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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If dry cynicism is your bag then I'd recommend...
...parting with the pennies (or exercising your local library card) for this one.
It is an excellent examination of the human condition of never being satisfied with what you have and in trying to improve and abuse a rather idyllic situation, realising it can all come to an unforeseen end (or foreseen for the reader).
Having now read a few more of Mills' books,...
Published on 10 Oct 2005 by Mozfish

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Magnus Mills by numbers
Readers happily familiar with Magnus Mills’ output to date will find The Scheme for Full Employment a joy for it’s more of the same – more sparse landscapes, more spare dialogue and more characters rounded only just enough to permit all manner of allegorical possibilities. Fans of Magnus Mills’ output, however, may be slightly disappointed for...
Published on 3 Mar 2003 by Howard Swains


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If dry cynicism is your bag then I'd recommend..., 10 Oct 2005
...parting with the pennies (or exercising your local library card) for this one.
It is an excellent examination of the human condition of never being satisfied with what you have and in trying to improve and abuse a rather idyllic situation, realising it can all come to an unforeseen end (or foreseen for the reader).
Having now read a few more of Mills' books, I seek comfort in identifying with his dry look at behaviour in society through his prose. His novels are written in the first person and the reader is never given the name or gender of the character whose point of view his novels are written from, which immediately transports you into that situation.
I definitely recommend this, and other novels by the same author, to those who enjoy people-watching and human idiosyncrasies.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Magnus Mills by numbers, 3 Mar 2003
By 
Howard Swains (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Readers happily familiar with Magnus Mills’ output to date will find The Scheme for Full Employment a joy for it’s more of the same – more sparse landscapes, more spare dialogue and more characters rounded only just enough to permit all manner of allegorical possibilities. Fans of Magnus Mills’ output, however, may be slightly disappointed for exactly the same reasons – it’s very similar to what we’ve grown to love, but we’re used to it now, can maybe even predict some of the twists, and may find that The Scheme for Full Employment doesn’t add anything particularly new.
The narrator—unnamed, as ever—is one cog in the machine that makes up the eponymous Scheme, driving a Univan from one depot to another delivering an unspecified product for an unspecified purpose and an unspecified wage. The scene is beautifully Mills-ian, unquestioning men at work in the company of other unquestioning men, never dwelling long enough with each other for characters to develop above a single identifiable trait; George delivers cakes as a sideline, Jonathan is in his first week, Arthur is the grumpy guardian of keys. The narrator—again typically—is also slightly marginalized: he feels uncomfortable in the communal canteen and in the early stages of the book is taken off of his regular run to make solitary timing journeys to Eden Lacey depot, prior to possible expansion of the scheme. Thus, when there is something of an uprising in his home depot (a clash of ethics between early swervers and flat-dayers) he misses it and, as ever, ‘plot’ is something that happens elsewhere.
This technique may be unique to Mills but its effects have been tried and tested in all his novels to date. Despite (or possibly because of) our narrator’s obedient reluctance to question or embellish, our imaginations run riot, trying to fill in so many gaps that we create a fiction all of our own. Then, when Mills casually drops in answers to some of our questions, we can find ourselves bowled over by nothing more than effortless simplicity. Just like we can never be sure who are the Hall Brothers in The Restraint of Beasts or why does Bryan Webb wear a cardboard crown in All Quiet on the Orient Express, it’s a long time before we figure out exactly what The Scheme is all about. Or, at least, that’s the idea.
And this is my main criticism of The Scheme for Full Employment: I never considered Mills to be running a mile ahead of me this time out; it’s all a bit obvious, and I guessed the twists. None of the characters are as bafflingly enigmatic as Michael Painter in Three to See The King, or Hodge in All Quiet, for example. None of the settings are as instantly eerie as any of the pubs in Mills’ first two novels and the parable at the heart of the story is not so provocatively told as it is in his third. What we get is almost a Mills novel by numbers: all the ingredients are there but some of the magic and mystery has evaporated, mainly through over exposure. This is still a book well worth reading; you’ll fly through it and enjoy every page, but though the breath of air Mills blows through the stuffy contemporary literature scene is not yet stale, neither is it as icy-fresh as it once was.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another example of Mills' grandeur, 22 May 2004
By 
Norberto Amaral (Aveiro, Portugal) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Magnus Mills must surely be one of the finest contemporary British novelists. His style is without parallel - dead-pan, some people call it, anti-hero I call it, it doesn't matter: whichever way you try to label it, it doesn't fit into the tusual novel/fable models.
"The Scheme for Full Employment" is a grand program that, well, guarantees full employment. Eight hours' worth of work for eight hours' pay. Grand days await those who join the scheme, what with an easy job that pays extremely well and has lots of benefits and perks attached to it.
The Scheme relies on a network of depots/distribution centres, with all that goes with it: a mechanical, almost flawless organisation, workers for every kind of task (from key keepers to gate guards), and, obviously, van - pardon, UniVan - drivers wheeling some kind of materials to and fro, in an never ending merry-go-round of transportation.
