Published on January 17th, 2006 | by Greg0
The Risky Business of "Company"
If you haven’t read Max Barry’s last two novels- the really good Syrup, and the truly excellent Jennifer Government- you really should. Because then you’d be ready for Company, his latest book. And you’d also understand why I say that Company is great, but a little rockier than his previous novels.
Unfortunately for reviewers everywhere, much of the story is locked up in details that would be considered spoilers if we were to… well, spoil them. So we won’t, and will simply outline the plot in terms suitable for a trailer: guy gets hired at a company, let’s call it Zephyr, and eventually realizes that the company has no customers at all. Instead, the business is basically a myth (albeit a very modern one), and he is of course given the choice between leaving or joining (and, of course, working to change the system from the inside).
It’s funny, often quite bitter, and manages (mostly) in convincing the reader to continue the suspension of disbelief beyond what would seem an unbelievable setup. There’s the requisite romance, a little unfulfilling. There’s the intense corporate rivalry, the quirky boss, the mysterious upper floors, and many jokes that succeed despite having the punchlines delivered first. Think a little bit of “Being John Malkovich” meets Kafka meets advertising. Or think of Kings of Infinite Space, the James Hynes novel that works in many ways better by taking things just a little farther than Barry does.
Company is a great read for those in business, in business school, or who hate business with a passion. Get through the slightly slow introduction, past the skewed characters who aren’t quite developed, and enjoy the antics. Released today in paperback; expect to shell out around $23. And yes, the cover’s donut features in the novel.