Jason Edwards's Reviews > Company

Company by Max Barry
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Jun 25, 12

Read from June 21 to 22, 2012 — I own a copy

I really enjoy corporate cubicle fiction, for some reason. Books like Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, and I’ll even include Last Night at the Brain Thieves Ball by Scott Spencer. Company is sort of a mix of these, in as much as there’s the petty politics of working in a cube farm, and a deeper conspiracy fueling the intrigue. Don’t read Company if you feel good about the corporation you work for and don’t want that feeling challenged. Calling Max Barry "cynical" is like calling Microsoft "profitable."

Barry’s style is a bit stark, a bit plain, matter-of-fact. He gives you just enough description to keep things straight, but leaves the rest of it to yourself, and the reader will eventually fill in details from her own experiences. Again , this can have a devastating effect on someone otherwise sympathetic to working between four half-walls all day long. Barry is unrelenting, but not so harsh as make his fictions seem hateful or mean. I mentioned Ferris and Spencer, above, but the end of the novel was evocative of Neal Stephenson’s The Big U, although not quite as heavy or taxing.

Comparisons to Dilbert are inevitable, but whereas Scott Adams pitches withering sarcasm against smug incompetence, Barry’s Company is more about the corporate machine itself, the kind of synergies it fails to generate while wasting vast amounts of energy. Adams has a lock on irony; Barry has a lock on pathos. This is a quick read, and you’ll find yourself shaking your head throughout, not at the absurdity of how business operates in the Company, but instead at how familiar that absurdity is.
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