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.
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