Harper Buys ‘Going Zero,’ Thriller About Big Tech From ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Writer Anthony McCarten (EXCLUSIVE)

Anthony McCarten, the Oscar-nominated writer of “The Darkest Hour” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” has sold the rights to “Going Zero” to Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. The novel is described as a high concept thriller. McCarten will then adapt and produce the novel for the screen.

“Going Zero” certainly sounds of the moment. McCarten’s novel will explore such pressing issues as privacy, surveillance, the power of big tech and government overreach. In the book, the CIA in partnership with a Silicon Valley wunderkind have created the ultimate surveillance program known as FUSION.

Ahead of its rollout, ten Americans have been carefully selected to Beta test the groundbreaking system.  At the appointed hour, each of the ten will have two hours to “Go Zero”—to turn their cellphones off, cut ties with friends and family, and use any means possible to disappear. They will then have 30 days to evade detection and elude the highly sophisticated capture teams tasked to find them using the most cutting-edge technology. The goal is to see if it is possible to successfully go “off the grid” and escape detection. Any participant who beats the massive surveillance receive a $3 million cash prize.

One of the contestants hoping to win big is a Boston librarian named Kaitlyn Day. She’s been chosen as the easy target expected to be found first, but Kaitlyn confounds expectations. Her talents at this particular game are far greater than all the security experts suspect, and her reasons for playing are more personal than anyone can imagine.

“The realities of tracking someone, and of being tracked, of the good but also malign influences of digital technologies in our most personal spaces, of our diminishing control of our own personal data, these are some of the pressing issues central to this book,” McCarten said in a statement. “Beyond that, I hope readers simply enjoy this tale of one woman who takes on the system, seeking a way to outwit it.”

Harper will publish ”Going Zero” in April 2023. Pan Macmillan will publish in the U.K. and Commonwealth. VP and Executive Editor Noah Eaker bought North American rights from Jennifer Joel at ICM Partners/CAA.  Rights have been sold in 20 languages to date.

McCarten is a four-time Academy Award nominee and BAFTA-winning screenwriter and producer. His credits include “The Theory of Everything” and “The Two Popes.” McCarten has written nine books that have been translated into 14 languages, and multiple staged plays including his most recent, “The Collaboration,” starring Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope as artists Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. That show earned rave reviews during its recent run at London’s Young Vic Theatre. It opens on Broadway later this year, as does the Neil Diamond musical “A Beautiful Noise,” which has a book by McCarten. His next film will be Sony Pictures’ Whitney Houston biopic “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” starring Naomi Ackie and directed by Kasi Lemmons.

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