My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Max Barry’s writing here is sharp and quick, clever and whimsical. Even his characters that are merely quick sketches are sketched deftly to service the ever increasing color palette of the narrative. Additionally, his central concept here is one that I’ve always found fascinating—the subtle, and often blatant manipulation of human desires. (There were two subjects in school that I found unexpectedly engrossing, Copyright Law and Marketing—or, “what do we have the right to do” and “what are we led to do.”)
This book takes you behind the scenes to see how your desires are designed by corporations while you follow the trials of the protagonist learning to navigate those choppy backstabbing waters. Lest you think this is just some manner of marketing textbook, it is also the hilarious and engaging story of his personal life as it is affected by his career choices and the surprising encounters he makes along the way.
I really can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed reading this book. The weakest part for me was the less insidery last third of the novel when a new business shift comes into play. It feels like the author may have realized he’d bit off a bit more than he could successfully chew and cleverly spit back at us, so the elements seemed a little glossed over after we’d gotten so much minute detail earlier. However, the relationship dynamics of the characters’ personal lives remain strong throughout, so there’s very little enjoyment of the story lost.
Max Barry is a keen and clever observer of human behavior and it really shines through in the novel. I’d be hard pressed to think of anyone that I would not recommend this book to, but for those who are interested in relationship dynamics and marketing techniques this is an absolute “can’t miss.”