This is a book about childhood and memory -- about the loneliness and meaninglessness of life and the solace we seek in memory. The main character devises a way of reuniting his childhood friends and getting them to take part in a series of ever-scarier dares. The prize is a valuable jade model -- the little green man.
That's all there is to the plot really, and the dares aren't hugely interesting. The interest lies not in the plot but in the life, or rather non-life, of the empty and unendearing central character. It's made the more interesting, when one realises that he is not unusual: he is you and me.
It's about emptiness and anomie -- and one's search for meaning, as an adult, both in memory and in material things. It's about the fragility of relationships and feeling like an alien in one's own land. Behind the trinkets and bangles we console ourselves with -- a motorbike, drink, money, the sun -- underneath there's not much else: only disappointment. Every character's life is squalid and meaningless -- yet they are ordinary people. Neither can solace be gained from the ostensibly big things, like parenthood or friendship: in the end they are all empty. The central character's parenting of his autistic son is an extended metaphor for the routine, ritual futility of parenthood, and of life.
It's immaculately well written -- direct, uncliched and with a voice authentic to the central character. It's a touch derivative in concept and in style, though -- Dennis Potter in Blue Remembered Hills meets Nick Hornby in Fever Pitch. Having said that, it has neither the verve of Potter nor the belly laughs of Hornby (though there are some smiles). But In a market where rubbish is routinely hyped, this is an outstanding book.