Zed is a darkly comic satire of Silicon Valley's worst tendencies taken to excess. In the near future, tech giant Beetle has perfected a predictive algorithm called the lifechain. Operating above archaic concepts such as sovereignty and corporate taxes, Beetle guides citizens of the Western world to the best possible versions of their lives in Beetle's surveilled cities. Via omnipresent BeetleBands and BeetlePads, sentient AI assistants called Veeps cheerfully remind people to calm down, or drink more water, or rest--whatever the lifechain predicts is best. For Beetle CEO and unrepentant womanizer Guy Matthias, everything is going great, except for the pesky issue of human free will.
One morning in London, Beetle bigwig Douglas Varley awakens to learn that an unassuming, predicted-non-criminal has murdered his own wife and children. In the process of apprehending the murderer, a Beetle Anti-Terror Droid kills an innocent man. Eloise Jayne, member of the neutered U.K. national security apparatus, pursues the case despite having almost no power. David Strachey, last editor of the last newspaper in London, is theoretically a member of the free press, though his salary (paid in BeetleBits) is dependent on positive coverage of Guy Matthias's company. While Strachey struggles to spin the death of a random bystander by a Beetle robot, a mysterious figure named Bel Ami seeks to stir sedition in the editor's heart. Above all else, these dystopia denizens must deal with a sudden breakdown of the lifechain caused by unpredictable human behavior--a phenomenon called Zed.
Joanna Kavenna (A Field Guide to Reality) has a savage sense of humor and deft eye for ridiculous tech trends. Zed is as hilarious as it is horrifyingly plausible. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer