The reader-author relationship is important. Just like with a person-person relationship, it requires a mixture of trust and spontaneity. You have to like where you already are with an author, and you also need to like where things are going.
And, of course, there has to be that initial something that gets it all started.
I've known Max Barry's work for less than a year, ever since I read Machine Man back in 2011. In many ways we've only just met, but I feel that we have a lot of potential. Machine Man squeaked into my Top Ten list for last year, and now that I've finished Company, believe you me: I'm feeling the love.
Company is Max Barry's third book, it came out five years before the equally satiric, equally brilliant Machine Man.
Barry's first two novels, Syrup and Jennifer Government, didn't exactly make waves when they came out in 1999 and 2003, but by now the movie rights to all four novels have been snapped up. However Barry's stories may eventually translate to the big screen, his writing is enough to establish him as a worthy author.
In the exquisite, hilarious novel Company, his writing flashes on each page: he is funny, charming, astute and inventive every step of the way.
Plot-wise, Company follows in the tradition of corporate satire: movies like Office Space, television like The Office, and musical theater like How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. This business world in particular is absurd and delightfully unpredictable. The opening scene is a solid example of such: an extravagant hunt for a missing donut. Barry takes the insane energy, however, and keeps it running all throughout: it brings cohesion to various plot lines, it brings intensity to the occasional monologue.
Page after page, we're introduced to unique people in an increasingly bizarre office-world. The cast is a veritable rainbow of engaging, memorable characters: the idealist Jones and the gorgeous Eve, super-shy Megan and the mysterious CEO Daniel Klausman, rival sales reps Elizabeth and Roger, and their eccentric assistants Holly and Freddy. And all along, the language is easy: not “simplistic” easy, but “smooth like an expertly mixed martini” easy.
What more can be said? Without giving away too much, I will say this for the author: in addition to having the most attention-grabbing beginnings, as well as the most wildly outlandish middles, the man knows how to write a plausible ending.
It takes a careful balance of skill and grace to end a novel well. Now more than ever, we all know about stories that have ended poorly, leading to a bitter breaking-up of the reader-author relationship.
Nobody wants to start something with an Author and give up a part of our lives for their book, only to be let down in the end. As far as Max Barry goes, you need never fear for such treatment: he is most definitely a keeper.