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The Scheme for Full Employment: A Novel Hardcover – Dec 6 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (Dec 6 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031242163X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312421632
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 2.3 x 21.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,038,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

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.

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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross on Feb. 4 2003
Format: Hardcover
Mills's first two novels (The Restraint of Beasts, All Quiet on the Orient Express) are two of my favorite books of all time, so it is with a great deal of disappointment that I must report his latest to be rather thin gruel. The story here concerns itself with the titular scheme, in which men drive Univans from depot to depot on an intricately synchronized schedule. Of course since the whole enterprise is a welfare program, all they are delivering is spare parts for the Univans (which never need them). The scheme gets thrown into a tizzy when the "swervers" (slackers who like to leave work early) come into conflict with the "flat-dayers" (who believe in working the full eight hours). The scheme, the unrest, and the outcome are all related by a five-year veteran who remains neutral in the whole affair. I kept waiting for there to be more to the whole thing, for something to be reveled, but it all unspools in a steady predictable manner. The whole book follows the scheme, there's no home life scenes or non-work scenes. There's a little bit of Mills's deadpan humor and sly satire, but not nearly enough-and since he foreshadows the downfall of the system right off the bat, it's easy to spot the spanner in the works well before the end. As an allegory of welfare systems it's not that compelling and as a novel it's not that great.
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Format: Paperback
Man, was this pointless. There's hardly any story to it. The government tries this scheme where they pay people to waste time and get in the rest of society's way, some people want to slack off, other people don't, and they argue about it. That's it. All that happens is that they fight about it. The book's description makes it sound like all these strange, intriguing things start happening, but it doesn't. One of the guys in the book has a side business. He has it at the very beginning of the book, and he has it for the rest of the book. A woman supervisor appears. Yes. She appears. She doesn't do anything, she doesn't make a big difference. This is the kind of book where at the end of each chapter, it's written kind of like something ominous or suspenseful just happened, but you can't really tell if anything's supposed to be significant about it, but you think it might be just because the author seems to think it is, but then you keep reading and it turns out it wasn't. The author makes some points about motivation and socialism and people's attitudes towards work, but he could have just as easily done it as a short story, and it probably would have been a lot better. As it was, I spent over 200 pages desperately waiting for something engaging.
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Format: Hardcover
In the Scheme For Full Employment, Mills has taken an exaggerated satirical look at providing work for the unemployed in what is an extremely British novel that unfortunately fails to make much of a point, neither lauding the advantages of such a scheme or pointing out the obvious flaws.
The novel begins with a short page or two monologue on how the Scheme failed - serving at once to make us curious as to what the Scheme is, but also destroying any sense of wonder at the ending of the story. From there, we are slowly introduced to the workings of the Scheme through the eyes of the nameless narrator; little snippets of information divulged between lengthy detours involving cakes and new recruits and a whole lot of tea.
Univans are the name of the game, the drivers drive them, the engineers fix them, the managers oversee them, and they are used to transport parts for...more univans. Completely self-contained, we are told that the public honours and values these Univan drivers, though we are never told why. Surely the public would understand that the Univans do not actually produce a single thing, and thus are a greater strain on the economy than simply paying the workers an equivalent amount of money? Roads, Univans, uniforms, food, equipment, buildings - these all have to be paid for, and are a huge expense when you consider the alternative of simply paying the unemployed to sit at home.
Unfortunately, the social angle of the Scheme is never explored. Rather, we are soon involved in a debate between the 'flat-dayers', men who wish to work the full eight hours, and the 'early swervers', those who think it is alright to have an early exit when the situation calls for it.
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Format: Hardcover
I do like the blurb on the inside jacket: "the contemporary master of the working-class dystopian fable". My ideal author. But, fourth time at bat, without the tension often provided in his previous fictional settings by their comparative isolation, this urban vision of Mills fails to excite. It reads well, but carries no edge. His other novels thrived on conjuring menace behind simple, repetitive tasks and apparently simple, workaday mates.
Here you get the mates and the repetition, but not the menace. That leaves you with an allegory about capitalism but not the edge of his other fiction, which mixes tranquility with threat.
Also, the lack of a strong female character undercuts the energy often pent up and prowling in Mills' other matey protagonists. Without much of an outlet for the narrator's ambition outside the job, the story lacks mystery. Even his out-of-town jaunts, while they too find (as in other novels) a rather enigmatic assemblage, here seem more suburban than his rural bucolic/haunted landscapes entered by constructors and repairers.
Stick with his other books, and hope that this is only a delayed "sophomore slump." After the perfect endings of his other three novels, we can cut him a little slack--like his all too human characters ludicrously but touchingly reflecting ourselves.
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