I was sent this book by a commenter over at Joi Ito's after having a few lively discussions with him. Turns out he is starting Blood and Treasure Publications and, I think, this is their debut publication. Congratulations all around.
First impressions from the teaser (on the website) really gave me no idea what I was going to be reading.
From a renegade team of international corporate surveillance experts comes a behind-the-scenes, riveting tale of one of America's biggest corporations stuggling to best practice to life in a cruelly competitive businessworld.
Well, with such a serious teaser, you can imagine my (somewhat pleasant) surprise when...
Institutionalized is a heavy-hitting, tongue in cheek, parody of American corporate bueracracy. Complete with corporate espionage, a CEO with a very literal Napolean complex, a backstabbing chief of operations, and a whole lot of happy pills (for the characters, not the readers). I'm sure Institutionalized would have anyone who has ever toiled away in quiet desperation beneath the cruelty of memos, e-mails, and company-wide voicemails dying pleasant, laughter-induced deaths.
Thats why I needed to give it only a 6. I, unfortunately (or maybe I mean 'fortunately'), have never worked in a corporate office. Yes, I 'got' all of the jokes, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that anyone who has been in that environment would get them more. Somewhere in the back of my mind, as I was reading it, I knew that these parodies of people - actually exist.
The plot was fairly straightforward. Enter into this corporate nightmare, Lance Kirevam, straight talking man from the streets with no college degree, whom the CEO met in a bar. His first action is to promote the tatooed temp worker, who looks more like a bouncer than a secretary - pardon me "Administrative Assistant". Clashes with corporate polotics ensue throughout PR crisises, sales deals with the U.S. govt's military "Octogon", and attempts to outsource production to China. We read along as the other department heads, collectively Tom, Dick, and Harry try to frame Lance and through their bumbling succeed mainly in framing Intstitutionalized Industries.
As I mentioned, I feel this book is very targeted towards people who are familiar with the corporate *ahem* bullshit-environment. In that regard, its more about the characters than it is about the action.
It is, by and large, an American's stereotypical view of British humor - witty, heavy on the wordplay, making clever use of stock characters, and a little lengthy. This doesn't detract from it, but it does mean Institutionalized is meant for a specific target audience.
All-in-all and decent, enjoyable read, a even better gift for your colleagues still stuck in hell as you quit to pursue your freelance dreams.