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Paul Trilby is still haunted by the ghost of Charlotte, the cat he drowned in "Queen of the Jungle" (included in Hynes's 1997 story collection,Publish and Perish), in this hilarious supernatural sendup of office life. An affair having destroyed his marriage and promising academic career, Paul now temps as a tech writer in the General Services Division of the Texas Department of General Services (TxDoGS) in the Austin-like city of Lamar. One hot summer morning, stuck in traffic, he has an encounter with a peculiar homeless man who repeats a question from H.G. Wells'sIsland of Doctor Moreau, "Are we not men?" This is but the first of a series of uncanny incidentsâ€"a corpse in a cubicle no one appears to notice, a recycling bin that seems to have no bottomâ€"that dog Paul at TxDoGS. The romance he strikes up with Callie, the appealingly goofy company "mail girl," provides the novel's emotional center. When the feckless Paul is put to the ultimate test, a Faustian bargain with zombies to surrender his soul and sacrifice Callie for a free ride at TxDoGS, readers will be on the edge of their seats wondering whether he'll do the right thing. Amusing incidentals include the subversive sentences Paul pens for a textbook and the cat-related fare that is all Charlotte allows him to watch on TV. While the office may not be quite as juicy a subject for satire as the academic world skewered in the author's last novel,The Lecturer's Tale(2002), the same literate wit should have wide appeal.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.--This text refers to theHardcoveredition.
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ISBN-10:  0312319665
Author:  James Hynes
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher:  Picador
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review by . June 14, 2010
This novelist likes tales of downscale academics, overeducated drones downsized to cubicles. "The Lecturer's Tale" ended with a Grand Guignol collapse rivaling the fall of the House of Usher; "Publish & Perish" gathered a trilogy of cautionary stories about the perils of the tenure-tracked, and "Next" (see my review) most recently extends his purview into his favorite protagonist, another laid-low Ph.D. in English Lit doomed to redundancy.    Hynes as a Michigan-born resident …
Kings of Infinite Space: A Novel
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