Book review: Company

Book cover - Company by Max BarryMy reading list is long. It may not be the longest out there, but by my standards, it’s ridiculously long. There are books that I’ve added to it that sit there for years before I get to them. Such was the case with Company by Max Barry.

I’m not 100% certain how I came across Company, but my best guess is that it was my nemesis, the Amazon recommendation engine. What I am sure of is that I added the book to my reading list years ago. It made it to my reading list for 2017, but I didn’t quite get down that far. Since I like sampling books for different authors, I prioritized it in my 2018 reading list, and finally got around to it (yes, I know, I’m still quite a bit behind on my book reviews).

The short version of the plot is that it is about what happens inside a company that does not manufacture any products or provide any services. The company has been created as a means to test management philosophies. The creators formulate policies, observe the employees’ reactions, and then package them into management training books and seminars. The twist is that the people who work in the ‘fake’ company don’t realize that they are part of a big experiment. They are led to believe that the company’s products, services, customers, and even their competitors are real. For the employees, the work they are doing matters. It’s a cruel experiment, but it leads to many rather hilarious as well as awkward situations. When the facade is at risk of being exposed, the cover-up is raised to even higher levels in an effort to protect the company’s real business of selling management philosophies. The question is, how far are they willing to go to keep up the charade?

At its core, Company is a satire of the modern corporate environment. It reads like a Dilbert cartoon where all of the stereotypical personalities and cultural quirks of modern corporate culture are amplified and exaggerated. Anyone who has worked in a corporation of any size will relate. In fact, some of the stereotypes, situations, policies, office politics, and behaviors may hit a little too close to home.

Company doesn’t fit into my Must Read or Fun Read categories, but it’s a solid book. It’s entertaining, witty and funny. It’s a light read and great if you’re looking for something different, out of the ordinary, and off the beaten path. It reads fast and I’d recommend it for taking on vacation, reading on a long plane flight, or relaxing over an extended weekend.