Zero by Marc Elsberg


A new social newtork company, Freeme, is unique. Not only it allows you to earn quite a lot by selling your personal data, gathered in their database, but also it helps you advising how to become , happier, cooler, more likeable, more successful. Do you want to get a better job? Find new love/partner? Have better grades at school? Do you want to be fitter, change your eating habits, lose weight? There’s an ActApp for everything and for everyone – young, old, male, female, absolute computer beginners and programmers alike. Just two-three clicks and you’ll be given useful tips 24/7. Plenty of people claim they’ve worked wonders. Where’s the catch?

A fortyish journalist, Cynthia Bonsant, tries to find out. She is doubly motivated: not only it’s her last chance to show her boss, Anthony, she shouldn’t be made redundant but also her teen daughter, Viola, has been an avid user of Freeme. And has changed – a lot. When two Viola’s friends die, one after another, Cynthia joins Freeme to understand what’s happening better.

What I liked:

  • the premise. It was even better than in Blackout. Whether you like it or not different big corporations like Google, Facebook, or Twitter are gathering enormous amounts of data about ourselves, our habits, likes and dislikes. They want to know more and more, permeate every aspect of our lives; they also would love nothing better than to control us by e.g. whisper the right answers to our everyday questions, even as trivial as what shoes or what clothes we should buy in order to look well or what food we should eat in order to be healthy. As you can guess they don’t have our best interest in mind.
  • the narration. It was far better than in the debut novel of that author. Fewer infodumps, deeper characterization of main leads and quite a lot of tension made it a rollercoaster ride of a lecture.
  • Cynthia Bonsant. I did like the fact that she was a middle-aged woman and a single mother, not a nubile genius in a  super-model body. Her insecurities sounded real.

What I didn’t like:

  • the romance. Yes, our Cyn, young or not, falls for a handsome guy 12 years her junior and then everything became as predictable as it would be only possible. Not impressed.
  • the ending. I don’t want to spoil you but near the end the tension dissolved into thin air for a reason or two. It seemed to me the author didn’t have a clue how to end his book (but of course I can be wrong).

Final verdict:

The excellent premise makes this one quite original among other thrillers and I am overjoyed the author’s style improved. Unfortunately, the book is currently not available in English. Pity.

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7 Responses to Zero by Marc Elsberg

  1. blodeuedd says:

    Google knows my soul by now

  2. Carole Rae says:

    Welcome back! Hope you had a good vaca!
    The premise sounds decent, but the execution is questionable…

  3. heidenkind says:

    Twelve years her junior, good for her!

  4. Melfka says:

    “Not available in English” – a turn down for me. Mein Deutsch ist schlecht. 😦

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