The Scheme for Full Employment: A Novel Hardcover – Dec 6 2002
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
The Scheme, as it is called, requires drivers driving UniVans full of spare parts for UniVans from port to port. Read morePublished on Jan. 12 2004 by momazon
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... Read morePublished on Dec 18 2003
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! Read morePublished on April 16 2003 by Mark Rose
All throughout the country, men are driving UniVans (filled with, you guessed it, UniVan parts) to and from warehouses and getting paid for their time in what is known as The... Read morePublished on March 8 2003 by Anna Klein
I was hesitant to pick this up after reading other people's reviews, but I went ahead anyway. It's actually not that bad of a book unless you're expecting something revolutionary... Read morePublished on March 5 2003 by Amazon Customer