THE VIRTUAL BOSS by Floyd Kemske


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 Kemske (Lifetime Employment--not reviewed) mines the man- against-machine lode worked by Karel Capek, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and lesser-knowns in a see-through morality tale more notable for set-piece insights than narrative finesse or impact. Though he's head of the near-future consulting firm Information Accuracy, Inc., Donald F. Jones abhors face-to-face communication with subordinates who seem never to understand his objectives and are reluctant to take responsibility for their own decisions. Accordingly, he introduces a computer network whose adaptive, interactive software functions as a perfect supervisor. Having minimized direct human contacts in house and out, the goal- oriented CEO soon presides over a lucrative commercial establishment whose efficiency amazes and gratifies him. For certain IAI underlings, however, the price of progress comes high. Linda Brainwright, the bright, beautiful specialist Jones briefly bedded, is ultimately rejected by the seemingly omniscient feedback system she programmed. The proximate cause of her downfall is a one-night stand with Arthur, a lower-echelon project coordinator who's begun to buckle under the strain of reporting to a virtual boss that unpredictably dispenses praise, blame, and conflicting job assignments through a work-station terminal. That he almost immediately loses control of the self-ordering system does not disturb Jones, whose against-the-touchy-feely-grain goal is an enterprise free of such frictional irritants as personal relationships. Kemske has a state-of-the-art grasp of technology's more ominous implications in the brave new world of business, and his stereotypical characters frequently offer challenging observations (``Fascism, manipulation, management, I can't make these fine semantic distinctions''). But he's not a particularly gifted storyteller, and his cautionary tale simply comes to a dead end rather than an illuminating conclusion.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-945774-22-2
Page count: 240pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993


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