This book was like The Hunger Games meets The Handmaids Tale in a corporate office scenario. It was morbidly twisted and solidifies my hatred for anything that looks like a cubicle corporate job. I could almost feel my creative juices being crushed while I read.
Herman Louse is a live-in caretaker/nurse for a squeamish germ-a-phobic old billionaire who he calls Poppy. Poppy lives in the top penthouse of his large casino somewhere in the middle of a desert and is waited upon by a staff of what seems like hundreds who are simply known by their last names. They do everything from accounting and finance to running the casino’s surveillance and marketing. However, no one, including Herman, seems to really know what’s going on. Everything about the Blackwell Corporation they work for is under wraps, and the only communication they receive is in the form of contracts and notices. Their lives are regimented down to the minute, and their contracts dictate everything from when they can leave their rooms to who they can speak to, to the nature of things they are allowed to think about. They are under surveillance 24-7 and contracts encourage whistle blowing for infractions of any kind.
Herman is our storyteller for most of the book, but since he’s learning along with us, his chapters are intermingled with reports, news story snippets, and letters found in the aftermath of the casino firm’s destruction. From these reports we learn that casino patrons who’ve racked up too much debt are taken by the company, have their memory wiped, and are forced to work their debt off by being employed by Poppy. Any infractions to the contracts amount to more debt owed, keeping the workers in perpetual servitude.
While it’s obvious that Herman is basically dead inside from living under such a regime, he goes about his daily tasks obediently and quietly until he accidentally breaks protocol and ends up mired in an embezzlement plot against the company.
The descriptions in the book are amazing and while I wished the ending gave up more information, it was fun trying to predict where this story was going as Herman’s memories start returning and the full, horrible realization of his situation befalls him.