REVIEW: Canberra Times

Frank O'Shea
December 5, 1999

...where Englishman Earnshaw's book is a Pythonesque parody of L.A. life, Australian writer Maxx Barry's first book, Syrup (Viking, 294pp, $22.95) is a more subtle satire. Less over the top, though no less outrageous, its target is big business and the tricks they play on us to sell their product. "To get a good job in marketing, you have to market yourself," according to the central character. So he changes his name from the unglamourous Michael George Holloway to the more creative - top-of-mind is apparently the trade expression - Scat, and then sets out to become rich.

Along the way, he meets the beautiful soft drinks wiz who calls herself 6 and they have to overcome the impossible odds placed in their way by Scat's goofiness and the machinations of a marketing bad guy named Sneaky Pete.

It might sound like a weak excuse for a ladling of undergraduate humour, but in fact it works surprisingly well, even if the ending is a bit flat.

Barry has depicted a side of corporate business which sounds as if it might not be too far off the mark. His writing is sharp and funny and he captures the American idiom to perfection. He is clearly a writer to watch.