The death of a young boy leads the journalist Cynthia Bonsant to the internet platform Freemee. It’s a platform that gathers and analyses data, promising millions of users a better and more successful life by using it. Only one group cautions against this website and the power that it grants to only a handful of people – ZERO, the number one most wanted online activists. As Cynthia’s research leads her further into the dark mechanisms of online surveillance, she herself becomes one of the hunted. And in a world full of cameras, data glasses and smartphones, there is no getting away ...
Zero is a gripping thriller about a very delicate issue we experience today: the oligopoly of a few IT giants and the ever-increasing control on the masses. The audiobook version, read by actor Bradley James (who plays King Arthur in the tv series Merlin) it's even more intriguing. We follow three "sides", all of which have their own mission. The Daily newspapers hunts Zero. Zero wants to destroy the credibility of the social media giants and awaken people. Freemee wants to stop anyone getting in between them and the power they're conquering. Marc Elsberg created a world not so distant from the one we're living in, but particularly scary.
If things today really went as Freemee's chiefs plan in the book, there would be no way out nor freedom for us anymore (the latter's already highly limited) and we would constantly being conditioned and brought to act in a certain way, to buy specific products, or even break up with a partner or fire employees because an algoritm says so. Everyone, without exception, would become irrelevant and the Fremee algoritm would become our new god. This scenario isn't appealing. The novel invites us to ponder about social media or, at least, to use them with extreme care and awareness. But let's the books speak for itself:
‘Facebook, the book of faces, is what another of those giants calls itself,’ Zero explains, continuing his transformations. ‘They’ve experienced many a problem and scandal, and yet still they’ve got billions of members. As toilet walls the world over know: Eat shit – millions of flies can’t be wrong!’ Zero pauses momentarily before thundering, ‘So eat that shit – all of you! You! That’s right, you – the person watching this video! You couldn’t give a shit what they know about you or what they do with that knowledge … But nothing had better go wrong, because otherwise you’ll moan, “How could this happen? How do they get away with it? I didn’t know!” Wrong! You didn’t want to know! As long as the internet companies offer you some ridiculous advantage, you’re on board. The keyword is convenience. But how much longer are you going to put up with this?