Paul Trilby is having a bad day. If he were to be honest with himself, Paul Trilby would have to admit that he's having a bad life. His wife left him. Three subsequent girlfriends left him. He's fallen from a top-notch university teaching job, to a textbook publisher, to, eventually, working as a temp writer for the General Services department of the Texas Department of General Services. And even here, in this world of carpeted partitions and cheap lighting fixtures, Paul cannot escape the curse his life has become. For it is not until he begins reach out to the office's foul-mouthed mail girl that he begins to notice things are truly wrong. There are sounds coming from the air conditioning vents, bulges in the ceiling, a disappearing body. There are the strange men lurking about town, wearing thick glasses and pocket protectors.
The Kings of Infinite Space is a hilarious and macabre spoof on our everyday lives, and gives true voice to the old adage, "Work is Hell."
Paul Trilby is still haunted by the ghost of Charlotte, the cat he drowned in "Queen of the Jungle" (included in Hynes's 1997 story collection, Publish and Perish), in this hilarious supernatural sendup of office life. An affair having destroyed his marriage and promising academic career, Paul now temps as a tech writer in the General Services Division of the Texas Department of General Services (TxDoGS) in the Austin-like city of Lamar. One hot summer morning, stuck in traffic, he has an encounter with a peculiar homeless man who repeats a question from H.G. Wells's Island of Doctor Moreau, "Are we not men?" This is but the first of a series of uncanny incidents a corpse in a cubicle no one appears to notice, a recycling bin that seems to have no bottom that dog Paul at TxDoGS. The romance he strikes up with Callie, the appealingly goofy company "mail girl," provides the novel's emotional center. When the feckless Paul is put to the ultimate test, a Faustian bargain with zombies to surrender his soul and sacrifice Callie for a free ride at TxDoGS, readers will be on the edge of their seats wondering whether he'll do the right thing. Amusing incidentals include the subversive sentences Paul pens for a textbook and the cat-related fare that is all Charlotte allows him to watch on TV. While the office may not be quite as juicy a subject for satire as the academic world skewered in the author's last novel, The Lecturer's Tale (2002), the same literate wit should have wide appeal.