As the book progresses we find out that nothing happens to the merchandise being carried... it simply gets carried around from depot to depot on and off UniVans. And, most strangely and comically, that the goods are, well, UniVan parts. Now how stranger can the book get?
I won't go into more detail about the plot, but I can't resists making a couple of remarks about the book and the style. Firslty, Mills uses many symbols but is sufficiently smart and unpretentious so he doesn't leave it up to the reader to find out what those symbols are; everything is cleverly explained leaving no room for doubt. Then, there are hardly any references to the outside world; whilst the reader knows for a fact that such people do exist, the fact is that the narrator only narrates about The Scheme. As a result, we are in a kind of 1984/Brave New World age of social transformation mixed in with a lot of human talent - or lack of it.
Whilst the ending could have been a little more creative it was such a... well, dead pan ending that it is quite in keeping with the rest. I loved this book so much that now I can't wait until the next Mills' novels!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another example of Mills' grandeur, 23 July 2004
By 
Norberto Amaral (Aveiro, Portugal) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Magnus Mills must surely be one of the finest contemporary British novelists. His style is without parallel - dead-pan, some people call it, anti-hero I call it, it doesn't matter: whichever way you try to label it, it doesn't fit into the tusual novel/fable models.
"The Scheme for Full Employment" is a grand program that, well, guarantees full employment. Eight hours' worth of work for eight hours' pay. Grand days await those who join the scheme, what with an easy job that pays extremely well and has lots of benefits and perks attached to it.
The Scheme relies on a network of depots/distribution centres, with all that goes with it: a mechanical, almost flawless organisation, workers for every kind of task (from key keepers to gate guards), and, obviously, van - pardon, UniVan - drivers wheeling some kind of materials to and fro, in an never ending merry-go-round of transportation.
As the book progresses we find out that nothing happens to the merchandise being carried... it simply gets carried around from depot to depot on and off UniVans. And, most strangely and comically, that the goods are, well, UniVan parts. Now how stranger can the book get?
I won't go into more detail about the plot, but I can't resists making a couple of remarks about the book and the style. Firslty, Mills uses many symbols but is sufficiently smart and unpretentious so he doesn't leave it up to the reader to find out what those symbols are; everything is cleverly explained leaving no room for doubt. Then, there are hardly any references to the outside world; whilst the reader knows for a fact that such people do exist, the fact is that the narrator only narrates about The Scheme. As a result, we are in a kind of 1984/Brave New World age of social transformation mixed in with a lot of human talent - or lack of it.
Whilst the ending could have been a little more creative it was such a... well, dead pan ending that it is quite in keeping with the rest. I loved this book so much that now I can't wait until the next Mills' novels!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read for any potential public sector manager, 27 Jun 2005
By 
Mr. Malvern S. May "morphmay" (essex UK) - See all my reviews
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this book will not be very interesting to anyone who has not worked in the UK. to those who have it will be a enjoyable fantasy, with a LOT OF MEANING. the book seems to be based in the 1960s; but it still has a lot of comtemporary points. the basic plot is covered in previous reviews, but the idea of a large number of people doing non productive work, courtesy of the tax payer, oblivious to the fact that their jobs are of no benefit, has a lot of relevance to the 'job creation' seen in the last few years.
i defy anyone who has worked for the NHS to read it without smiling
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mmmm..., 4 Jan 2009
By 
Frances Stott (Devizes, Wiltshire) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
I think the reading world is divided into two camps where Mills is concerned: those who 'get' him, and those who don't. I'm still trying to work out where I belong. My son, who is a huge fan, drip feeds me with his books, and I read them; partly out of duty, and partly out of a kind of semi-bored fascination. He is certainly different, and his flat humour can be wonderful, but in this novel I found the humour somewhat lacking (ok - the line at the end of chapter 6, remarked on by other reviewers, is brilliant, but one funny line doesn't make a comic novel). As in all his books, it's hard to sympathise with any of the characters (they are two dimensional), and even harder to wonder what's going to happen next (because the answer is, invariably, nothing). He's certainly got something; he's certainly unique. But will I read his next book? Probably not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strangely captivating, 6 Sep 2003
By 
C. Pope "funkychicken73" (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
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It’s standard Mills fare, in that for the first few pages you’re thinking “What on earth is this all about? When is something going to happen?” And then all of a sudden you are hooked! I read the book in two or three sessions, and found myself thinking about the characters in-between times. The plot is accused of being one-dimensional, but this is intentional so we can project our own interpretation. Mills is very clever in getting the reader to do a lot of the work. I didn’t feel that ‘The Scheme for Full Employment’ was as strong as ‘Three to See the King’, or ‘All Quiet on the Orient Express’, but nevertheless it is an engaging, thought-provoking, and often funny book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Curious parable about the "British Disease" - postmen take note!, 8 Nov 2009
By 
M. J. Jacobs "michael jacobs" (Edgware, London, UK) - See all my reviews
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That Mills was a bus driver informs the reader of the possibly autobiographical nature of this book. It is hard to describe without spoiling the story, so I will have to leave the reader to discover the hidden delights of this novel.

