I just finished reading Several People Are Typing, the debut novel by Calvin Kasulke, and it is an absolute joy — an ensemble-driven existential horror slash comedy consisting entirely of Slack transcripts. The basic setup is that Gerard, who works at a PR firm, somehow manages to get himself trapped inside of Slack. His colleagues think it's just a stupid joke he's using to take advantage of the company's flexible work-from-home policy; and besides, they're busy dealing with a huge publicity crisis from of their top clients, a high-end dog food line whose product ended up poisoning a bunch of Pomeranians. This is further complicated by office romances revealed through accidental wrong DMs. Meanwhile, Gerard tries to find someone to take care of his body as long his mind/soul is stuck inside of Slack … but Slackbot itself seems to have gained sentience, and has plans of its own.
Did I mention there's body horror? In Slack?
If any of that glorious absurdity made sense to you, then I would highly recommend this book. It's a quick read — again, it's only Slack transcripts, so it's kind of like reading a script. Kasulke does an incredible job of capturing the voices of each different employee at the PR firm, rendering thoughtful details all the way down to the cadence of their emoji use. I was also impressed by the organic ways in which the author delivered information. The characters were given plausible complications and motivations to reveal certain private details to their co-workers over Slack in a way that added to the office drama, and made each situation that much more entertaining; the slow trickle of some of these reveals are also well paced and well-played. If you've spent any time working in Slack, you'll be familiar with all of these scenarios (even if you are, say, the older person at the office who doesn't respond as quickly as everyone else).
My only complaint about the book is that I spend too much time on Slack as it is. But once I pushed through the slight-PTSD feeling of taking a break from Slack by reading a book set in Slack, I had no regrets.
Here's the official blurb, if you're interested:
Told entirely through clever and captivating Slack messages, this irresistible, relatable satire of both virtual work and contemporary life is The Office for a new world.
Gerald, a mid-level employee of a New York–based public relations firm has been uploaded into the company's internal Slack channels—at least his consciousness has. His colleagues assume it's an elaborate gag to exploit the new work-from home policy, but now that Gerald's productivity is through the roof, his bosses are only too happy to let him work from . . . wherever he says he is.
Faced with the looming abyss of a disembodied life online, Gerald enlists his co-worker Pradeep to help him escape, and to find out what happened to his body. But the longer Gerald stays in the void, the more alluring and absurd his reality becomes.
Meanwhile, Gerald's colleagues have PR catastrophes of their own to handle in the real world. Their biggest client, a high-end dog food company, is in the midst of recalling a bad batch of food that's allegedly poisoning Pomeranians nationwide. And their CEO suspects someone is sabotaging his office furniture. And if Gerald gets to work from home all the time, why can't everyone? Is true love possible between two people, when one is just a line of text in an app? And what in the hell does the :dusty-stick: emoji mean?
In a time when office paranoia and politics have followed us home, Calvin Kasulke is here to capture the surprising, absurd, and fully-relatable factors attacking our collective sanity…and give us hope that we can still find a human connection.
Several People Are Typing [Calvin Kasulke / Doubleday]
Image: Carolinedmoreschi / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 4.0)