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Zed Reviews

Zed by Joanna Kavenna


Joanna Kavenna

3.50 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Faber & Faber
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication date: 4 Jul 2019
ISBN: 9780571245154

A darkly ironic novel of ideas, a dystopia, and an absurdist thriller, from the award-winning novelist Self-anointed guru of the Digital Age, Guy Matthias, CEO of Beetle, has become one of the world's most powerful and influential figures.

3 stars out of 5
Lucy Atkins
7 Jul 2019

"In a satirical novel set in a near future, a global tech company has taken control"

While all this is fun and erudite, it comes at the expense of character development and emotional connection. I found myself longing to feel an Atwoodian gut-wrench. Or something — anything other than remote intellectual curiosity. For readers who like to nod at clever references, the imaginative Zed will be a delight, and it will no doubt gain many admirers. Those, on the other hand, who crave novels with complex, believable characters who grow, might find it all a bit relentless.


4 stars out of 5
1 Jul 2019

"Dystopias need to be plausible to be chilling and Kavenna’s dreadful scenario is credible"

Another requirement of dystopian fiction is consistency of vision. Luckily Kavenna is a Very Intelligent Author. Her imagined world is convincing (except for the flat whites, perhaps: coffee trends change so quickly) and darkly humorous. She remains at a quizzical remove from the action, meaning that, for the most part, the reader doesn’t much care about the characters, but Kavenna’s satire has bite all the same and often rings uncomfortably true.

4 stars out of 5
Stephanie Cross
27 Jun 2019

"a denser, intellectually chewier and very British version of dystopian tech satire The Circle"

Imagine a denser, intellectually chewier and very British version of dystopian tech satire The Circle, by Dave Eggers, and you’ll have some idea of this. Beetle, the internet giant at the heart of Zed, is a horrifying Google/Apple/Facebook hybrid... Free will, determinism and quantum theory are all grist to Kavenna’s mill and, while the rabbit holes she peers down can be dizzying, Zed manages to be snort-inducingly funny, too.

Needless to say, it’s also chilling: not least because it’s set not in the far-off future, but in 2023 . . .