Along with rapid growth and development, the IT revolution has also brought in several problems which were previously not known. The young generation is still inexperienced in its dealings with the outside world and does not have any possibility of support from the older generation. How does it fight its battles continues to enjoy the focus of contemporary literature. The recent changes in society in general, and in the workplace in particular, present a lot of scope for experiment in literature. Still, the numerous books that have been set on this background ended up being similar to each other, just like the uniforms of the professionals whose lives they narrate.
The recently published novel The Big Switch — It’s Never Too Late by John Thomas is based on similar theme, and is already receiving positive response. The novel tells the story of a young professional Keith who is working in a software firm and the various battles that he has to fight in his professional and personal lives. The novel is directed at young professionals in their twenties, who have just entered the job market and are still trying to make sense of the new world. It is hoped that these young readers would find some motivation through this novel. I would not divulge the details of the story or spoil the excitement that every reader cherishes. Instead, I would focus my review on the criticism of the writer’s style, the various flaws and strong points of the novel.
First the flaws. The story begins with a lazy start. No description of the position or job requirement of the protagonist Keith is given. In fact, we are not even told what does his company deal in. We can only guess that it is a software firm by ‘. . . realizing his mother’s dream of seeing her son become a Software Engineer’. From the beginning of the novel, he is shown to be busy, and working under too much pressure. But there isn’t any mention of what exactly is he doing. You may argue that such details are not relevant to the theme. I disagree. Such fine details only give a plausible and realistic flavour to a work of fiction. The whole composition is sketchy and superficial, and reads like a movie transcript. In the same way, the character and appearance of the protagonist is not detailed. We don’t know how he looks like. So you would have to base your imagination on any of your friends. This does not question the writer’s ability to sketch characters. In fact, he has described other characters fairly well e.g., Mathur, Brijesh and Shailesh. But why didn’t he give equal space to the protagonist? My only guess is that it was a lapse.
Nevertheless, the writer has given an apt description of the work culture in the industry. Assuming that his depiction is grounded on facts and/or experience (direct or indirect), the narrative helps the reader who are not familiar with the field get acquainted with the working and politics of the workplace. This has its importance as it builds bridges between the people working in the field and ‘outsiders’.
The language of narration does not flow freely. Care has not been taken in the choice of words due to which all scenes look artificial and emotions fake. This drawback is reflected all too well in dialogues and conversations. For instance, two words that catch your eye and hijack your attention are ‘shock’ and ‘say’. All the characters are ‘shocked’ all the time at even the most trivial development in their environment. If the hero is leaving office early, his colleagues are shocked; the department head smiles, the hero is shocked; when he tells the hike he has received after the appraisal, his colleague is shocked and so on. Eventually, when the actual shocking incident does take place with the hero’s girlfriend breaking up with him, and he is indeed shocked, by that time you have already become electrically insulated. In the same way, the writer manages all the conversations with ‘say’ or ‘said’ — it does not matter whether the dialogue conveys a question or an exclamation or surprise or sadness. In general, the writer utilizes limited vocabulary, and at some places the words are not at all appropriate. Such limited usage of words brings a monotone to the narrative, making it lack colour and lustre. So Brijesh’ humour does not bring smile on your face, Maya’s nagging does not annoy you, Mathur’s bossism does not agitate you, Keith’s predicament does not sadden you. You just say ‘Ah! OK. Go on’. That is all. Perhaps the writer is aiming at a large and diverse audience, and hence trying to strike a balance between simplicity and maturity. Still, just a few variations in word usage could have brought fresh air and life to the sentences. Probably the writer is not a native English speaker. Still, I would like to stress that a couple of more revisions could have polished the work by an enormous degree. It is not easy considering the length of the text. However, it would have made a lot of difference to the quality of the work.
Now let us turn our attention to the positive aspects of the book.
The strongest point of the novel is its pace. The writer never loses control of the narrative and maintains a firm grip on its pace. It means, there is not a single episode in the whole story which is dull or boring. Neither does the writer rush you through the events and happenings of the storyline. He does develop tension, but at a constant pace, and you never feel being forced to match steps with him. It is indeed a difficult task, but the writer has successfully accomplished it.
Another feature that deserves special mention is the clean language used in the narrative. The writer has avoided any type of vulgarity or abusive language in the book. This offers the reader a pure, pristine and pleasant reading experience. Considering the present day atmosphere tending towards the otherwise, it is indeed pleasant to see the writer remaining unaffected by such ‘waves’ and maintaining his dignity and purity. This attribute itself lifts the writer far above the crowd of modern day writers and deserves applause. If only he is able to maintain this style in his future works as well, the readers can rest assured of sufficiently good and healthy compositions by him.
The formatting and publishing of the book is outstanding. I did not find any typographical error. The reading experience is smooth and without any distractions.
All said, the novel is indeed a bit different from the heap of contemporary novels based on similar theme. You would definitely not be disappointed.