Dan Johnson is a programmer whose computer app earned him millions before the age of thirty. And then, just as he was getting ready to settle down with his gorgeous fiancee Clancy, Dan suddenly threw away all of his digital devices, ended his engagement and simply unplugged. Sometime later, Dan lives in an unfurnished apartment like a modern-day hermit. But when he agrees to help his brother Bill with an unusual task, he meets Sarah, a lawyer working for a local homeless shelter. Since Sarah is as good-looking as she is kind, Dan starts developing both a conscience and a crush.
Joe Barrett’s UNPLUGGED is a tongue-in-cheek story of self-improvement. It is a quirky, offbeat romp about a man figuring out what to do with his life after seemingly achieving everything he ever desired. Hesitantly and hilariously, Dan embarks on a darkly comical voyage of self-discovery. In the bars and dog parks of Jersey City, he meets a cast of quirky characters who will transform his life. And if some of them are a bit odd, well, you should see the company Dan used to keep.
His former fiancee Clancy is narcissistic and vain. His brother Bill is a pathological liar stuck in a loveless marriage. As for Dan’s self-proclaimed best friend Sluggo, the less said about him, the better. With people like these, it’s no wonder Dan hid away from the world! And sure, besides our chief protagonist, most of the characters are somewhat flimsy and one-note. However, in a novel like UNPLUGGED, this is an asset. After all, Joe Barrett isn’t here to offer readers insights about life, the universe, and everything. Well, okay, maybe a little. But more than anything, he wants to entertain us, and his characters do this task admirably.
Regrettably, Barrett encounters some difficulty balancing the aspiring message of UNPLUGGED with its occasionally pitch dark humor. This uneasy mix culminates in the novel’s finale, where grisly humor severely undermines what was until then a pretty enjoyable story. That finale cost this novel one star.
While undoubtedly entertaining and frequently funny, Joe Barrett’s UNPLUGGED is a novel at odds with itself as its dark and occasionally even grisly sense of humor somewhat undercuts its positive and aspiring message.
~Danijel Štriga for IndieReader