Kaitlyn Day the librarian and then as time wears on, his awe turns into frustration. To add to the tension and anxiety in the reader, McCarten also added a little luck (or not) into the plot, and the positioning of other supporting characters in the book made the plot entirely unpredictable in phase two.

Incredibly well layered and structurally seamless, the characters of Kaitlyn, Cy, Erika, and members of both the Fusion team and the CIA, are gradually revealed throughout the entirety of the book. The backgrounds of other Zeroes, although described, do not contribute to unravelling the mystery behind Kaitlyn’s strong motivation to win.

Themes around surveillance technology, privacy, corruption, power, security, money, government agendas, corporate power and the public are amplified in this futuristic fiction piece. Although the game of the Zeroes versus Fusion is unlikely to come to fruition, the exploration into surveillance technology as part of the plot formation seems perfectly valid and as such, unsettling. In many ways this probability adds to the novel’s intrigue.

Themes aside, this book is still suitable for any audience as McCarten’s writing style is such that it would appeal to many as simply an excellent riveting read. Does it end satisfactorily? You will need to read it and see!

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: April 2023
RRP: $34.99

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