Kings of Infinite Space
Have you ever worked in one of those huge soulless offices --- the
kind that is full of row after row of gray cubicles and harsh
fluorescent lighting? Then perhaps you know how mind numbing the
days in these environments can be. But for Paul Trilby, who works
in just such an office, life in a cubicle, so he thought, was the
least of his concerns.
James Hynes's latest novel KINGS OF INFINITE SPACE, tells the story
of Paul Trilby, a temp worker employed in the General Services
Department of the Texas Department of General Services. Trilby
didn't always work as a tech writer in a government office. In
fact, he was once an English professor at a prestigious university.
But he was fired from his job there and when his wife Elizabeth
found out about his girlfriend Kymberly, he was divorced as well.
After Kym and Paul moved to Lamar, Texas (a thinly veiled Austin),
their relationship also falls apart. Paul now finds himself typing
away at TxDoGS, an office filled with eccentric and creepy
characters, and living in a run down motel, haunted by Elizabeth's
dead cat, Charlotte.
It soon becomes clear to Paul that the problems of working at
TxDoGS are bigger than dealing with the snotty Olivia or his
clueless boss Rick. For example, who is leaving cryptic Post-it
note messages on his computer screen? Why does he feel like he is
being watched? Is the recycling bin really a bottomless pit? Why
are people afraid to be in the office after dark? And, finally, who
are the mysterious Stanley Tulendji and Boy G, and what do they
want from Paul?
KINGS OF INFINITE SPACE is office life taken to an absurd, but
unique, extreme. Hynes's satire has a bit of the supernatural
thrown in for good measure. Paul Trilby is a classic everyman down
on his luck (granted, his current predicament is entirely his
fault). He is grumpy and arrogant but still actually likeable. And,
as Paul becomes more and more enmeshed in the bizarre world of
TxDoGS, we cheer for him more and more.
The mysteries and secrets of the Texas Department of General
Services finally become clear to Paul and at the same time
dangerous. Hynes asks Paul (and readers) to think about how much he
is willing to sacrifice for a work-free life, a life unaffected by
gray cubicles and mindless busy work. Hynes also questions if a
person is defined by the work they do.
KINGS OF INFINITE SPACE is at turns frightening and laugh out loud
funny. Hynes has captured many of the realities of office work
while contorting them to nightmarish fantasies. From office
politics to bloodthirsty zombies, from classic literary references
to a steamy love affair, Hynes erases lines between genres by
putting it all in one quite readable novel. Smartly written, this
is an entertaining examination of nine to five America. While it
doesn't offer many revolutionary insights into postmodern
alienation and the costs of productivity versus creativity, you
will never look at the ceiling tiles above your desk the same way
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 22, 2011
Kings of Infinite Space
- Publication Date: April 3, 2004
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press
- ISBN-10: 031245645X
- ISBN-13: 9780312456450