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A Shortage of Engineers: A Novel


A Shortage of Engineers: A Novel

Poor Zack Zaremba. The ink barely dry on his crisp, new,
engineering degree, Zack arrives at his first job in his chosen
profession full of ideas, zeal, and lofty ambitions. He soon finds
that his slavish devotion to computing differential equations and
thermodynamics and his nerdish lifestyle at the university has
scarcely prepared him for the realities encountered in the world of
defense contracting.

Confronted with long, tedious hours of lab-ratting "need-to-know"
bits of an Air Force contract that is doomed from the beginning by
impossible specifications, Zack spends a good deal of his time
people-watching his fellow workers. There's the iconoclastic and
ultimately heroic Boulot who wears his clothes backwards to defy
convention; Nerd of all Nerds, the dateless Warren Kushner, who
draws up flowcharts of his conversations with women; and Shopper
Jim, the veteran job-hopper, working to pad his resume while
standing by to jump ship at the first sign of troubled waters. It
seems that nearly all of Zack's coworkers are attending law school
at night, having decided that engineering is not only a source of
little money or job satisfaction, but is a total waste of their
intellectual capacities.

In an effort to bring some sense of a real world to his life, and
despite the fact that he has never played soccer, Zack finds
himself coaching a soccer team of six-year-olds. He falls
desperately in love with Lilah Li, a beautiful Asian-American
fellow engineer, whose son is on his team. Lilah possesses a
whistle-blowing mind set, and a mystery evolves as she discovers
some duplicitous book juggling to pad cost overruns and embroils
Zack in her efforts to disclose the practice, which leads him into
deep waters. Spurred on by his lady love, Zack reluctantly is
forced into decisions that will jeopardize his future with the
company, or with his girlfriend.  

Author Grossman's amusing characterizations of human behavior, at
water coolers and in work cubicles, fits in with the engineering
mind's propensity for quantifying and measuring everything. I mean
everything --- from a hilarious, if gross, account of the
weight and mass of the contents of the human bowel, to compulsive
weighing, measured by milligrams, of the effects of coffee breaks
on weight gain. There is a good deal of ogling of the female
anatomy and fantasizing going on as well, but if you, or an
engineer in your family, are a fan of the Farrelly Brothers'
There's Something About Mary, shamefacedly guffawing at its
broad and decidedly un-PC wit, you'll enjoy A SHORTAGE OF

Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 23, 2011

A Shortage of Engineers: A Novel
by Robert Grossbach

  • Publication Date: July 13, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 0312275544
  • ISBN-13: 9780312275549