February 2006

All in a day’s work

By Max Barry
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What would you do if your company had a shocking secret that only you knew? Anyone suspicious of contemporary corporations will love the answer provided by Australian author Max Barry, who offers an intriguing and extremely funny look at the business world in his new novel, Company. Barry, who sold computers for Hewlett-Packard before launching his writing career, depicts the irrational, paranoid and self-seeking aspects of corporate life with razor-sharp realism.

Fresh out of business school, Stephen Jones is eager to make an impression at his new job in Training Sales for the Seattle-based Zephyr Holdings. However, it soon becomes clear to Jones that he doesn't actually know what Zephyr Holdings does, and none of his co-workers seem to know either. Jones vows to get to the bottom of why the company's customers are all internal, why the attractive receptionist who is rarely behind the desk drives a better car than most of the other employees, why elevator buttons suddenly go missing, and, most importantly, who took the sale representative's donut.

Jones quickly realizes that discovering the truth is not all that it's cracked up to be, and his ethics are put on the line as he learns Zephyr's actual purpose and realizes that Zephyr employees aren't actually what they think they are. Forced to become a cog in the company's secret machine, Jones promises to expose the corporation for what it really is without losing his job, the trust of his co-workers or the admiration of the enticing and enterprising Eve Jantiss.

Barry's voice is fresh and full of deadpan wit as he scrutinizes everyday ordinary events and proves them to be bizarre and, more surprisingly, real. Those who are not business-savvy won't feel lost; the book's language and tone are accessible to everyone, and readers will get wrapped up in the modern-day environment and engaging characters who are obsessed with working out, ceramic bears and not getting fired. Company is an entertaining page-turner that is sure to have readers looking at their own place of employment in a brand-new and critical way.

Stephanie Szymanski is a writer in Pennsylvania.

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By Max Barry
ISBN 9780385514392

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