A self-perpetuating means of creating employment provides an allegory for welfare programs and a light meditation on the working class in Magnus Mills's novel The Scheme for Full Employment
. Making appointed rounds in UniVans to pick up boxes (containing, what else, UniVan parts), our unnamed protagonist stays the course (mostly, except when he couriers a birthday cake and charts unknown--and unauthorized--territory) while labor unrest stirs between those who champion the eight-hour day and those who want to cut corners and slip out of work early. It is refreshing to see a plot-driven novel come along that is devoid of self-absorbed narration, but the book bounces along on one note; it lacks the depth necessary to be a truly evocative commentary.
Mills's prose is sufficient and the story is well paced. As for the glory of "The Scheme," Mills tells us, "What could be nicer than an excursion in a UniVan on a bright spring morning?... Every so often, when I caught sight of my vehicle reflected in some huge glass-fronted office building, it seemed there could be no better way to earn a living." For a light-hearted, amusing read, The Scheme for Full Employment is worth a quick spin. --Michael Ferch
From Publishers Weekly
The British seem to have a particular talent for producing mordant satires of working-class mores, and Mills (The Restraint of Beasts, etc.) proves again that he is one of the best writers in the genre. In his latest labor satire-cum-parable, he takes on the post-Keynesian capitalist business model, investigating the inner workings of "The Scheme," a circular delivery business in which nondescript "UniVans" go back and forth among multiple destinations, delivering largely nonessential UniVan parts. The perfectly synchronized system begins to fall apart when a labor conflict pits the corner-cutters and slackers in the company-designated "swervers"-against their more staid counterparts, the "flat-dayers," who believe in actually working a by-the-book, eight-hour day. The drama is viewed from the perspective of an anonymous narrator, a five-year veteran of the Scheme, whose life consists of playing the company angles and watching out for new authority figures. Mills makes the plot-driven concept work by underplaying his humor, so much so that the Scheme's work environment offers a genuinely frightening reflection of the circular logic that dominates so many of today's work settings. After milking the details of his odd little scenario for all they're worth, Mills introduces his climactic conflict in the form of a strike by flat-dayers while swervers continue to work. Although the ending is somewhat predictable, the author's ability to nail the nonsensical quirks and idiosyncrasies of job patterns and business models sustains the humor, and numerous passages provide chilling insight into why we go to work and what we do when we get there. With this clever allegory, Mills turns the trip to and from work into a literary joy ride.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.