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Version Zero

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Version Zero

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Author: David Yoon
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2021

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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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Max, a data whiz at the social media company Wren, has gotten a firsthand glimpse of the dark side of big tech. When he questions what his company does with the data they collect, he's fired...then black-balled across Silicon Valley.

With time on his hands and revenge on his mind, Max and his longtime friend (and secretly the love of his life) Akiko, decide to get even by rebooting the internet. After all, in order to fix things, sometimes you have to break them. But when Max and Akiko join forces with a reclusive tech baron, they learn that breaking things can have unintended--and catastrophic--consequences.



Max is twenty-eight.

It is sometime in the future. Where is he? Probably alone. No friends. No girlfriend. He could still be in Tokyo, among the brutalist canyons of apartment buildings. Office towers crowding into the blue of the early morning haze.

Max must read a lot. What else would there be to do these days?

Say he reloads his vaporizer with a fresh cartridge. Say it looks like a tiny vial of blood. He takes his first hit. On the other side of the planet I step out into the helgic light of late afternoon, wishing I could have one, too. But pregnant girls can't smoke. So I hold two fingers to my lips and inhale an invisible cigarette.

He exhales a billowing wisp taller than himself. It dissipates like a cloud from an ukiyo-e painting.

Imagine his apartment. Bookcase after bookcase, all the manga and anime he could ever want. No laptops. No devices. A stack of postcards and an inkwell and fountain pen. A small tidy apartment. An ocean of pretty Japanese girls to look at.

Do they remind him of me?

I do not want to think about that.

Maybe he is working on something secret. Or is he simply hiding?

I know all about hiding. I hide in plain sight.

From below, the square notes of a crosswalk melody float into Max's hearing. It's an old, warbling tune called "Toryanse." Max has probably studied it like he studies everything. He hears it every day--he must, it's unavoidable--and every time it reminds him of the last time we ever saw each other. I'm sure of it.

Going in is easy / Returning is scary

But while it is scary

You may go in / You may pass through

Japan suits him. Lots of tidy spaces and orderly routine. Being Salvadoran American, Max has hair dark enough, stature compact enough to vanish into crowds with an ease he never knew back in Southern California.

Back in Playa Mesa.

I don't know what he does next. Say he removes his Buddy Holly glasses. He presses the heels of his hands into his eyes until swirls and checkerboards appear. When he opens them we are atop that bright snowy mountain under the impossible deep blue sky where the days last much longer than they should.

How I wanted one final kiss. How childish. There was no time anyway. The door shut and I was launched up into the whirling universe of crystal and snow.

And there was nothing to be done about that.

Max presses his eyes and sees flashes of phantom light. When will he finally be free of this thing? He's traveled all over the world. How much farther will he have to travel to escape it?

But while it is scary

You may go in / You may pass through

Copyright © 2021 by David Yoon


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