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by Max Barry

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating


Organizational restructuring got you down? Are you concerned about your company's right-sizing? Meeting your deliverables? Are you a value-add… or just another headcount?

If you spend the bulk of your waking hours in the habitrail-esque maze of a corporate cubicle farm, as millions do, you are ripe for Max Barry's latest novel, a sardonic take on corporate culture succinctly entitled Company.

Less is more for Barry, who hilariously satirizes the corporate entity through a small number of players therein, namely a few employees in the Training Sales department of Zephyr Holdings:

Freddy: Smart, full of ideas, but hasn't been promoted once in his five years at Zephyr.

Holly: Her only positive hours at Zephyr are those she spends in the company's in-house gymnasium.

Roger: "Too confident, his dark brown eyes too piercing. His hair is obviously executive material."

Wendell: Perturbed with Roger for parking in his spot.

Elizabeth: "Smart, ruthless, and emotionally damaged… If Elizabeth's brain was a person, it would have scars, tattoos, and be missing one eye."
And Jones. Bright-eyed, fresh from business school, Jones. It's his first day at Zephyr, and his first task in the world of business is to find out who took Roger's donut.

With an MBA, a head full of ideals, and shiny new shoes, Jones sets out to learn something else, though - something that none of his co-workers have given a second thought: What exactly is it that Zephyr Holdings does? Warned though he is against making waves with Senior Management, Jones is not dissuaded. What he learns about Zephyr is startling and much too catalytic and fun to reveal here.
The best thing about reading a Max Barry novel (this one and Jennifer Government, which satirized rampant capitalism and the multinationals) is the comic wit that runs throughout, making Barry's writing subtly reminiscent of Douglas Adams, as in this passing description of the cubicle floor plan:

"Open-plan seating, it has been explained in company-wide memos, increases teamwork and boosts productivity. Except in managers, that is, whose productivity tends to be boosted by - and the memos don't say this, but the conclusion is inescapable - corner offices with excellent views."
Not surprisingly, Barry, who "spent the best years of his life in the bowels of Hewlett-Packard, conducting secret research for this book," gets it right. No, Company is not an accurate depiction of corporate culture. It is, however, the funhouse mirror version of that accurate depiction, a hilarious send-up that will tickle something inside anyone who has dwelt within the system's beige partitions.
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