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Company: A Novel Hardcover – January 17, 2006

108 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With broad strokes, Barry once again satirizes corporate America in his third caustic novel (after Jennifer Government). This time, he takes aim at the perennial corporate crime of turning people into cogs in a machine. Recent b-school grad Stephen Jones, a fresh-faced new hire at a Seattle-based holding company called Zephyr, jumps on the fast track to success when he's immediately promoted from sales assistant to sales rep in Zephyr's training sales department. "Don't try to understand the company. Just go with it," a colleague advises when Jones is flummoxed to learn his team sells training packages to other internal Zephyr departments. But unlike his co-workers, he won't accept ignorance of his employer's business, and his unusual display of initiative catapults him into the ranks of senior management, where he discovers the "customer-free" company's true, sinister raison d'être. The ultracynical management team co-opts Jones with a six-figure salary and blackmail threats, but it's not long before he throws a wrench into the works. As bitter as break-room coffee, the novel eviscerates demeaning modern management techniques that treat workers as "headcounts." Though Barry's primary target is corporate dehumanization, he's at his funniest lampooning the suits that tread the stage, consumed by the sound and fury of office politics that signify nothing. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–By turns amusing and wry, this novel is a pleasure to read. It opens with a view of a large corporation as seen by a new employee whose first day on the job is one of high suspense–one of the doughnuts for a staff meeting is missing. Moving beyond the usual cheap but funny shots taken at corporate life, Barry takes his tale to the next level. What if this giant maze for laboratory rats in which so many people work was actually just that? The characters are stereotypes but readers will sympathize with them, nonetheless.–Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (January 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385514395
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385514392
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,269,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Max Barry (1973-) is the author of five novels, including "Lexicon," the New York Times Notable Book "Jennifer Government," and "Syrup," now a film starring Amber Heard. He is the creator of the online political simulation game "NationStates," for which he is far more famous among high school students and poli-sci majors than his novels. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife and two daughters.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Jordan Michel VINE VOICE on January 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was in the middle of reading The Kite Runner when this one finally arrrived (I preordered it months ago), but I immediately dropped everything else to read it.

It's got a great plot twist early on, so I can't say too much about the story. It's about a guy who gets a job at a company and realizes soon after he begins that he has no idea what the company does. He begins a quest to understand the enigmatic mission of Zephyr Holdings, and that's when things turn a little strange.

As in his others novels, Max Barry uses over-the-top parody to satirize the corporate world. This one's mainly about general management and office politics, so most everyone will see elements that they recognize. When you're not frightened by how familiar these characters and situations are, you'll be laughing.

For anyone looking to comparison to his other novels: I think it's better than Jennifer Governement, but probably not quite as good as Syrup. It shares their theme of corporate satire but with more focus on general management.

It's a quick read and a lot of fun, and I have a feeling it'll be one that I think about for a long time in the future.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Max Barry is the literary equivalent of Dilbert creator Scott Adams. Starting with Syrup, Barry's novels are both humorous and ruthless in their send-ups of the corporate world, satires that juggle biting wit with suspense. With Company, Barry skewers companies that reorganize with a regularity that rivals Old Faithful. Protagonist Jones is a newly hired sales assistant at Zephyr Holdings, a company whose employees are not exactly sure what the company does, although all are sure that the best way to survive is not to question the orders coming from Senior Management. The Training Sales Department, where Jones works, is embroiled in controversy because one of the reps did not get his morning donut, and there's talk of sabotage. When top-performing Wendell is fired for being "involved in some irregularities concerning morning snacks" and for having commissions that the unit wants to use for its own solvency, the reps realize that the company has begun to punish good results. The panic that ensues has sales reps scrambling to sabotage their own accounts so they can keep their jobs.

In Barry's hands, the destruction of a company has never been so tongue-in-cheek. Here, a series of forwarded calls lead to the crash of the entire computer network, and, because someone must be blamed, the entire tech staff is ousted. Without a viable computer network, employees can't work, although, after the initial panic subsides, they are all too happy to pretend to be working without actually accomplishing anything. Mini-dramas erupt like pimples. As friends disappear from their cubicles, abruptly escorted off the premises by security, people willingly sever all ties with them. Conclusions, often based on nonsense, are whispered.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jordan M. Poss VINE VOICE on October 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
Company is one of the best recent novels I've read. It reads like an episode of "The Office" co-written by George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut--a lightning-fast read with equal doses of humor, thrills, and even a bit of skin-crawling creepiness.

At the risk of dropping a few spoilers, Company is the story of Stephen Jones, a recent college grad who is accepted to a sales assistant position at Zephyr Holdings, a Seattle-based company. There he meets his coworkers--among them the hard-edged Elizabeth, sympathetic loser Freddy, and Roger, the self-absorbed idiot. After a few weeks on the job, Jones realizes that he has no idea what Zephyr does or who its customers really are. He decides to find out, and the answers he finds propel the story from the mundane to the surreal.

Barry skilfully interweaves several parallel storys--Freddy's crush on the unattainable receptionist Eve, Elizabeth's coping with an unexpected pregnancy, the goings-on of Senior Management and a secret organization within the company itself, and, most hilariously, Roger's dogged pursuit of the One Who Stole His Donut.

I bought Company on a whim, largely because I had read Barry's novel Jennifer Government a few years ago. While Jennifer Government was just as hilarious and thought-provoking as Company, Company is all-around better. It's got the same blistering pace, intricate plotting, and hilarious but recognizable characters, but it's much more streamlined and its barbs never fail to provoke laughs at the expense of the corporate world.

Barry is obviously a brilliant satirist, but it's equally amazing to me how much he makes you feel for his characters, given his brisk, spare prose style. By the end of the novel I felt as though I were personally involved in the struggles of Jones, Freddy, and the rest.

Company is a fast-paced, fun, and hugely entertaining novel well worth anyone's time. Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on February 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As anyone knows who has worked in a large corporation, there is no institution in the world easier to satirize. Mission statements, employee handbooks, personnel policies, senior management directives, meetings and committees, performance reviews, office politics, office romances, climbing the ladder, jockeying for offices - it's almost too easy. The best satires play it straight, as the all-consuming, life and death struggle its participants take it to be --Dilbert, Steve Carell's THE OFFICE television series, the movie OFFICE SPACE, and my personal favorite, the Kornbluth brothers' little known and underrated HAIKU TUNNEL.

Into this group comes Max Barry's entry, COMPANY. Young and handsome Stephen Jones walks into Zephyr Corporation for his first day of work as a member of the Training Sales group. Jones, as he is called, has no idea what Zephyr does, but he believes it has something to do with selling management training programs. The first strange thing Jones notices is the elevator buttons: the highest floor of the building, marked CEO, is Floor 1 - the higher the floor number, the lower the actual floor and the lower the employee is on the corporate totem pole. As he emerges onto Training Sales's 14th Floor space (shared with Infrastructure Management), he discovers that Sales Reps and their assistants are separated by a high divider dubbed the Berlin Partition. That same morning, the office donut cart makes its usual rounds but ends up one donut short, depriving Training Sales Rep Roger Jefferson of his morning snack and setting in motion a vindictive hunt for the perpetrator that rivals Captain Queeg's infamous, "Who ate the strawberries?" in THE CAINE MUTINY.

All of this sets up COMPANY as a breezy satire of corporate life, until Mr.
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