Haterz – James Goss
Is there someone online who really annoys you? Who is always bragging, posting too many pictures and just doesn’t get jokes? Look at your Twitter feed, don’t you get cross at the endless rage, bigotry and the pleading for celebrity retweets? Meet Dave. He decides that unfollowing someone just isn’t enough. He’s determined to make the internet a nicer place, and he won’t stop at murder in order to achieve it. When he kills his best friend’s girlfriend, he isn’t planning on changing the world. She was just really annoying on Facebook. But soon Dave realises he’s being manipulated. A conspiracy are using him to gain control of something dark forming at the heart of the world wide web…
My thanks to Solaris and Netgalley for my review copy
James Goss is a clever man. He has taken all the annoying things that we see each day on the internet and drawn them together into a single story that is not remotely annoying. How does a collection of irritations not annoy the reader? Mainly by following a likeable lead character who kills the annoying people who abuse Social Media. And (here is the clever bit) he makes it seem like it is a perfectly reasonable course of action to undertake. Genius!
In Haterz we follow Dave. He is in a pub one evening when he gets cornered by Danielle, she is his best friend’s girlfriend. We learn that Dave his not Danielle’s greatest fan and he finds her inane Facebook updates a source of constant irritation. In short, Dave finds Danielle so irritating (both in person and online) that he decides to kill her – and he does. In the very first Chapter!
Reaching home, safe in the knowledge that Danielle’s death will be considered a tragic accident, Dave is horrified to receive an email from an unknown sender which reads: “We know what you’ve done. Killer”.
From this point on Dave is no longer master of his own destiny. He will be contacted by email and made aware of individuals who are exhibiting unacceptable online behaviour. Dave then has to address these problematic individuals and make them change their way – or silence them permanently. How he tackles each of these problems is clever, entertaining (for readers) and should probably leave any friends of James Goss slightly concerned as to how he may perceive their online behaviour.
Through the story Dave takes on the likes of Twitter trolls, media columnists, banks and high interest loan companies. He believes his actions are for the greater good and sometimes it is hard to disagree. I doubt that any reader will make it through the book without recognising some form of online interaction that they have previously encountered and found to be highly objectionable or that they have themselves been guilty of (in which case…BE AFRAID).
I cannot give away too many details as to why I enjoyed Haterz so much as this would risk robbing you of the delight of finding the great plot twists for yourself – spoilers and all that. What I can share is that this is a sharply written novel with a clever premise. It captures perfectly the failings of Social Media and pokes fun at the worst offenders. Once I started reading I wanted to keep going – the pacing was perfect, the victims were plentiful and there were laughs to be had along the way.
There are characters in the book which you will mentally picture as real life people – either because you have a Facebook friend that exhibits similar traits to the poor Danielle or because you think that the columnist is basically <REDACTED> under a different name and you want to see if something nasty will happen.
Haterz is one of the rarer gems of crime fiction – a novel that delivers a good ‘murder’ story yet also keeps the humour front and foremost which helped to make it such good fun to read. Consider The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – a science fiction story but so deeply interlaced with the humour of Douglas Adams that it is frequently considered a comedy book rather than sci-fi. Goss does the same in Haterz: there are some dark and graphic scenes yet the tone is softened with a joke or wry observation and the perception of the whole book changes. Anyone that uses the internet should read this book. If a review score helps you to decide then I hope that 5 out of 5 should be persuasive.
Haterz is published on March 12th by Solaris Books.
James Goss is on Twitter: @gossjam
I have previously reviewed Doctor Who: The Blood Cell which was also written by James Goss. This book was one of the first published to feature Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor. Search for The Blood Cell at www.grabthisbook.net