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July 04, 2022

Review in Haiku: Company

By Katrina Stonoff

First day on new job:
Missing doughnut, missing floor.
Jones seeks the answer.

Company, by Max Barry, is an amusing ride of a read.

It opens with a fight over a doughnut. Catering delivers exactly one doughnut per person, so if someone eats two, it means someone else doesn't get one. Reason enough to start a war among cubicle dwellers.

Jones (for some odd reason, he's the only person in the company who goes only by his last name) is a new hire who arrives soon after the doughnut theft is discovered. His first task is to find out what happened to his boss's doughnut. His boss is a sales rep in the Training Sales Department.

Yes, training sales. He sells training to other departments in the company. In fact, he can't seem to discover what the company's ultimate products are; all the departments appear to serve each other. And there are other oddities at the Company: the receptionist drives an Audi, dresses like she's going to a nightclub, and seems to come to work only when she feels like it. The floors are numbered backwards, with 1 being the top floor where the executives are, and numbers getting larger as you descend, both geographically and in importance. And no one has ever seen the CEO.

No one asks questions, even when restructuring upon restructuring cuts jobs. And nobody talks to the head of the Training Sales department either.

No one but Jones. He's new, he doesn't know any better. And soon he learns what the company's real purpose is ... but there's no way I'm spoiling that!

Company is clever, witty and sardonic. It shows a deep knowledge of human nature, base and loveable at the same time.

As a writer, I'm particularly interested in the fact that it seems to be written by an omniscient narrator: something that hadn't been seen in good modern books for sometime. But Barry not only pulls it off, I cannot picture Company written with any other voice.

It's a quick read, and fun. You'll be tempted to think of it as lightweight. But over the months, you'll think about it a lot -- more if you work in a cubicle farm.

And you'll begin to realize Max Barry has made an interesting and telling statement about corporate America and human nature in general.

Article © Katrina Stonoff. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-10-22
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