*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Generation X technical whiz, Jack Cooper has forgotten his mojo. Grumpy and sarcastic, he can’t bear a workplace stuffed with Gen Y and Zs whose total focus is on dancing-baby gifs.
When Jack’s pregnant daughter finds him a job at an ultra-cool tech firm, Sweet, he gets a chance to re-learn what he has forgotten and halt his slide into drunken, divorced loneliness.
But can Jack lift himself out of his angry 1980s nostalgia? And how will he stay sane while bombarded by Instant Messages, smiley-faced poos, and the constant celebration of mediocrity?
A funny, well-observed and wry novel, from former Guardian and BBC writer, William Knight.
XYZ follows miserable Gen X-er Jack as he sulks, moans and drinks himself out of family, work and friendships because he feels that the tide of technology which he surfed in his younger days has now swept over him and left him all washed up.
And if that was all there was to it then I wouldn’t be recommending it!
I loathed poor Jack at the beginning and was both amused and annoyed as he snottily judged all the young, enthusiastic people around him from his lofty position as an almost-unemployable sodden mess. But, as with all good anti-heroes, he grew on me as the plot progressed. The sarcasm, satire and sharp wit helped lighten the tone and keep the story from getting too maudlin.
Gradually, as Jack’s situation becomes increasingly precarious and his attitude increasingly untenable, the reader begins to see through his spiky dramatics and warm to the confused and frightened man hiding from the modern world beneath the bitter facade. I certainly think this process would have happened more quickly had the narration not been in the first person perspective; Jack’s constant acidic inner monologues were a bit distracting until I learned to hear them as a cry for help instead of an attack!
William Knight perfectly skewers all three of the generations in the title here; no one is spared, from Gen X prejudices, to Millennial PC culture, to Gen Z buzz. And it’s all done in such an even-handed, entertaining, tongue-in-cheek way that even the most delicate of snowflakes would struggle to take offence.
Of course, the main character learns and grows, and comes to a grudging acceptance that the world will continue to progress with or without his approval, and he can continue to sulk in his personal pickling jar or crack out the jazz hands (yay!) and jump on board. As it goes, he actually finds some acceptance and compromises in his favour along the way too. And throughout it all there are plenty of laughs: WITH Jack’s sharp witty observations, and AT his cringe-worthy behaviour.
By the end of the book I was a convert. Jack wasn’t perfect, but no one is, and at least he’s back in the game and giving it a good old-fashioned try. I came away with a better appreciation of ALL generations, and a peculiar longing for a t-shirt that says Sweet FA!
The world’s gone insane and I’m right in the middle of it. Too young to retire, too old to work in these fucked-up, alt-corporate millennial environments, but desperate for the money to pay for two homes, a probable divorce and grown-up kids who blame me and my generation for wrecking their lives—and the planet while we were at it.
I’m not sure when I became part of the older generation, but here I am. Somehow Gen Y became the cool Millennials and Gen X became old, technically-challenged farts? One minute I am the technical wizard, the next I can’t get my phone to work and am bamboozled by giphys and emoticons and emojis. I don’t know what they mean, when to use what, and a wrong key press gets my so-called thread bombarded with capital letters and, of course, rolling eyes.
But I’m one of the original computer geeks.
– William Knight, XYZ
XYZ is available on Amazon right now!