Mark Cantrell, Author

For an eclectic mix of science fiction, fantasy and a touch of horror...


This is an archive page for the digital editions of CITIZEN ZERO, published by the author in 2010, and which are no longer available.

A dystopian glimpse of a future born in an age of austerity and political uncertainty, CITIZEN ZERO is a gripping social satire that exposes our deepest fears and presents a grave warning to any society that abandons the pursuit of social justice...

Smashwords, 2010 

ISBN: 978-1-4580-5473-9 


Format: Digital

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What was said...

"It's like Philip K Dick wrote The Matrix!" Craig Hallam, author of Greaveburn

"[A] well-written, highly developed novel that gives a vivid, and sometimes-horrifying picture of a dystopian world." C C Cole, author of the Gastar Series

"[M]y overall impulse is that people need to read this book." K Sozaeva, Amazon

"Citizen Zero is a story of survival... Who, if anyone, is a good guy? I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good dystopian novel." B Alldredge, Amazon

"This is an interesting and action-filled story about the abuses of governmental power... Mark Cantrell does a great job of working the foibles of society and government into his tale of artificial reality." Crescent Suns eBooks Review

About The Novel

JobNet was supposed to usher in a better life for unemployed David Mills; instead he's plunged into a bitter struggle to survive when he is caught in the midst of a political conspiracy that pushes Britain to the brink of civil war...

David lives on society’s margins, forever on the verge of sinking into an excluded underclass known as ‘zeros’, until the JobNet scheme offers him the tantalising prospect of a better life.

The Government programme uses the latest artificial reality technology to create a paradise world where the unemployed gain all the help they need. He’s heard the hype before, but this time it actually begins to fulfil the promise: he finds love with Christine, the prospect of a job beckons, and he dares to dream of a worthwhile future beyond the dole.

Then a deadly virus strikes the system and his sweetest dream instantly becomes a living nightmare. He is forced to embark on a perilous journey to be re-united with the woman he loves, in the hope they can escape together into reality – but things are little better there...

The conspiracy has ignited a power struggle between two ruthless and powerful men. Once, they were comrades plotting to shape Britain into the dictatorship it has become, now they are foes whose animosity has plunged the country into violent mayhem.

The first, a renegade security operative turned terrorist, plucked David from the dole to deliver the virus; the second, a tyrannical Prime Minister ruthless in the preservation of his rule, he wants David dead – and fast – before the virus he carries can escape JobNet and overwhelm the wider network.

If David is to stand any chance of surviving, then he must take down both men, but the odds are impossible – he’s just a ‘zero’, after all, and trapped in a broken reality. It seems hopeless – until he stumbles across a dark secret hidden in the heart of JobNet.

It’s a cruel revelation that will change everything...


A man appeared from the shadows. As he stepped into the light she stiffened in horror. No mistaking those features, the dark, unfathomable eyes, the grim face and that bald head with its grotesque barcode. He stood at attention and regarded her coldly. Jane was horribly aware of her nakedness beneath her slip – the only garment they gave her time to grab. She shivered and looked away.

"Miss Sutton," the man barked. "You are charged with subversion of Prime Ministerial authority, acts of terrorism and mass murder. Do you understand?"

She nodded her head, too terrified to speak.

"Do you understand? Respond!"

"Yes," she managed to say and sniffed.

"Under the provisions of Prime Ministerial Decree number 4573/78A you are hereby stripped of all statutory privileges as laid down in the Stakeholders (Citizenship) Act. As of this moment, your status is zero."

He retrieved a card from his pocket. Jane knew what it was: her stake card – her whole life. Stored in its data-bank was the statutory franchise, granted on her 18th birthday, the two additional votes she since gained, voting record, identification, driving license, genetic fingerprint, medical records, insurance details, credit rating, employment history, educational attainment, citizenship awards. Everything.

The scissors sliced through the plastic, shattering the smart chips. It felt like a blade slicing through her throat. An entire life erased. The shards tumbled to the floor. She watched them fall.

"Furthermore, under the provisions of the Social Security Agency General Directive 34, all legal rights are hereby revoked. There will be no court appearances. You have no entitlement to know the specific nature of the charges brought against you, nor do you have the right to legal representation. Do you understand?"

"Yes." Jane rested her elbows on the table and placed her hands over her face. Moments later a chair scraped on the concrete floor. She lifted her head. The man now sat opposite, his face looked sympathetic. No. Another man. The first still stood to the side. Dismayed, she realised there were two of them. Identical. What were they? Again she shivered.

"Please forgive the authoritarian ritual, Miss Sutton. I am afraid protocol demands it, and my colleague here is rather stern in his ways. Do not let that put you off. We are both here to help you in any way we can."

"Help me... How? What will you do with me?"

"Well, Jane... I may call you Jane?"

A simple nod in response. What did it matter?

"Jane. I am Shreck. This is Reich."

Reich said nothing, only stared with those frightening eyes. She said nothing and avoided meeting them by looking at the tabletop.

"We will not be doing anything to you," Shreck said. "Your ultimate fate will depend on the results of your social and psychiatric evaluation. Naturally, your parents will be required to undergo genetic examination. It is possible they contain atavistic genes – "

"What do you mean? What have my parents got to do with this?" More fear, from an unexpected source. One thing to take the consequences of your actions, quite another for your family to bear them too. Shreck smiled, almost apologetically. Not so Reich.

"Why do you think we have so many mechanisms for controlling the zeros? They are dangerous. Congenital defects compel them to socially destructive behaviour. We must determine if similar defects in your family's genetic history account for your own destructive actions."

"I wasn't compelled by my genes!"

"We do not enjoy this, Miss Sutton. This is necessary to protect the freedoms and rights we all take for granted."

"I am sorry, Jane. Procedure demands it. Our unhappy task is to protect society. As was yours, once, in your own way. But you can help smooth things out. Depending on your conduct here today we can get all the unpleasant details sorted out."

"You'll leave my parents alone?"

"Yes, if you co-operate. We might even be able to return your life. It would be as if this never happened. Would you like to go home? Back to your life?"


Shreck smiled. Ice dribbled down her back. What price life?