Wednesday, July 22, 2009
© 2006 Max Barry
I chose to read Max Barry's Company based on how much I enjoyed Jennifer Government, and I'm happy to say that Barry did not fail to entertain here. Company is the story of Stephen Jones, Zephyr Holdings' newest employee. Jones is hired to help market "training packages", and he believes this is what the company is for. Imagine his surprise when he finds out that only his department handles this, and further still that his department sells those packages to other departments within Zephyr. His every attempt to find out what the rest of the company does is stymied: even after he barges into his department chief's office to respectfully inquire about the issue, he is shot down. Repeatedly, he is told to leave it be -- no one else knows, and they don't need to know.
Although Jones is our leading character and protagonist, he is by far from the only character: Barry frequently writes from the perspective of others and sometimes using his own voice. What quickly emerges is a company in which the employees do what they're told simply because it's a living -- where little make senses and where Senior Management does nothing to explain anything. When Senior Management does poke its nose into the story line, they generally do so to make drastic changes to the company that make their employees even more confused and unhappy. The company is quite chaotic: departments vie for power and attempt to destroy one another. While everyone else is accustomed to this, Jones refuses to take "Nevermind it," as an answer, leading him to make a frantic run for the offices of the CEO while being chased by security guards. What Jones will change his entire view of the company, and it will for a time put him in a position of absolute power. What could possibly be so dramatic?
You'll have to read and see. I found the book to be very entertaining, at times reminding me of The Office and of a particular John Cleese clip. Not only is it an entertaining novel by itself, but it functions also as a criticism of corporate culture.