When I saw previews for the movie version of Paranoia a
couple weeks ago, I thought, “I believe I read that book last winter.
Something about a self-centered jerk who got caught in the middle of corporate
espionage between even bigger self-centered jerks, and I didn't really care what happened to him or anyone else at the end.”
Yep, that was the one. I am apparently an outlier: critics seemed to like the book quite a bit
, and audiences lapped it up (it was a NYT best-seller; the hardcover version went through four printings). Though the trailer for the recently released movie looks good, it's getting a 3% from critics and a 39% from the audience at Rotten Tomatoes
. I guess the trailer is the best part.
This review will only cover the book, which differs from the movie in both appropriateness (for a YA novel, there was a surprising amount of R-rated material) and plot (the book is far more believable). Speaking of the plot....
Adam is a childish, self-centered slacker who has no idea
what to do with his life other than make easy money, get laid, and drink
himself into happiness (or forgetfulness). It’s not a roadmap for success. He works for a Trion, a large corporation
that apparently hires anyone. Frustrated by the impersonal nature of the
company, he impersonates the VP for Corporate Events and caters a retirement
party – to the tune of $78,000 dollars. Once he’s busted, he finds out that his
little prank could earn him 30 -50 years in prison and a one million dollar
fine. He spins a yarn about the retiree being his dying father. It doesn't work, but it does highlight his
ability to lie egregiously and convincingly.
This would be a downer to his employers, but not when the employers are soulless. Who better to infiltrate their competitors than a low-level con artist who can't cover his tracks? Not to worry. As his corporate
espionage coach tells him, “You're a natural, Adam. You’re going to do just
fine.” She was right - Adam is really good. But she was wrong about him doing just fine.