by Warren Pete
When selecting “The Shrinkage Situation” by Warren Pete, I only knew one sentence about the book: an evil business conglomerate takes over a small town grocery store.
With that in mind, I assumed it would be akin to a Bentley Little or Dean Koontz. So, I began reading, waiting for the chills to set in. After all, “evil” was written in the descriptor. I spent the first five chapters thinking this author is terrible; these characters are so over-written. And then I realized, it wasn’t the author who erred, it was me, the reader. This is about evil, but not Vincent Price evil; Pete wrote a story about modern day evil in an ever changing society dependent on technology and replacing human interaction with data and processes.
So, I began the book again and it was much better reading it understanding this isn’t bad writing, it’s comedic writing. A small town store which had been part of a community for ages, where employees were valued and personal service to the customers was the number one goal, is suddenly acquired by the world’s largest technology company. Pete sets the tone immediately by not naming this company something fun like Google, or comfortable like Apple, but instead he puts it out there and names it NEW (Not Evil Worldwide).
The protagonist and long-time receipt store checker (not a cashier but a guy who actually stands at the exit and looks at your receipt) is skeptical from the get-go that things aren’t right. To any person on the planet, standing for decades at an exit looking at receipts sounds like the worst job in the world. To Grant, this is his whole world and he excels at his job. He is also content. This is a man who doesn’t tweet, would think instagram must be another form of a telegram and who’s phone is attached to the wall. IN his house.
NEW wants to change things and doesn’t spend any time at all before good employees like Grant are fired, and hipster, social media mavens are the new game in town. For the first time in his life, Grant sees the new world outside the walls of his beloved Mesford Mart and realizes it is no longer the same. Technology is everywhere and controls the process. Without it, man is easily left behind and left out.
I am so glad I made the effort to understand this novel and begin again. Pete’s style of over-the-top characters, and extreme situations, perfectly personify the world in which we live now. And the fact I found this author via facebook, tweeted the book’s arrival, tracked my progress on Goodreads and wrote this review on my blog really highlights the change in the world compared to when, as a high school student, I wasn’t allowed to use the brand new computer lab because the computers were meant for the advanced math students.