The Employees by Olga Ravn

Having found The Employees through reading a fellow blogger (thank you, stargazer), it sounded an intriguing read: a book with an unorthodox structure set in a futuristic atmosphere, given critical acclaim to date.

It lists the testaments of employees on a spaceship, all numbered, human and humanoid who have discovered objects on a place which they have named New Discovery. They have brought the objects to their ships and some of the interviews describe interactions that the crew have with these mysterious things. The interviews also cover tensions happening on the ship and reveal details about the routines of particular people, giving you an idea of different roles, their history, their expectations for the future, etc.

I am always quite impressed by authors who are able to take multiple voices and make them all interlink into a cohesive whole and Olga Ravn has done this really well. There are a range of personalities here that come through, and with each reveal, a little piece of the story is presented, whether it’s a relationship or an experience or a memory. It’s not a story of high tension but it is intriguing and holds your attention. Some of the interviews are very brief whilst others are more in depth but they all contribute to a composite whole.

I liked the idea of the world that Olga Ravn creates. Sometimes, I struggle if the world or beings represented in a science fiction work are too dissimilar to what I know but Olga Ravn’s book is less about the anatomy of the objects found and more about the way that they exert an influence or a perceived influence on the other inhabitants of the ship. You are given just enough detail to know that they are strange but the limiting of detail makes them have a mystique which creates curiosity. It’s not that you’re left to fill in blanks as I never felt that I needed more while I was reading it – the book leads to a satisfying conclusion even if it is a little ambiguous – but if you are after a book which requires little effort, then this is probably not for you. It’s not difficult to read but it does require a greater level involvement than most books that I read.

3 thoughts on “The Employees by Olga Ravn

  1. Great review! I agree this book probably requires a bit of effort, but if you put in the effort, I think it pays off. I’ve come to enjoy more experimental structures over time. It’s fun when an author can create and write a strange book with an alternative format and still make a huge impact.

    Liked by 1 person

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