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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
The Man Who Hacked the World: A Ghostwriter’s Descent into Madness with John McAfee by Alex Cody Foster is a fascinating insight into the world of one of the most notorious and misunderstood software geniuses, John McAfee. The book is neatly split into two halves. The first section tells the story of the author’s descent into madness in his early twenties. Deciding to hitch-hike across America, and while filming a documentary highlighting the plight of the homeless in Los Angeles, he becomes part of the great tide of unwashed wandering the streets of Venice Beach searching for food, companionship, and most importantly searching for purpose. The second half of the story focuses on his recruitment into team McAfee, as he joins the software billionaire in his constant attempts to escape private people and government representatives determined to close him down or terminate him. As McAfee’s ghostwriter, Foster enters a world he could only imagine in his wildest dreams; a world of wealth, power, glamour, and intense paranoia. Alex is determined to write the true story of the McAfee legend but will circumstances and, indeed, McAfee allow him to do so?
The Man Who Hacked the World is, in many ways, a cautionary tale but also a deeply moving and educational journey. Author Alex Cody Foster has already plumbed the depths of despair in his descent into madness and he comes out the other side full of certainty, conviction, and a desire to seek the truth regardless of the potential consequences. This is a powerful narrative that readers will be instantly swept up in and carried along until its somewhat inevitable conclusion. What I particularly appreciated about this work was the author’s sidebar conversations with himself about morality, love, purpose, and life in general. He poses and attempts to answer, through both his and McAfee’s actions, some of the big questions we ask ourselves, especially about selfishness, love, and redemption. As one of the few individuals prepared to stand up to McAfee’s bullying tactics and overwhelming presence, the author sets himself apart from almost all the coterie of sycophants who surrounded McAfee at the time. This gave him the unique opportunity to examine the man in minute detail and reach some rather startling conclusions about McAfee, government, society, and humanity in general. I found this story unforgettable and utterly impossible to put down. I can highly recommend this read.