Monday, July 9, 2007

Company and Jennifer Government

Company by Max Barry (ISBN 1400079373)
Rating: 7/10

This is the latest book by writer Max Barry, satirizing corporate America. He seems to have taken the Six Sigma model, applied it to a company (rather than technological system), and run away to an extreme with it.

The book is about Stephen Jones, a new employee at a corporate company. He is immediately promoted past people who have been working at the company for years. The thing is, none of his co-workers in Sales seem to know exactly what the company does. His department sells services to other departments within the company, other departments support yet other departments. A self-sufficient ecosystem of a business. But he starts to question what the company actually does, where they get their money, how they pay their employees, etc. As the company institutes harsher and harsher policies aimed at turning their employees into cogs in the machine, headcounts rather than happy, productive workers, Stephen gets recruited on the six-figure salary management team. As he undermines from within, Stephen has to navigate office politics and find a way to expose the company's secret underbelly. This includes a plot twist that I won't spoil, but it worth reading to find out about!

This book is well written and, while escapist, not without food for thought. Are we happier carrying on with our lives as they are, or would we want to know the whole truth about what goes on in our companies and our lives? The Matrix covered this question quite well. I honestly don't know how I would answer this question - would I want to wake up to reality if it meant I had to live in a sun-less world with slop for food, no creature comforts, and a need to fight it out with the machines? Or would I want to live a lie, even if it was real in my head (and if it were real in my head, isn't it, in fact, real?).

Jennifer Government by Max Barry (ISBN 1400030927)
Rating: 8/10

I enjoyed this book even more than Company. In this dystopian alternate reality, American corporations literally run the world. Workers take the last name of the company they work for (Jennifer works as a police officer, therefore Jennifer Government. The antagonists are John Nike and John Nike). Nike hatches an evil plan to release a new lines of shoes, while simultaneously hiring an someone to assassinate kids purchasing the new shoes as a stealth marketing technique (to add a certain amount of danger to the purchase, the idea that you shouldn't go buy something makes the desire to do so even stronger, doesn't it?). And no, this is not a spoiler (you'll learn this in the first few pages of the book).

Even before publication, this book was optioned by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney. It's set to release in 2008. Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Garner were the top choices for the lead, but IMDB doesn't have full details yet.

Definitely escapist, not perfectly written, but nevertheless this book reached out and grabbed me in the first couple pages. I couldn't put it down until the very end.

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