Wednesday, August 22, 2007

By James Hynes

Speaking as a six-year veteran state employee, I’d like to say that James Hynes novel, Kings of Infinite Space, is pretty much true. Not the part about overbearing co-workers, ill-paid temps, or difficult parking. I meant he part about blood sacrifices in the unexplored network of pre-human caves under our offices.

Oops, I wasn’t supposed to tell about that. Anyway, the story is about Paul Trilby, formerly a professor at a prestigious Midwestern university, now a temp-worker for the Texas Department of General Services, TxDOGS. The guy in the cube next to Paul is dying, his work is mind-numbingly pointless, and he’s haunted by the ghost of the cat he murdered. Paul lives alone and friendless at the Angry Loner Motel.

Fortunately Paul has got co-workers. There’s Olivia Haddock, former beauty queen turned soul-sucking bureaucrat, Callie the Mail girl with a budding interest in literature, and Colonel Travis Pentoon and his sinister lunch-time cabal. The people outside the office are even odder: Boy G the homeless guy with the mantra “Are we not men?” and Stanley Tulendij the dark angel of TxDOGS and sole-survivor of a fateful outing to the dread Lonesome Knob.

Kings of Infinite Space is part Office Space, part Lovecraft, part Worms of the Earth. There are hilarious sideswipes at the text-book industry, SUVs, and enough weird movie references to make Harry Knowles’ eyes bug out (see if you can find the bit from Ben Hur, it had me laughing pretty hard). The tale also plays with the rivalries between classes and sexes, in particular it gnaws on the notion that men can re-gain paradise if they just get the women back in line. I certainly don’t think that we are supposed to take Paul’s PC, holier-than-thou, gender-constructionism at face value. I did find myself laughing out loud quite frequently, which few comedic novels can make me do.

And now for the part I was warned by a former Purchaser-IV not to tell anyone about. It appears that the author in fact found the true story crammed into the pages of a GSA Employee’s Manual. As foretold in the Book of Eibon and the prophetic Agency Strategic Plan FY2002-2005, there will come a great…

What is that scratching noise from beneath the house? The floor is falling away! Dear Lord! Those pale faces and clawed hands! ARE WE NOT MEN! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


Charles Gramlich said...

I've not heard of this but it sounds interesting. Unfortunately, I really don't care for the movie office space or the sort of TV spin off, the office. Maybe it's because I've never worked in quite that environment.

Dave Hardy said...

Interesting you should say that the setting isn't your cup of tea. Hynes had earlier used his main character in a group of short-stories that used the Horror genre to spoof academia. The title is Publish and Perish. I haven't read it though.

Office Space is fave of mine and many others I work with. I have a colleague who came up with an info-sheet he proudly named the TPS Report. Personally, I am very passionate about my stapler.

Charles Gramlich said...

I didn't know he'd done Publish and perish. I've heard good things about that but never read it.