Haterz by James Goss
A blackly comic crime novel about a one-man crusade to rid the internet of haters, flamers, trolls and vaguebookers… even if he has to kill to do it.
Is there someone online who really grates on you? That friend who’s always bragging about their awesome life and endlessly sharing tired memes, and who just doesn’t get jokes? Look at your Twitter feed: don’t you get cross at the endless rage, the thoughtless bigotry and the pleading for celebrity retweets? Meet Dave, a street fundraiser and fan of cat pictures. He’s decided that unfollowing just isn’t enough. He’s determined to make the Internet a nicer place, whatever it takes. When he killed his best friend’s girlfriend, he wasn’t planning on changing the world. She was just really annoying on Facebook. But someone saw, and made him an offer. Someone who knows what he’s capable of, and wants to use him to take control of the darkness at the heart of the Internet. And now the bodies; the comment trolls, the sexual predators, the obnoxious pop stars are starting to mount up…
I remember, way back in halcyon days of 1992, sending my first e-mail. Back then, as a fresh-faced student, the Internet seemed like a wonderful place. Over the the years, it has become more and more ingrained in everything I do; every aspect of my life involves the Internet in one form or another. I survived the slightly disappointing, less apocalyptic than I was led to believe, trauma that was Y2K, purchased met my wife online, and learned how to Skype. Hell, I even created a website and waffle about books from time to time. Everything was lovely. Somewhere though, at some point, something changed. For all the great, wonderful things that the Internet was directly responsible for, there were suddenly about ten horrible, mean, vindictive things. People got comfortable with the anonymity that online life in the 21st century offered. Living in a society where online action lacks little in the way of repercussions, appears to be the perfect excuse for many to let the worst of their personalities have free reign. James Goss’ latest, Haterz, tackles the worst of these Internet offenders head-on.
Dave is just a regular person. Like the rest of us, he is moderately accepting of the Internet and its many foibles, then one day, pushed that little bit too far, he finally snaps. Distinctly adult in tone, the various schemes he employees to wreak his revenge are always justified. His victims are a singularly loathsome bunch. It is easy to sympathise with our anti-hero. There is a sense of familiarity in some of the chapters. Goss has taken elements of genuine Twitterspats and Internet meltdowns, and used them as a basis for his narrative. We’ve all seen the Internet attempt to eat itself, and this proves to be a rich source of content for the narrative. I won’t dream of detailing the specifics here, but it is fun to try and spot them.
What is most impressive is the way the writing explores the fundamental dichotomy of the Internet – two sides of the same coin but both completely different from one another. It’s hard to believe the same place that will seek out a guy to give him the chance to dance, or buy a room full of cancer kids a pizza, is the same place that threatens to violence against female gamers. The smart, insightful writing manages the trickiest of tasks. Not only does it entertain, it also informs.
Haterz has prompted much debate in our household. There is little better than when fiction generates questions like this. Reading this book has certainly made me stop and consider the impact of my online actions more thoroughly. I’ve been thinking about it since I started writing this review. I currently have multiple Twitter accounts, multiple web pages, an account on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, Tumblr, NetGalley, Stumbleupon Google+ and even Reddit (and I don’t even know how that works!). I don’t think it is too much to ask that I behave like a human being, in something akin to a civilised manner, when I use them, is it? If Haterz doesn’t make you stop and take stock of how you treat others online, then I don’t know that anything will.
Sometimes a book comes along that does its damnedest to defy anything resembling categorisation. Haterz is one such book. If you have ever used the Internet, and based on the fact you are reading this sentence I suspect that you probably have, then you need to read this novel. James Goss’ bitingly satirical writing is razor sharp and well worth your time. He proves conclusively that technology is a double-edged sword. It has the ability to create vibrant communities, bring people together and change lives. Unfortunately, it also has the ability to do the polar opposite. Hidden within the bones of this darkly entertaining modern fable, there is a damning indictment of modern society. Based on some of the things I’ve seen online myself, I have to say, I’m inclined to agree.
Haterz is published by Solaris and is available from 12th March. Seek it out and enjoy, I can guarantee that some of the subject matter will seem spookily familiar. Highly recommended.