Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review - Still Pumped from Using the Mouse by Scott Adams

Short review: Dilbert continues to be a clueless nerd. Dogbert continues to milk the rubes for money. Ratbert travels to another dimension and returns to continue his perpetual search for acceptance.

Talking rats travel
Dinosaurs hide behind couches
Still less weird than work

Full review: As I read this volume of Dilbert while listening to the Blue Man Group's album The Complex, it occurred to me that they were essentially dealing with the same theme, but from two entirely different angles. I think, on the whole, I prefer Adams' surreal and humorous take. Of course, just about every strip Adams has produced has its own absurd brilliance, so the comparison may not be entirely fair.

I have seen people struggle with the juxtaposition of workplace strips next to clearly absurdist humor involving talking rats being transported to other dimensions, egocentric dogs scamming idiots, and dinosaurs hiding behind the furniture, but I believe that this is the mark of the true brilliance of Adams' work. By placing these sorts of elements alongside the brutally honest strips about pointy-haired bosses, annoying coworkers, and insane workplace rules, Adams highlights just how silly the modern workplace has become. The strips in which Dogbert tries to conquer the world, or bilk idiots out of their money in many cases seem downright reasonable compared to the idiocy that Dilbert has to put up with when trying to deal with his job. And the thing that makes this juxtaposition work is that Dilbert's struggles in the workplace are not far removed from a reality that most people who have spent time in the cubicle driven working world are familiar with. By making the surreal seem reasonable in comparison with the familiar, Adams manages to highlight what a truly strange place we have let our workplaces become.

No one parodies the workplace better than Adams. Very few strips of any kind are as good as Dilbert, and this collection is a fine representation of what makes it such good reading. Anyone who has ever sat in a cubicle and wondered how in the world they got from childhood dreams about being a fireman, astronaut, or cowboy to compiling a database of product requirements for a boss who will never even look at the end product will find Still Pumped from Using the Mouse both amusing and depressing at the same time.

Previous book in the series: It's Obvious You Won't Survive by Your Wits Alone
Subsequent book in the series: Fugitive from the Cubicle Police

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