Monday, December 7, 2009

e2: A Novel by Matt Beaumont (3/5 stars)

I wasn't sure what to expect of this sequel to Beaumont's "e: A Novel". I received this book as an advanced reading copy through the Amazon Vine program. I have never read "e" but heard it was very funny. So, I was looking forward to reading "e2" in hopes that it would be just as amusing.

This book follows a variety of people at Meerkat360 advertising firm. In addition to the people working there, it also follows more closely the life of director of the company Don Cutter and his lawyer wife, Janet, as they struggle through their lives with their family and trying to deal with their overwhelming jobs. The struggling ad agency ends up getting big gigs both marketing off-beat celebrity perfumes (Margaret Thatcher perfume is one example) and mini-cigarettes (aimed at kids of course). The entirety of the story is told through e-mails, blog posts, and IMs.

To say that the characters in this book are dysfunctional is putting it mildly. This book is full of wacky and zany characters who can't possibly represent the human race as we know it. Beaumont does a surprisingly good job getting across a mostly cohesive story through e-mails, blog posts, and IMs. Not having read the first book, I felt like I missed some things that could have been funny, especially references to various characters' pasts. Still this book can be read as a stand-alone without reading the first one. The general story is independent of the the first book.

The book made me laugh more than a few times. It was a surprisingly funny book and the way it was written, all in electronic communication, was novel and interesting. At points some of the communication between characters are very realistic and remind me of some of the stupider things I have had to put up with at work.

Unfortunately more than a few times it made me groan at wackiness that was just too contrived and crazy to ever take place. At points this book went a bit over the top for me. As far as characters go, there is not a redeemable one in the whole of this book. The whole book is about a bunch of tossers, who all get what they deserve. Sometimes it is funny, sometimes it was pitiful. There are a lot of characters to keep track of too; also Beaumont doesn't clarify what chat IDs belong to which characters so you have to struggle through that in the beginning and figure it out as you go.

Overall I liked the novelty of the book and it was amusing. It is a long book though, and I got kind of sick of reading about all of this contrived wackiness, towards the end of the book I just wanted to be done with it. The characters were a bit too over the top for me, and although at times amusing, they were also annoying. Reading 500 pages of e-mails and IMs got a bit old too. I would have preferred this book as a shorter version, the story was just a bit too drawn out.

I think people who like "Office Space" and "The Office" TV series will get into this book. I am actually a big fan of both, but still found the characters in this book to be a bit much at times and the story to be too drawn out. So, I guess if you are really into over-the-top humor on top of being an "Office" fan, then this would be the perfect book for you. I probably won't read any more of these books in the future; I just didn't enjoy it as much as I was hoping.

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