*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author and Eye and Lightning Books. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Sacked from his first job in Dublin, Mark McGuire arrives in the dismal town of Ashcross to take up a new role as customer service assistant for Ireland’s second-biggest pet food brand, WellCat. From his initial impressions, it’s a toss-up whether he’ll die of misery or boredom.
He couldn’t be more wrong. For starters, the improbably cute receptionist, Kevin, seems willing to audition as the man of Mark’s dreams. There’s also the launch of a hush-hush new product, Future Fish, on the horizon. Not to mention the ragtag band of exorcists, alien-hunters and animal rights warriors who are all convinced WellCat is up to no good. Why are these crackpots so keen on getting close to Mark? And will their schemes ruin his career prospects?
In a deliciously daft comic caper, Conor Sneyd perfectly captures the powerlessness of low-rung office life as well as the seductive zealotry of our times.
How can a story that is mainly about the highs and lows of normal office life be so thoroughly entertaining?!
Main character, Mark, is having a pre-mid-life crisis of sorts. Having been sacked from his job for lack of enthusiasm, he is determined to throw himself wholeheartedly into boring corporate drone life in his new role of email-answerer at WellCat pet food company. Luckily for Mark (and us readers) life and his new colleagues/friends are determined to thwart his efforts at mediocrity, resulting in a series of ridiculous and ridiculously funny situations involving conspiracies, a bit of light crime, and a widespread desperation to get into WellCat’s mysterious basement lab and uncover the big secret of Future Fish cat food.
This all mingles together into a delightfully chaotic romp of a story that manages to be both amusingly absurd (in a similar way to the John Cleese film Clockwise) and yet instantly relatable to anyone who has ever worked a low-grade office job answering the same customer emails over and over again – not an easy feat, but Conor Sneyd pulls it off here with aplomb.
The characters, other than Mark, feel somewhat over-exaggerated and larger than life but this doesn’t detract from the quality of the story but instead adds to the wacky surreality of it all, with Mark as the ‘straight (gay) guy’ in all the chaos. I was equal parts horrified and happy to learnt that the author based said characters partially on his own real-life activist experiences… I never before pictured an overlap between animal rights activism, aliens and religious zealotry, but now I do!
Easy to read and, in fact, difficult to stop reading, this is a really clever and light-hearted debut that kept me on the hook throughout. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more books from this author in future, whether they feature more of Mark’s antics with his quirky crew, or something entirely different.
‘There’s just one little thing you won’t find in the Handbook…’ Her expression falters, the mask of cool corporate professionalism slipping for just a second. When she speaks again, her voice is low and deadly serious. ‘… The laboratory in the basement is strictly off-limits.’– Conor Sneyd, Future Fish
‘Laboratory? I didn’t even know there was one.’
‘It’s just a Health and Safety thing,’ she says, reverting back to her former manner. ‘Nothing to worry about.’
I nod, feeling a bead of sweat trickle down my neck.
‘But it’s extremely important, nonetheless. No matter what you see, no matter what you hear – even if another staff member tells you otherwise – under no circumstances should you ever set foot inside the laboratory.
‘Have I made myself clear?’
Purchase Link: Future Fish on Amazon
About the author
Conor Sneyd was born and raised in Dublin, where he studied English Literature at Trinity College.
After a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he spent several years working as an environmental and animal rights activist. The larger-than-life characters he encountered in this field served as inspiration for his debut novel, Future Fish.
He currently lives in London with his boyfriend Gordon.