As it begins, drivers in smart uniforms go out according to their duty rosters, and deliver crates from one place to another in wonderful "Univans". Their comings and goings are directed by bureaucratic supervisors, and follow tortuously detailed working practices. It all seems like a wonderful idea when you start, but as you carry on, the narrative begins to tell a different story.

As the book reaches midway, the underlying truth about "the Scheme" has begun to emerge, and the "glorious days" of this massive piece of social engineering all take on a very different complexion. The ending starts to take shape, and then suddenly swerves(!) to an unexpected solution.

Along the way, we witness the British obsession for "more than me jobs' worth", the importance of drinking tea, the correct attitude to taking work-breaks, and of course, the right to have a cushy job that nobody else really needs or wants you to be doing at their expense.

It almost reminds me of the sheer pointlessness of the British postal strikes of recent times.

Suffice to say, this book is not for everybody. It is very strangely but - I feel - compellingly written. If you understood Peter Sellar's classic "I'm Alright Jack", then you should get this. But the truth is that nobody I know who started this book managed to finish it apart from myself - and the reviewers here - and that makes it a virtual cult classic.

Give it a go, and you might be pleasantly surprised. I know I was.
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5.0 out of 5 stars flatter than a dead pan, 29 Jun 2007
By 
I started with Magnus M in predictable fashion: as sure as red-faced frustration follows a request for a resident's parking permit, I followed Restraint of Beasts from Booker prize nomin. to Waterstone's 3 for 2. But that was enough, I've been a convert ever since. Magnus Mills' is a shiny shoe genius. Prosaic prose - no syllable knowingly overused, fables that self-feed in a constant Godel Loop, a torrent of allegorical activity just beyond the eye-tips of the reader, is precisely his point. The fact that he manages to do all that while making us chuckle is staggeringly clever.

The Scheme for Full Employment takes a pot shot at cosy self-serving Shangri-La's. The work exists only because the work exists. I'm sure there is an existential point being made here. Individuality and rule breaking is both frowned upon and rife. And, if you look carefully, I think there is an allegorical reference to the Original Sin story. Men running around in an Eden-like Utopia, until the arrival of woman - check out some of the place names, I think they give a clue...

Read it, and Mills' other stuff - in particular All Quiet on the Orient Express - utterly brilliant.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mills Bombs, 27 Feb 2003
The Scheme For Full Employment is a beautifully put together little book and the usual sort of Mills fare - small pages, wide-set type and lots of dialogue so it won't take long to read. (Ace.) Normally - certainly with his last novel, Three to See the King - this speed is held in check somewhat by you stopping every few pages to think about the strange things that have just happened.

But in The Scheme for Full Employment, that doesn't happen. Despite its intentionally bewildering cast of dozens, it's all pretty simple, and one might even say one-dimensional. That one dimension is satire of work and labour - which anyone might point out that Mills has done before with more complexity in The Restraint of Beasts and All Quiet on the Orient Express.
While there are lots of nice touches - like the industry-specific slang ("early-swervers," "flat-dayers," "ten off the eight"), or the references to real labour disputes in Britain (beer and sandwiches are sent in to the delegates at one stage, the sole female character has a touch of the Thatchers to her) - the book is still really rather one-dimensional, with far fewer laughs than his other books (though the punchline at the end of chapter 6 is a corker), and precious little depth - unless he has shrouded it in in such a high distillation of simplicity that it simply passed me by.

The blurb goes thus: "The whole concept is so simple yet so perfect: men drive to and from strategically placed warehouses in Univans - identical and very serviceable vehicles - transporting replacement parts for ... Univans. Gloriously self-perpetuating, the Scheme for Full Employment is more than social engineering; it is the unified field theory of the modern working world. And what greater good can there be than honest wages for honest labour?"

Now this is one of those blurbs, like Vonnegut's Galápagos, that is tempting but awfully ill-judged. In fact the book doesn't tell us what the purpose of the Scheme is until halfway through, but any feeling of Sixth-Sense-style rug-from-undering is entirely undone by what the blurb has already told us. It's possible that, if it hadn't been explained on the cover flap, the moment of revelation of what The Scheme is (see above) - which comes halfway into the book - could have been a real Catch-22 moment. But as it is, the book can pretty well be summed up by the last paragraph, which you can read for yourself so as not to spoil the "surprise."
Incidentally the flap on the American edition also calls Mills "the acknowledged contemporary master of the working-class dystopic parable." And I gather he's also in the shortlist for world's tallest dwarf.
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The Scheme for Full Employment: reissued
The Scheme for Full Employment: reissued by Magnus Mills (Paperback - 16 May 2011)
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