Jack Cooper is a depressed, analogue throwback; a cynical, alcoholic Gen-Xer whose glory days are behind him. He’s unemployed, his marriage has broken down, he’s addicted to internet hook-ups, and is deeply ashamed of his son Geronimo, who lives life dressed as a bear.
When Jack’s daughter engineers a job for him at totally-lit tech firm Sweet, he’s confronted by a Millennial and Zoomer culture he can’t relate to. He loathes every detail – every IM, gif and emoji – apart from Freya, twenty years his junior and addicted to broadcasting her life on social media.
Can Jack evolve to fit in at Sweet, or will he remain a dinosaur stuck in the 1980s? And will he halt his slide into loneliness and repair his family relationships?
XYZ is for every Gen-Xer who ever struggled with a device, and for everyone else who loves emojis … said no one ever.
This book is sharp and funny, and it really resonated with me. Like Jack Cooper, our antihero, I’m someone who would prefer a mobile phone to just be a phone and not the receptacle for a zillion apps that you really can get successfully through a day without. Are we dinosaurs? Maybe, but bear in mind that dinosaur fossils have survived for tens of millions of years. We’re not that easy to ignore.
Jack isn’t just fighting technology – he’s fighting himself. He can be his own worst enemy at times, which serves to make him more endearing as our central character, although admittedly only in the way that your bad-tempered cat can occasionally sit on your lap and purr to stop you despairing of it completely.
There’s so much humour and cleverness packed into this novel. The pace is swift and, like the assaults of modern-day living on Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, relentless. With Jack we are swept along from blunder to mishap to misunderstanding to annoyance to occasional triumph. The shining light throughout is Jack’s love for his daughter.
If that will prove enough to stop Jack sinking into a muttering, antic-social wreck, well, you’ll just have to read this fabulous book for yourself to find out!
William Knight is British born writer and technologist currently living and working in Wellington, New Zealand. He’s chased a portfolio career which began in acting, progressed to music, flirted with handbag manufacturing and was eventually wired into technology in the late nineties.
“I had my first feature published in Computing magazine back in 2003 and subsequently wrote about the many successes and failings of high-tech for the Guardian, Financial Times and the BBC among many others publications. I now work as an IT consultant, and write blistering content for technology firms :-)” says William
The Donated (formerly Generation), his debut novel and a Sci-tech Thriller, started in 2001 and was ten years in development. XYZ, “A mid-life crisis with a comic vein”, took far less time. “But I think it’s funnier and better. Yay. Jazz hands!”
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