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Found 3 results

  1. Company is another one of those novels about a dystopian company with fearsome bosses, mindless bureaucratic processes and subjugated staff. In this case, Zephyr is a company with an orange corporate colour, an office building with the floors numbered from top to bottom, and a senior management that nobody has ever seen. There are slogans, superstitions and arguments about missing doughnuts. There are protocols about who sits where, with training sales team on one side of the great partition (aka The Berlin Wall) and their assistants sat the other side. Enter stage left, a new employee, Jones, who imagines that it doesn't have to be this way. Even more dangerously, he tries to find the meaning behind Zephyr's mission statement. It's a bit of a me-too novel. The great corporate conspiracy, the satire on office politics, the naked greed of corporate America - it has all been done before (e.g. Iain Banks, Scarlett Thomas, Rupert Thompson). But Company is a reasonable addition to the canon. Max Barry is a good story teller although his achilles heel is that he can't do endings. In this case, the ending is as chaotic as all his others but is mercifully short. His characters are unashamedly cartoony stereotypes and his plot is incredible (actually, probably impossible). But his ideas are interesting and conveyed with humour. As holiday reading, Company was amiable ... er... company for a couple of days. But don't expect it to change your horizons. ****0
  2. Syrup by Max Barry does not suffer from the same problem that others have found with Barry's work. This book has an ending. Possibly too neatly tied, but definitely an ending. This was a highly entertaining ride, and a very quick read. There are a whole lot of ideas in here, and much fun and cynical bashing of marketing and big business. It never actually felt real, and most of the characters were stereotypes, but I don't think it was remotely meant as serious literature. Just a smart and funny guy rapping out a story of greed and rampant ambition. I look forward to reading Max Barry's later works. 3.5stars
  3. Max Barry is an ideas man. He has previously written of a kind of government/corporate interface full of conspiracies and rules. His works have a Brave New World feel to them. In Lexicon, we find a society where people fall, unknown to themselves, into various categories of personality, each persuadable through the use of keywords that bypass the critical thinking parts of the brain and get straight into the core. Sort of. Max Barry explains it better. From a bizarre opening, we rapidly fall into a Men In Black/Bourne Identity type world where a small group of people control the world through access to secrets. They also have access to unlimited wealth allowing world travel in first class, swanky offices and labyrinths of laboratories staffed by technicians who have no idea of the significance of what they are working on. Those inductees into this glamorous, dangerous world carry the names of semi-famous poets. The novel is divided into four sections, each addressing a quite distinct episode, place and time period. The first three work well and hold the ideas together. We find two opposing storylines, one featuring Tom and Wil, strangers who are thrown together to defeat the greater evil. And the other featuring Emily, a street scammer who is inducted into the organisation. The stories converge – after a fashion – in Broken Hill, a remote mining town in New South Wales. The true awfulness of Broken Hill – previously seen in Priscilla Queen of the Desert – is conveyed well and there is plenty of intrigue in terms of what happened and what will happen. The story, you see, is quite non-linear. As the story lines develop, so too does the reader’s understanding of the science-fiction behind the words of persuasion. The gaps get filled in. And Lexicon poses interesting questions about the nature of communication and language. It also makes one wonder whether anything can have value if it can be had simply by asking. These questions are highlighted further in snippets of e-mails, news reports and reference sources (presumably all fictitious) that bookend the chapters. Sadly, Lexicon unravels in the fourth section and descends into a wide-ranging, chaotic riot – everyone shooting each other and being evil or heroic for no obvious reason. It’s a poor way to end a book that is more reminiscent of Police Academy than the Bourne films. But this shouldn’t detract too much from the really excellent build-up. Ending books can be tricky and it does seem to be a skill that Max Barry does not have, but the endings seldom linger long in the memory anyway. Readers tend to remember scenes in the build up. So, on balance, a rather generous four stars. ****0
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