I bring you a book I discovered in NetGalley through BooksGoSocial. They help indie books get into NetGalley, and although it is difficult to keep up with all their offerings, one can find some true gems there.
Hacking George by Bob Palmer
Playing God is a dangerous game, even if you do write the rules and think they’re pretty neat.
Following a road-rage incident in which he was the victim, middle-aged cynic George Sanderson has an epiphany. He believes he has the power to influence fate and set the world to rights.
During a meticulously-planned intervention to help his friend Angela Hayworth, the two fall in love. George’s lonely existence looks set to improve. But he’s about to discover that playing games with people’s lives is fraught with danger. And when his life starts to fall apart, he’s forced to confront the frightening truth…
Someone is manipulating him. But why?
With his freedom and sanity at stake, George must fight for everything he holds dear – especially his lawn, his meat thermometer, and Angela’s perfect teeth.
Perfect for fans of Fredrik Backman, Graeme Simsion, Richard Osman, and Jonas Jonasson, Hacking George will put a smile on your face and a tear in your eye as it drives you towards its startling end.
About the author:
Bob Palmer has been, in chronological order, a construction worker, town planner, rock drummer, graphic designer, award-winning adman, entrepreneur, scriptwriter and movie producer. He gets bored easily.
In his spare time, he’s been caught in a Utah desert flash flood, set off the alarms at Area 51, and renovated a 17th century cottage with his infinitely patient author and book cover designer wife Berni Stevens.
Hacking George is his debut novel. It combines his love of the absurdity of the world we live in, of grand concepts, and the fact that even the smallest of events can spin a life in an entirely new direction.
His next novel, another instalment in the life of George, is scheduled for release in spring 2023.
Thanks to NetGalley and to BooksGoSocial/Double Bluff for providing me with an ARC of this book that I freely chose to review.
This is a very peculiar book. There was something about the description that attracted me to it, and once I started reading I kept going, although for a while I wasn’t sure I liked any of the characters very much. Although that is not a prerequisite for me to like a book, it means that the book has to make it up in other ways. My opinion changed, and although I am sure that the protagonist, the George of the title, would test my patience to the point of distraction if I were to spend any time with him in real life, I grew quite fond of him, by the end. And he wasn’t the only one to make me feel that way.
The plot of the book made me think of the movie Phone Booth, at least a big part of it. No, it is not that tense or claustrophobic, and the main character isn’t at all like the protagonist of that story. But it was the sense of somebody just deciding to play God (as the description puts it) or to take revenge on somebody and going to extremes hardly guaranteed by the actions they are intent on punishing. When I watched that movie I kept thinking that there are people who have committed horrendous crimes, and yes, I could see the logic of taking justice into one’s hand in that case, but it all seemed rather perverse and pointless in the case at hand. And, as I said, I felt there was some of that here, but the author goes beyond it, cleverly constructing characters that have a heart, and feelings, and although they might be the complete opposite to us, we understand them and empathise with them.
This is Palmer’s first novel (although he has been doing creative work and knows a lot about books and about writing, and so does his wife), and he shows a great talent for endearing us to George, and oddball, an accountant by trade and by mindset, an obsessive man who needs to plan everything in advance and would not take an impulsive decision to save his own life. (I suspect he might have been given a diagnosis of mild autistic spectrum disorder in real life if he’d ever sought one, but I can’t see him doing that, as he is perfectly happy, or almost, with the way his life is). He is the hero as anti-hero (or the anti-hero as hero), and although he seems to be a total loser when we meet him, things don’t turn out as bad as one could imagine to begin with, especially considering who the baddy is. (I can’t say much more to avoid spoiling the plot and the story for other readers).
This is a bit of a mixed-genre novel. It has plenty of wit and humour (much of it observational humour), a certain degree of mystery (we know much more than the protagonist does from the beginning, although not everything), and at times even a touch of thriller. I have mentioned the romance, which is pretty unusual as well, but not without charm.
The story is told from the point of view of several characters, mostly the main three characters, but also some of the secondary ones, and the author is very good at putting us in their shoes and making us share their experiences, always from their point of view. We might never have done the things some of them do, but we see their thought processes and understand their doubts, their feelings, and why they eventually do what they do. As I said, even if the characters have very little to do with us, the author manages to immerse us in their worlds and that makes us appreciate their adventures and reactions all the more. And, funnily enough, we are not alone in this, as the characters themselves experience a similar phenomenon. If George and his nemesis seem the complete opposites to begin with (George living in the realm of order and law, and Goldtooth in the world of chaos and lawlessness), things are not as they seem.
Apart from the way the story and the characters are depicted, I also loved some of the fabulous secondary characters, even those we only get to hear about second or third-hand. They all have their personalities and their quirks, and that makes them more real and true.
I thought the repetitiveness of certain actions and the slow rhythm, especially at the beginning, suited the main character and the nature of the story pretty well, but some people might find it a bit frustrating, especially if they are fond of quick-paced and action-filled blockbusters. This is not that kind of book. But it has a few surprises up its sleeve, and it will leave readers with a smile on their faces. And that is something we sorely need today.
I recommend this book to anybody who enjoys quirky characters and situations, oddballs and charming weirdos (or not so charming), has a sense of humour and appreciates British humour, and does not mind investing a bit of time in a seemingly random story about a nobody, but one that ends up being delightful. So, yes, I recommend it to pretty much everyone.
Thanks to NetGalley, BooksGoSocial, the publisher, and the author for this fun and cheery book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, and keep calm and smile. ♥