|Submitted by Archren |
(Aug 15, 2006)
“Market Forces” contains the kind of over-the-top satirical political commentary that you don’t trip across every day. Imagine a future where the proverbial dog-eat-dog world of corporate ladder-climbing has become literal. Promotions are had through road rage duels, often to the death, as are competing corporate contract awards. Investment bankers not only have to be decent economists, they also have to be expert hyper-aggressive driver/killers. Luckily the freeways are free of most other traffic, since the price of gasoline long ago outstripped the budgets of average families, exacerbating the plight of the lower classes by stranding them far away from their jobs.
Our protagonist, Chris Faulkner, is one of this new breed of corporate warriors. He has just moved up working “Emerging Markets” with one firm to a job in “Conflict Investments” at a newer, even more aggressive firm. These types of investments involve manipulating third world countries and their wars in such a way to profit Western investors. I think that one of the biggest failings of the book is that by presenting these investment strategies in the middle of such an over-the-top novel (the author in a forward acknowledges of the clear influence of such films as “Mad Max” and “Rollerball”), it makes it seem like the economics are as exaggerated as the violence, when in fact they are much more realistic.
Poor Chris is being attacked from all sides. Many of his co-workers at the new place don’t like him, they think he’s too soft and liberal. Meanwhile, his wife and her socialist academic father accuse him over and over again of being a tool of pure corporate evil. As he starts involving himself in investments in Cambodia and Colombia, he tries to play both sides, using what influence he has to bring in more humane regimes while still killing competitors for his company.
The violence and swearing and screaming eventually become numbing. This may either be a feature of the book, where the author wants you to experience the desensitizing process, or it could be a sign that it needed a little more editing. By the end, though, I really didn’t want to sit through one more screaming fight between Chris and his wife. Morgan hadn’t quite shown us why these two were married in the first place if she can’t go two minutes without attacking his career choice. He doesn’t show us why what he does that the new firm is fundamentally different from what he was doing before, so we don’t understand why she’s getting so shrill about it now.
All in all, this book almost defines the word “unsubtle.” On the other hand, it does achieve a kind of balance. Some of the scenes point up the problems with the passivity inherent in the stereotypical liberal mindset, as well as the exploitive oppression of the aggressively capitalist worldview. Chris gets to see firsthand all the sides of the issues. Whether the choices he makes are good ones or not is up to the reader. They are understandable, however. He’s not some irrational bad guy. That’s a commendable achievement, given where the political sympathies of the author so clearly lie.