Have you ever read a book that so desperately wanted to be the next edgy thriller that everyone’s raving about, but it ended up feeling like that book you picked up at the airport on a layover because you forgot your phone charger and you needed something to do on the flight, but listening to screaming babies was better than reading it? Unfortunately, Version Zero is that book, and because I don’t believe in DNRs (did not read) I read through the whole depressingly unimpressive book.
David Yoon's Version Zero Fails to Impress
Without a doubt, Version Zero will find an audience that will love every second of the journey, but I am certain that I am not that audience. Yoon is highly regarded in the Young Adult sphere, but this book did not match the acclaim of his previous titles. Which is disappointing because I was looking forward to diving into the “lightning fast and scorchingly observant” novel I was promised.
Most of the social media conscious and “observant” aspects of the novel are lost in the awkward syntax, insufferable characters, and the vague stereotypes that left me wondering how I was supposed to feel. Some people may enjoy the abruptness of the storytelling, but I found it tedious at best and unbearable at its worst. I, of course, have my own preferences when it comes to story structure and narrative styling — both of which were left untouched by Version Zero.
Some aspects of Version Zero did jive with me. I enjoyed the formatting of internet conversations and found myself trying to click the links to quizzes that don’t actually exist. These passages of the novel felt immersive and compelling but were easily overshadowed by the aspects that left me very tempted to break my self-imposed DNR vow.
I am curious to see what the widespread reaction is to the novel upon its release in May, as there were areas of the book that made me extremely uncomfortable to read and even more uncomfortable to address in this review. The tech world is filled with racism and sexism and perhaps, part of the critique, is how normalized stereotypes are found in and accepted by society. But for me, the book failed to convey its egregious stereotypes as critiques.
Version Zero is an amalgamation of The Circle, Black Mirror, and equal parts rage against the machine, without any of the memorable parts. It leans heavily into the jaded Silicon Valley techie story, with hints of large social commentary about social media’s control on our lives, but it fails to move on the most interesting aspects of the story. It’s set in a world that’s almost our own, but it’s littered with the worst parts of it.
I wanted to like David Yoon’s Version Zero, and I hope it finds the audience it deserves.
Version Zero is available for pre-order ahead of its May 25th release date.