What do you do when social networks are taking over the world? The dystopian ideas contained in Version Zero give some thought, but they are not family-friendly.

Three Friends, Max, Akiko and Shane, are low-level workers at Wren, one of the most wide-spread of the main five social networks, networks that know all of the secrets of people, that offer them little in the way of protection, and when things go wrong, as they always do, will deny any responsibility.

So, when Max discovers something about Wren that is not in the terms and conditions of use, he sets up Version Zero, a ground-swell movement designed to return the world to a place before Social Networks, where people didn’t share their lives for fake likes, or know the intimate details of the lives of friends of friends. As Max discovers, some people want things to remain as they are.

However, their first forays into cyber-terrorism attract the attention of Pilot Markham, one of the five owners, who sees a rebellious plot that he can use to his advantage.  As their attempts, bankrolled by Markham, grow more and more daring, the gang realise that not everything is as it should be. As first, their attempts gain momentum and support, they realise that not are their lives at risk, but so too are the lives of their families, particularly Max’s, although the millions that they are paid by Pilot Markham help to alleviate some of the problems.

One of the main plotlines in the novel is the death of Markham’s daughter, the victim of vicious online bullying, which no one stepped into control. At the denouement of the book, where Markham organises a summit for the five leading Social network billionaires, the tone of the book changes, and the novel takes on a much darker tone.

Although Max, Akiko and Shane escape to some form of life afterwards, their lives are altered, forever on the run, out of touch with the lives that they once had. Although the social networks change and adapt, they still go on, the money men taking their cut from a deal that always seems to be unfairly weighted.

Review by Ben Macnair

Published by HQ (27 May 2021)
Hardback, ISBN 978-0008473020