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The Scheme for Full Employment: A Novel [Hardcover]

Magnus Mills
2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 6 2002
From Magnus Mills, the acknowledged master of the working-class dystopic parable—a genre he practically invented—a new work of comic genius

The whole idea is simple yet so perfect: men drive to and from strategically placed warehouses in Univans—identical and serviceable vehicles—transporting replacement parts for...Univans. Gloriously self-perpetuating, the Scheme was designed to give an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s labor. That it produces nothing does not obtain. Our hero in Magnus Mills’ mesmerizing new work is a five-year veteran of the Scheme: he knows the best routes, the easiest managers, the quickest ways in and out. Inevitably, trouble begins to brew. A woman arrives on the scene. Some workers develop delivery sidelines. And most disturbing of all, not all participants are in agreement. There are “Flat-Dayers,” who believe the Scheme’s eight-hour day is sacrosanct and inviolable, and there are “Swervers,” who fancy being let off a little early now and again. Disagreement turns to argument, argument to debate, debate to outright schism. Soon the Flat-Dayers and Swervers have pushed the Scheme to the very brink of disaster...and readers to the edge of their chairs in delight.

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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

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars The most boring book I've ever read July 9 2004
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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2.0 out of 5 stars The Scheme For Full Employment April 26 2004
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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4.0 out of 5 stars kind of sci-fi look at work and all its absurdity Jan. 12 2004
By momazon
Format:Paperback
The Scheme, as it is called, requires drivers driving UniVans full of spare parts for UniVans from port to port. It is self-perpetuating, and provides everyone involved with full-employment. No one cares that they are not creating anything or are wasting resources -- they are all gainfully employed!
Except there is the small matter of the "early swervers" who try to get off work early. This causes a division amongst those who would rather do the full 8 hours or "flat-dayers" as they are called.
The book begins with a warning that the Scheme cannot go on forever and sure enough, human nature enters to destroy even this carefully laid-out plan.
This is a great little book, a gem as itpoints out the absurdity of what we call work which can all be boiled down to human beings moving things around the world's surface. very good!
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1.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Bad Dec 18 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I could kick myself for buying this book! It's so awful, I can't even get through it. From the book blurb, it seemed as though the "story" (if you can call it that) was about a small group of men who are pulling the wool over their employers eyes. Not so. Instead, we're told (sort of) of "The Scheme" which, if you stop to think about it, really makes very little sense. What is the point? I mean, this company generates no revenue, so how is it able to employ so many people? How can it really be considered a "Scheme" if everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) is aware of what's going on (the narrator points out that all of London envies "The Scheme" workers). I just don't get it. What is the POINT here? I've never heard of Mills before, and certainly am not going to risk wasting another $14 on any of his other books. This one is just awful.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good entry for first-time Mills readers April 16 2003
Format:Hardcover
So many reviews here are complaining that Mills wasn't up to snuff in relation to his other books. Well, this is the first book of his I've read, and man!, now I want to read the rest.
This is an excellent light comedic satire on work, welfare, social schemes, and the tendency of humans to "give an inch, take a mile." Sure, it's light and frothy but there's also a lot going on behind the scenes here, that is worthy of a bit more reader introspection. Highly recommended.
If this is Mills' slightest work, then his other novels must be truly over the top.
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