Harry Christmas, the central character of this bitterly funny debut novel, is a middle- aged, overweight alcoholic, with no friends and no prospects. After marrying a woman and running off with her money, he flies to Venezuela. He justifies this in two ways, the first sentimental, the second pragmatic. He wants to visit the country of his deceased first wife’s family, and he wants to escape the Rot.
The Rot can be defined as everything that Christmas doesn’t like about England (or, we soon learn, about the world in general). This turns out to be a long and varied list. He despises the indoor smoking ban and sport, but he also can’t stand scatter cushions and people who make quotation marks with their fingers.
Most of all, he hates the internet and everyone who uses it; ‘an electric Gulag’, as he puts it, ‘a network of lonely children indulging in communities of self-surveillance’ (this appears more masochistic if you know that Gibson is co-founder of thepoke.