The Employees By Olga Ravn

The Employees A workplace novel of the 22nd century by Olga Ravn

Danish fiction

Original title – De ansatte

Translator – Martin Aitken

Source – personal copy

I start my journey through this year’s Booker longlist with a publisher I haven’t read a book from before and the one book from the list that had passed me by.  Olga Ravn has been a critic, translator, and editor in her time her first novel appeared in 2015 this was her second novel and she has since published a third novel. Her last book title My work in English won the Politiken literature prize. This was the book that struck me as most unusual as it is a sci-fi novel that takes the form of a series of statements from the crew of a ship that is on a trip from Earth to a new planet called New discovery. There has been an investigation asked for by the committee.

Statement 014

The first fragrance in the room is a delicate one, its right there, as soon as you walk in: citrus fruit, or the stone of a peach. Sitting at the table in front of me now, do you think of me as an offfender? I like ti be in the room. Ifind it very erotic. The susopended obeject I can feel sex between my lips. I become moist, regardless of whether I’ve got anthing there or not, The hunters on my team have a name for this object we call it the reverse Strap-on, That may be crude, but I’ve already said I don’t necessarily share your way of seeing things here. Maybe that’s why you think of me as an offender. Half Human. flesh and technology. too living

One of the earlier statments in the book

The crew of the ship the six thousand is a mix of Humans and Humanoids as they take the ship from earth on a voyage to the new planet called New Discovery. But most wonder what the strange objects that are in the ship. They also have seemed the lines between Human and Humanoid seem blurred as the crew ask if they are human if their memories are real or they have been given them. They talk about their work to start with things like cleaning the rooms how hard this can be this made me laugh at two rooms being hard for them. Then the is mention of helmets and how when they put them on they just fit in with the others around them. This is a search for both the Human crew and Humanoid crew to what makes them although there is a biological difference there is also the question of is the longing they feel there all implant in them. The point of the statements is to find out the feeling in the crew but also to find the humanoids and in the end to get rid of one of them to help the ship complete the voyage who will go! The book, later on, takes a dark turn. What will the Committee decide to do?

Statement 054

After I lost my add-on un the accident, I’ve started seeing it everywhere, it’s like it’s stalking me. It pulls at my clothing and sometimes I fell I’ve got to pick it up, cuddle and kiss it. other times, when it appears there between the benches, half digital animal, half child hologram, like the ones allocated to som of the crew members who’ve lost their biolgical childreb, I scream with fright and yell at it and  maybe I jump to my feet as well and give the add-on a slap in the face to make it go away. No one else can see it except me. I’d like to accept your offer of medication

the lines of who is who blur as the book goes on.

This book has echoes of a lot of things I have either read or seen over the years the first and nearest is Blade runner the questions at times remind me of the scenes where Deckard as he questions the androids and the lack of emotions shows. But he is told later that Rachel who thinks she is the niece of the factory owner is an android this is similar to the book where they question have been given memories to make me feel human. Of course, a huge ship that has been out of control from the crew is also like the classic Universe by Robert Heinlein which has a huge ship that has become divided over centuries as the crew has mutated leading to a bizarre history. This is a future where the line between man and machine blur and even crossover at points as those on the six-thousand forget who they are. This is a patchwork of voices we never hear any names just their ranks and also numbers occasionally and jobs done. If you threw in Blade Runner the office and had it written by Franz Kafka this would be the result. An interesting and different start to this year’s Booker longlist.

Winston’s score – -A

April 2021
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