REVIEW: The Daily Telegraph

Pamela Wilson
September 11, 1999

Imagine the Coca-Cola company making an advertisement in the form of a full-length feature film starring Tom Cruise and Gwyneth Paltrow. Now, imagine a novel about making that movie. Considering it too would be peppered with hundreds of references to the black, sticky drink, one would assume it to be little more than a big advertisement as well. Therefore, readers could be forgiven for thinking that is exactly the objective of Australian writer Maxx Barry's new book, Syrup.

But despite the fact that Barry refers to Coca-Cola 13 times by the second page, one senses it is all just part of his joke about the Americanisation of the world, rather than part of any grand plan to get on the company payroll. Syrup is essentially a love story played out against the backdrop of America's ruthless corporate marketing world. The lead character, Scat, is a marketing graduate who is obsessed with the American dream of becoming famous and being "implicated in vicious rumours about Drew Barrymore's sex parties". Along with the frighteningly ambitious and self-orbiting 6 and the dubious Sneaky Pete, Scat rides the tumultuous wave at Coke trying to keep his fledgling career intact and aiming for fame.

While the story is at times predictable and unbelievable - especially when Gwyneth Paltrow challenges a bunch of boffins in a warlords tournament - Syrup is a light-hearted, fun read. And, if it is an advertisement it works, with the reader becoming helpless against his/her thirst.