Zed by Joanna Kavenna - review by Miranda France

Miranda France

Very Plausible Dystopia



Faber & Faber 367pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Imagine if you asked a friend ‘how’s life?’ and got the response, ‘In general it’s about a 3.7 star rating. Some days are more like 4.4 or 4.5 but then others go down to 2.8 so I’d say the aggregate is mid- to high 3s.’

Welcome to Zed, Joanna Kavenna’s sixth novel, about a dystopia where algorithms rule and most of life’s unpredictability has been successfully eliminated thanks to a global media conglomerate called Beetle. Most citizens now wear a BeetleBand, which monitors their moods and state of health and regularly asks if they are ok. Appliances in the home keep up an irritating patter. The television may ask how you are ‘this fine morning’. The fridge may chide you for unhealthy life choices, not just nutritional ones.

Other innovations include the Very Intelligent Personal Assistant (or Veep) to take care of all your administrative jobs. Veeps can be ‘stationed’ in your BeetleBand or ‘embodied’ so that they look like humans, only better. There’s one excellent development: if you are summoned to a meeting, you can

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

The Incomparible Monsignor

Kafka Drawings

Follow Literary Review on Twitter