Zero Percenters is a utopian fantasy.

OK, so this is a nutty story. I mean, really nutty. It’s as fantastic as the most over-the-top fantasy about mythical kingdoms, zombies, or vampires. Because the characters in this misbegotten novel appear at first to be human, or at least half of them do. Spoiler alert: eventually, none of them are. So, for a devoted fan of hard science fiction, this utopian fantasy is hard going, to say the least. The publisher calls it a “metaphysical science fiction novel,” but that characterization is unfair both to fans of science fiction and to philosophers of metaphysics. One reviewer called it a “fable.” But that label is also inaccurate. The Aesops’ Fables I read as a kid all ended by spelling out a lesson learned. There’s none of that here, only New Age mumbo-jumbo.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

So, why am I complaining? For a story to qualify as science fiction, it must be grounded in some aspect of reality — either credible human interactions or reasonably conceivable technology. Not here. Almost at the outset, you know you’re in fantasyland when the Silicon Valley company where this story begins is said to have a $10 trillion market cap — in 2024. (Today, as I write, Apple and Microsoft each are valued by the market at $1.2 trillion, and Saudi Aramco is around $2 trillion; these three companies are by far the richest on the planet.) But that oversight is trivial compared to Scott Grusky‘s picture of the disembodied creatures that people become after . . . something happens. (Trust me, something happens. You won’t like it.)

Zero Percenters by Scott T. Grusky (2019) 273 pages ★★☆☆☆

Despite the fact that nobody seems to be working anymore, manufactured goods miraculously appear, anyway. And then you wonder how they sustain themselves, since they don’t need to eat anymore. Where does the energy come from? Surely, they haven’t repealed the Law of Conservation of Energy. But, ah, Grusky’s got an answer for that. “They had adopted solar panel forms, in order to rapidly charge their systems.” Surprised? Well, don’t be. It turns out they can also turn themselves into birds or dolphins or inanimate objects.

Enough. Don’t make the mistake of buying this sad little book. It gives the field of utopian fantasy a bad name.

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