Monday, June 22, 2015

Book Review: Everything's Fine by Socrates Adams

I bought this book without knowing much about it. I think I saw it mentioned by some other author I follow on social media and bought it on a whim. I can't say I regretted picking it up.

Ian's job is selling PVC tubes. He's not very good at it. His boss tries to light a fire under his ass by giving him a piece of tube, naming it Mildred and making him raise it as a baby. When that doesn't work, he demotes Ian to the position of Tiny Shit Head, a job that consists of being strapped into a chair and forced to watch a monitor count down numbers. In between his job and taking care of Mildred, he plans and saves for a vacation in the French Alps. He ends up developing a crush on the pretty travel agent, Sandra, in the process.
Although I am not earning a great deal of money, I feel as though my new job is going pretty well. It is a demanding position which carries a large amount of responsibility and is high powered and executive. 
Ian is clearly unhappy with his life, but is clearly in denial about it. He tries to console himself that his sale skills are important, even though he clearly has none. He doesn't even have basic social skills. His denial is very thin however, his unhappiness with the world around him peeks through very often. This scene where he's pushing Mildred in a stroller and it begins to rain, for example.
I imagine the water rising so fast that I have to struggle to keep moving, all of the filth of the pavement licking at my skin. The water will rise all the way up to the bottom of the pram. The water will carry on rising upwards.
Ian feels like the world is drowning him.

He doesn't get much respect either. His boss treats him like dirt, people laugh at him behind his back and even Mildred has some choice words about him.
I don't understand him. I can't work him out. I don't understand why he would come and get me. I am a tube.
What I do know is that he has made me so miserable today that is is almost certainly the worst day of my life so far.
Whether the digressions into Mildred's thoughts are really the tube thinking or Ian projecting himself on to it is rather ambiguous. While Ian plays the role he was given and treats the tube like a baby, it's clear he knows how stupid the whole thing is. It also serves as a metaphor for Ian's own situation.
A tube's natural state is to be part of the plumbing, or more specifically, to carry something from somewhere to somewhere else. When it is not part of the plumbing it will roll about and get in the way and be a nuisance, because it is not doing what it is meant to be doing. It is not doing what it was made to do.
The problem with humans is they don't know what they were made to do. None of them knows what their natural state is.
Ian's pathetic state would be really annoying if he made no attempts to better himself. He does, however, work hard to save money to go to the French Alps. He loses a lot of weight by eating less food, but also gets roped into a ridiculous pyramid scheme. He also makes bumbling attempts to get with Sandra, which ends up landing him in even more trouble.

My two major complaints is that for all the time spent building up Ian's absurd and awful life, he seems to snap out of his complacency rather quickly. When he finally goes on his vacation, his epiphany feels rather forced. There is also a lot of repetition in the book that seems to be trying to help show Ian's trapped mindset, but doesn't really end up contributing much.

All in all, I think this is a solid novel. It's a funny and enjoyable absurd comedy about the emptiness of modern work life. Anyone who's ever worked a shitty job will sympathize with Ian's plight. This book is Socrates Adams's debut, and I think it's a good sign he'll be coming out with something even better in the future. I definitely recommend this, and I look forward to reading Adams's future works.

Buy Everything's Fine by Socrates Adams here.

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