The Scheme for Full Employment Paperback – 15 Mar 2004
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'A British writer to be treasured' Independent on Sunday
'Mills's odd but wonderful books combine the language of a children's story and the strange dry humour of Harold Pinter… This is a writer [whose] apparent simplicity sends your imagination flying in a way that is magical and unique.' Daily Express
'A unique talent… Mills's novels are among the best and most original in recent English fiction.' Literary Review
'Magnus Mills is a genius…an extraordinary individual with a completely unique view of the world, who makes sense of it in totally unexpected and inexplicable ways. It's rare that you finish a book feeling so richly satisfied.' Big Issue
'A unique talent ... Mills's novels are among the best and most original in recent English fiction' Literary Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
"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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I take no joy in negative reviews, but frankly the balance needs to be redressed here, drastically. Sorry Mr. Mills but this is boring unimaginative twaddle. Not funny, nor clever. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Where Is Belgium?
Book was clearly not new, but perfectly acceptable condition. No complaints.Published 3 months ago by Robin
If you know the slow but compulsive narrative of his books, you'll enjoy this one, although not as much as the Restraint of Beasts. Read morePublished on 16 April 2014 by A Mum on the Run
I bought this book to read on holiday after reading 'A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In' which I found a quirky light read, however, I found this book quite dull and... Read morePublished on 7 Dec. 2013 by Agghhh
I found this book funny, sarcastic and with a rapidly moving story which was full of human characteristics. Read morePublished on 18 Sept. 2013 by jackie hamilton
Already read a couple of books by Magnus Mills and love his slightly different take on the situation, his wonderful use of language and the slightly abstract scenarios he conjures... Read morePublished on 9 Sept. 2013 by Kev D.
I found this book boring, despressive, no escapism at all and unusually for me I haven't finished reading it nor will I.Published on 18 Jun. 2012 by West Coast
I worked as a postman many years ago and this book reminds me of those days even if it's about widget distribution (which, funnily enough, is how I earn a living now). Read morePublished on 23 Oct. 2011 by Amlaffin
A gossamer treat. Every word lovingly chosen, not a syllable wasted. It's a prose poem, rather than a short story. Read morePublished on 15 July 2011 by tiredoldtimer