Friday 10 September 2021

Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke @cjkasulke @Hodder_Studio @niamh_anderson #SeveralPeopleAreTyping #BookReview


Is it still WFH when you're now just binary code?

Whilst working on a spreadsheet for a New York-based PR firm, Gerald has his consciousness uploaded into his company's Slack channel. He posts for help, but his colleagues assume it's an elaborate joke to exploit the new working-from-home policy, and now that Gerald's productivity is through the roof, his bosses are only too happy to let him work from . . . wherever he says he is.

Faced with the looming abyss of a disembodied life online, Gerald enlists co-worker Pradeep to care for his body and Slackbot, the service's AI assistant, to help him navigate his new digital reality. But when Slackbot discovers a world (and an empty body) outside the app, will it hijack a ride into the 'real' world?
Meanwhile, Gerald's co-workers are scrambling to stem a company PR catastrophe like no other, their CEO suspects someone is sabotaging his office furniture, and if Gerald gets to work from home all the time, why can't everyone?

Hilarious, irreverent, and wholly original, Several People Are Typing is the perfect remedy for any idle fingers waiting to doomscroll: a satire of both the virtual office and contemporary life, and a perfect antidote to the way we live #now.

Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke was published on 9 September 2021 by Hodder Studio. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

This is like no other book that I've ever read! Written entirely as entries in the chat function of the workplace app Slack, it's certainly a quick read. It's also a very clever, extremely funny and at times, quite touching look at how the modern-day office works. 

I work for myself, by myself. I do not have a workplace app, and I do not use chat rooms to talk to my nonexistent colleagues. However, my husband, who works from an office upstairs in our house, does use these things, so I do have some idea of them. I do know that they can be intrusive and annoying, but it also appears that they can be a way that colleagues can support each other. 

Set in a New York PR agency, the team are in crisis. One of their regular clients; a dog food manufacturer, has had a batch of poisoned food and dogs have died.  It is the job of this team to make it go away. 

Gerald is a member of the team and is currently working from home (WFH), but he's actually not fully at home. His body is in his house, but consciousness seems to have been absorbed into the Slack network and he can't get out. Of course, his colleagues assume that this is just a ploy, and that Gerald is just taking advantage of the company working from home policy. After all, it's a pretty incredible claim!

Not all of the characters in this fairly short novel are human. Slack has a #Helpbot, which is exactly that; a bot, yet somehow, this non-living, non-breathing character becomes a central part of the story. 

I really enjoyed this book. It's very odd, it's different and unusual and at times I just wondered what on earth I was reading. However, it's quite compulsive and the reader grows fond of the characters. They are a likeable bunch on the whole and I really wanted to know what was going to become of Gerald. 

I'm not sure that this style will really take off, but I have every admiration for the author's bravery in attempting to tell a story like this.  It's a funny quick read and certainly made a change. 

Calvin Kasulke is a writer based in Brooklyn, New York. A Lambda Literary Fellow, his 
writing and
reporting have been featured in VICE, Buzzfeed, and Electric Literature.

This is his first book.

Calvin says, 
‘I started writing what would become Several People Are Typing shortly after my tenure as a BuzzFeed editorial fellow ended in NYC and I was first coming out as a trans. Having spent a summer as plugged-in to the internet as I’d ever been, my physical transition forced me to reconcile with inhabiting my body in new, sometimes amazing, and sometimes incredibly difficult ways.’

Plus, the co-creator of Big Mouth on Netflix and much loved comic actor Nick Kroll
has chosen Several People Are Typing as his first development project for Netflix

Twitter @cjkasulke

Instagram @cjkasulke

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