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The Deadnet


Metaphisical sci-fi

English samples available

An uprising literary star from Belarus comes with a startling anti-utopia about the digital world of dead consciousnesses the Deadnet. This collective space concocted from individual memories is home to digital backup copies, each activated after a person’s death. This anti-Matrix reality is striking, colorful, replete with memories, love and dreams-come-true. It’s an ineffably beautiful world that’s well worth… dying for.

The not-so-distant future. The vast majority of illnesses eradicated, human death is now caused mostly by virus outbreaks or terrorist attacks. As a coping mechanism, humanity develops a technology that creates digital copies of human consciousness.

Individuals are allowed to create digital backups of themselves. Once they die, their digital copy is activated and can communicate with the world of living — but only with a limited number of family and friends. They are isolated from others, banned from interfering with the world of the living.  To compensate for the copies’ inevitable loneliness, the government decides to merge all of these dead people’s personal contexts and memories, thus creating an internet of the dead, the Deadnet. There, digital copies can interact and even form relationships.

The protagonist, a woman in her mid-forties, wakes up “resurrected” — a copy — only to learn that she has been killed in a terrorist attack. She connects with her family and friends, but her loving husband, to her utter amazement, refuses to communicate with her. Her family is clearly avoiding the subject and, after a series of failed attempts, she is forced to give up. She meets A., one of the first “inhabitants” of Deadnet, and they start a relationship.

Deadnet inhabitants continue their struggle against “bioprivilege,” fighting for their rights to have a say in the real world. A revolution ensues. The dead invade the Internet of Things, taking over digital devices and appliances and wreaking havoc. This attempt is short lived. The government simply unplugs the Deadnet, cutting it off from the real world entirely. Their daring effort, however, is not entirely in vain: the dead are able to steal millions of backup copies of the living.

Among these stolen copies is an earlier copy of the protagonist’s husband. Because this copy was created before his wife’s death, the husband is totally shocked to find himself on the Deadnet and, what’s more, to find his wife involved with another man.

To investigate the protagonist’s death, the married couple hacks into the real world. There they discover the awful truth — the protagonist did not die in a terrorist attack. She was brutally murdered by her own husband, who is now in prison.

The murder investigation brings the protagonist to the headquarters of the Committee for the Insurrection of the Dead. They can help her hack into the otherwise cut-off real world. She manages to reach the world in the shape of an airport departure board, a robotic dog and, even a clone of the dictator of a certain Eastern European country… She does this for the sake of the Deadnet — but also, secretly, for her own personal quest.

While the protagonist’s own investigation proves fruitless, she obtains a crucial piece of information: the government plans to turn off the Deadnet server. To shut it down completely. The Committee assigns the protagonist with a mission to enable the portal for Deadnet self-download. In a final effort to solve her murder mystery, she decides to forge a portal not only into the real world, but also through time. She will travel to the time of her murder and witness the act — in the body of her own husband.

Through her husband’s eyes, she observes her “real” self fighting with her husband at a restaurant. As she rummages through his mind, however, she realizes that he has no — never had any — intention of killing her. But she also knows that if she leaves now, her real self won’t die, and none of this would have happened. There would be no resurrected digital copy of herself, no A. and their love, no new friends. She never would have become the person she is now. Moreover, the Deadnet would simply cease to exist. Her death proves to be a key to the new world, and she has a choice to make.

This quantum detective thriller and metaphysical anti-utopia is a true delight for inquisitive minds. Tatsiana Zamirovskaya takes readers on a challenging journey into the philosophical cosmos of Nikolay Fyodorov and Boris Groys, filling her work with concepts from speculative realism, in the vein of Ray Brassier and Timothy Morton. In this witty page-turner, Zamirovskaya poses audacious existential questions. Is memory a gateway to eternity? How might the resurrection of the dead inform our understanding of free will? Is a digitalized consciousness living a “real” life? Zamirovskaya also invites the reader to dwell on social issues that have gained their bitter topicality these days: life in isolation, dictatorships, institutionalized ghettos, and — most of all — the ways in which we revolt.

The debut novel by a young writer from Belarus, Tatsiana Zamirovskaya, reads as a techno thriller of a Black Mirror type in the beginning, continues as a ghost mystery, but is ultimately none of the above. The protagonist carries out a rather painful investigation of her own death, and this research makes the novel the rarest attempt in today's literature to search for a new approach to talk about life, death and the nature of things, in general.

— Galina Yuzefovich,

In The Deadnet, a fantasy mystery thriller turns into a sequel to the popular essay What Is It Like To Be a Bat by Thomas Nagel, an American philosopher. Zamirovskaya develops his thesis – in her fiction world, it is not only living (or dead) people who have a form of individual consciousness, but also things, like a cactus or a stone.  The novel’s universe becomes Borges’ Mirror of Enigmas, a system where each object carries a piece of information, and the signifier merges with the signified. This all could make the text too high brow, but Zamirovskaya succeeds in coining a very lively world of the dead (the pun intended) and describes it with much humor.

— Prochtenie

Everyone interested in the world’s current philosophical trends can find various up-to-date concepts to feed the inquisitive mind in Zamirovskaya’s novel. And it is not solely about philosophy, Zamirovskaya smartly introduces concepts and objects that will form the reality in the not-so-distant future. <…> Essentially, The Deadnet is not a space, where a story develops and characters interact – though the author draws both the plot and characters beautifully. The novel, in the end, becomes a platform for an intellectual exchange, a channel for the mind, heart and pure art.

— Anna Berseneva, a writer and critic, for New Izvestia

With her novel Zamirovskaya strongly claims a title of the Russian China Miéville. The Deadnet is to me the best novel of the year.

— Alexander Gavrilov, a publisher and critic

The Deadnet, it seems, is an important cultural evidence or a symptom of modern reflections on the concept of “one” behind the speech.

Book details

Elena Shubina Publishing (AST)

Novel, 2021

576 pp

Rights sold

  • All rights available

Literary awards

  • Longlisted For The National Bestseller Prize 2021

  • Shortlisted For The New Literature Award 2021

  • Shortlisted for the New Horizons Sci-Fi Award 2021

  • Longlisted for the Yasnaya Polyana Award 2022

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