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by Anthony McCarten
HarperCollins, April 2023
ISBN: 006322707X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

According to the Red Road Institute, which studies the problem of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, murder is the leading cause of death for Indigenous women in America. Indigenous women are murdered at three times the rates of all other women. The National Crime Information Center also recognizes this epidemic. Just in the year 2016, there were 5712 cases of "missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls." These women and girls vanished from the sight of their own communities, law enforcement, the FBI, and anyone else who tried to find them.

In the world of Anthony McCarten's new "high-concept" suspense novel GOING ZERO, this would be astounding. GOING ZERO is a novel about 'going off the grid', by which McCracken does not mean the electrical supply of publicly-generated electricity. Instead, 'the grid' is the field of Government Surveillance. GOING ZERO maintains that it's actually very difficult for anyone to disappear from federal surveillance, or "go zero," because Big Brother is Always Watching. An Elon Musk-type tech entrepreneur, Crys Baxter, bets ten Americans selected by a careful screening process that they cannot go zero for a month. These people -- whom Baxter calls "zeroes," like, losers, nothings, nobodies -- get two hours lead time, then his computers and people will start looking for them. If they make it thirty days without being detected by his team, they get three million dollars each. If he catches all of them, the CIA will reward him with his own surveillance unit.

Crys believes this is an impossible task. Indeed, the earliest contestants in this live game show are quickly caught, even the ones with law enforcement backgrounds.

However, a dark horse contestant makes an impressive showing. A chipper white woman, hip-eyeglassed young teacher Kaitlyn Day is evidently, from the very first page, the novel's designated Last Girl. Moreover, she has carefully thought about how to disappear. Moreover, this zero has a better reason to play Baxter's game than a few million dollars. McCarten reveals this reason about two-thirds of the way through the book, and it's a doozy. It turns the novel into a work of international intrigue and Rube Goldberg-esque conspiracy. At that point, GOING ZERO's tenuous link with reality snaps completely. Of course, there are readers who will absolutely enjoy this. Fast-paced and shrill, GOING ZERO will find plenty of fans.

Maybe McCarten's genius should have hired twenty-four Indigenous girls. Then he'd really learn how to disappear -- and the CIA might learn how to find them.

Rebecca Nesvet is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and co-edits Reviewing the Evidence.

Reviewed by Rebecca Nesvet, April 2023

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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