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.
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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From only a few pages in, I couldn’t help but laugh at Jack’s view of life. Being Gen X with a background in IT, I totally understood his frustration with modern times. His new role at Sweet as a squad master who was not required to ‘manage’ his team was hilarious, aided and abetted by glorious chunks of sarcasm. Jack came across as believable, and pretty decent, if somewhat set in his ways. But why not? When his ways were tried and tested, and generally worked (there was an element of “touché” at the end of the story that brought some much-needed reality to his life and work). Sweet was one of those workplaces where social media dictated the pace of everything. Nobody actually spoke to each other, preferring to send messages via Lazy IM ( 😉 inspired naming) and employees were allowed to work on their own projects on certain days rather than get the job done for the company. There were many nods to the way in which such flexible working practices have infiltrated the workplace, the relaxed atmosphere and ‘unmanageability’ only emphasising the mess that Sweet as a company would soon encounter.
His relationship with his daughter, Em, was (for want of a better word) sweet, but when it came to his wife and son, things got a little dark. It was clear Jack still had feelings for his wife, and that his son’s lifestyle choices were a major issue between them. The early humour in the book vanished for a while during the middle of the story, and Jack himself succumbed to a mid-life crisis that he wasn’t in control of, bringing much more gloom and doom to the tale but without the sarcasm.
Readers who enjoy dry humour, with lashings of sarcasm and a hefty dose of satire will undoubtedly enjoy XYZ.
Thanks to the author, Netgalley and Rachel’s Random resources for my copy of this book which I have reviewed voluntarily.
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