Cubicles Anonymous is a timely tale of corporate work in the modern world. It grabbed me from the first page. It explores questions about ethics and the national conversation about finding a sense of purpose. Written by Brett Pahler and self-published, it is an accomplished, enjoyable book that takes place in our current time, and features a protagonist named Silas.
Silas is an accountant who has a plan to bring accountability to the weapons manufacturing corporation that he works for. In just a couple of weeks, the action of the novel centers on this plan, how the plan changes, and his misgivings or renewed sense of purpose regarding his plan. The reader gets to know several characters at the corporation and in Silas’s life. Silas attended Middlebury, has never had a passion for his work, and is scheduled to meet a friend in Budapest in a few days. Genevieve is a hard-working single mom whose son has significant health problems and she is Silas’s closest friend at work. Oliver is a creepy, womanizing coworker who can’t be left alone with a female coworker in a car. Pete is an upper-level manager who really means well but sometimes can’t see the bigger ethical picture. The characters are well written and realistic. The reader gets the sense that Pahler has worked in a setting like this and knows the people whom he is writing about. The passages about the SEC, accounting, and weapons systems seem natural for Pahler to write.
The book doesn’t lose its sense of humanity by giving into stereotypes about the “bad corporation”, which impressed me. It seems like a difficult road- to offer criticism about modern corporate culture (Silas’s impressions of mandatory meetings are quite funny) without becoming a farce. I felt that the middle section became a bit long, and some of the travel passages a bit unrealistic. I wanted the plot to wrap up a little sooner than it did. But otherwise, the novel moves quite effortlessly. It feels original. The protagonist, Silas, is easy to like. He wants to improve the world but weighs who gets hurt in his plan (including himself). Like most far fetched plans, his changes according to reality. The ending was satisfying. I really enjoyed having a true conclusion, an ending that brings the whole novel together.
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