Book Reviews

Review: Company by Max Barry

Welcome to my latest 12 Friends 12 Books where I pick up Company! Mike suggested this to me and I was super excited. I’ve read Providence by Max Barry so Company is one of the author’s earlier works. But the question is, what did I really think? Keep reading this book review to find out!


What are the relative merits of sleeping with your boss versus someone at the same level? Which causes the more spectacular career implosion?

When is physical violence an appropriate response to management policy?

The Mission Statement: It can’t be that incomprehensible by accident, can it?

Why is that one reserved parking space always empty?

Taking an extra donut during mid-morning snack: Trivial matter or criminal offense?

If the company is reorganizing again, doesn’t that mean the last reorganization was a total waste of time and money?

What does Senior Management really do up there all day?

. . . and the big one . . .

What is the Meaning of Work?

At Zephyr Holdings, no one has ever seen the CEO. The beautiful receptionist is paid twice as much as anybody else, but does no work. One of the sales reps uses relationship books as sales manuals, and another is on the warpath because somebody stole his donut.

In other words, it’s an ordinary big company. Or at least, that’s what everyone thinks. Until fresh-faced employee Jones—too new to understand that you just don’t ask some questions at Zephyr—starts investigating.

Soon Jones uncovers the company’s secret: the answer to everything, what Zephyr Holdings really does, and why every manager has a copy of the Omega Management System. It plunges him into a maelstrom of love, loyalty, management, and corporate immorality—and whether he can get out again, now that’s a good question.


Unfortunately, Company was a book I found really hard to get into while reading. If you like the idea of a corporate setting which is almost self-cognizant of it’s takes on office culture – then you might enjoy the first parts more than I did. While I only briefly experienced office culture, I definitely could appreciate the wry comical nature of the interactions – but also see the kernel of truth behind them. The petty office politics, the ways we are all absorbed, at the end of the day, in our own worlds. But I think the main reason why Company didn’t work for me was the lack of character depth.

I am a huge fan of character driven stories and the fact is that I didn’t feel like we got to know any of them particularly well. I wanted to know more about what made each of them tick, why they found themselves there. We get senses and snapshots, but it never felt substantial. And part of that might just be the point of Company – that we never really know people we spend hours with a day. But for me, that made it hard to keep my interest. That combined with the fact that the intrigue builds pretty slowly throughout the book – paired with the many POVs – made it hard for me to read a pretty long time.

Around the last 10-20% the action was definitely capitalized upon, but it just felt a bit too late for me. Perhaps I’m just not the right reader for Company, I imagine so, but it breaks my heart I didn’t love it more! There’s certainly an almost existential dread to some passages, to the ways management views the company, and Company is all about the shades of humanity. But as a whole, it’s also a very broad reaching book which has a lot of intellectualism – that may have just gone over my head.

Find Company on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


Do you have a favorite book set in an office?

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One thought on “Review: Company by Max Barry

  1. I have also read this book. It is that twist that saves the author’s third novel from becoming as drab as the office he defines and establishes him as one of the shrewdest and keenest minds in corporate satire. It is extremely rare for a novelist to borrow from so many sources yet come up with something so original.

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