Monday, January 30, 2006

On ghost cats and office workers

One of the books I've finished recently and really, really, really enjoyed was James Hynes novel Kings of Infinite Space. It is simultaneously one of the funniest and creepiest books I've come across in quite some time...a delicious satire of modern office life (focusing in on government workers and temps, but you could have set this anywhere) as well as modern Austin, Texas (here barely disguised as "Lamar, TX")...and an interestingly creepy "thriller"...all at once.

The main character (and the ghost cat) is actually one from one of his previous novellas ("Queen of the Jungle" - something I'll have to pick up somewhere)...a failed professor and postdoc who has (through his own actions/inactions) landed in a life he hates - that of a temp at a Texas government office (the hilariously named "General Services Dept. of the Texas Department of General Services...or TxDoGS for short), living in a run-down motel in the wrong part of town and haunted by the ghost of his ex-wife's dead cat. As the days at TxDoGS pass by, our "hero" (he is hardly that) becomes steadily aware that something very wrong is going on at his office. Things are definitely not "right"...and that's saying something, considering this is a man who is haunted by a ghost cat. To say more would be to spoil things. But...there are characters at the office who are instantly recognizable to anyone who's spent time at an office in the past few years - the hardcore Christian, the former soldier, the arrogant blowhard, the clueless boss, the constantly sick person, the gossipy secretary, and the evil b*tchy former prom-queen with a Napoleon complex.

It's a very quick read, well written and quite a bit of fun. Highly recommended.

A final aside...the ghost cat, Charlotte, is one of the best characters in fiction I've run across in some time now. A character you'd love to see more of than you do...and one who enriches every seen she's in. And if that doesn't get you hooked...nothing will.


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