Here’s a few comments made by travellers on The Bury Line:
Stephen Hargadon’s The Bury Line takes the soul-crushing frustrations of being lost amongst the office-dwelling number-people of the modern age, and condenses them into a tale that will make anyone who often feels despondent about their existential place or workplace rut need to look away for the occasional moment to let what rises pass. Narrator Martin is rapidly reaching critical mass with regards to disdain for his big city office job, observing the high-fliers and the barely-competent managers fight to sink or swim, either burning themselves out or being taken out by the more ruthless amongst them.
Things change when he comes across an ex-colleague working as a ticket inspector on the tram – a life which appears to have lightened much of the weight he always seemed to have on his shoulders; a changed man. Similarly changed is another ex-colleague who simply doesn’t recognise Martin after an encounter on the street, and soon after winds up committing suicide-by-train. Except it would appear not, when self said-terminator shows up alongside Martin’s other colleague checking tickets on the trams. This mystery is much more appealing to Martin than the day-to-day drudgery of his actual job, and soon he’s skipping work entirely to ride the trams and attempt to reconnect with something he feels to have lost inside. Noticing his new habits, his ex-colleagues invite him to try out for their new employer… but, as always, there’s a price to be paid for escaping the rat race.
The Bury Line is a brilliant piece of work that will likely resonate with a great many folk out there. Be warned, though – this is pure existential horror for the modern age, and it doesn’t have a kind word to say for your chances. Hargadon makes great use of his ruling metaphor and, depending on how you take it, dishes up a story that can be absolutely crushing, or profoundly liberating.
Gareth Jones at www.dreadcentral.com
Stephen Hargadon’s The Bury Line brings new and terrible meaning to the networking skills required in the modern workplace. Though it displays a sure, light touch in tone, the humour is black throughout, in the manner of Gogol. In grand fact, the story is highly reminiscent of recurrent themes in much 19th century Russian literature, particular those of soul-destroying time-serving in the Imperial Civil Service. And if you think of Dostoyevsky’s Notes From Underground as a sort of tube tale, then The Bury Line is the surface equivalent. Add to this Hargadon’s marked talent for writing sympathetic characters and the story gains a good deal of its power to affect by way of shared disillusion. The characters are not laconic: they are laconics; a manifestation of progress reports and performance related pay. As they appear and disappear the reader becomes almost a nine-to-five familiar; and the story exists as a consultant meta-narrative to the daily grind.
Martin goes through a succession of line managers. Watching them come and go at the discretion of upper management, he notes each one’s foibles, and how these prove to be fatal to much-fabled efficiencies. Martin understands that another job is often another life, an afterlife perhaps. At first he watches his colleagues despatched to this afterlife; then he begins to experience them in other incarnations, on other networks; perhaps as symptoms of his own burgeoning disillusionment. In turn this affects his own performance and his work begins to suffer. It does not go unnoticed…
And this perhaps is how the story most startled me – it is not that the work suffers: it is that the worker suffers it.
The Bury Line is published in Black Static Issue 42. Well worth reading.
“…he was either preparing for a sneeze or recovering from a sneeze. He had a disordered, ill-prepared face, a face that went best with pyjamas.”
This story extrapolates into the most frightening absurdist nightmare….one that had me laughing out loud, almost sobbing, too. I don’t need sleeping pills, only dosages of Hargadon … A text full of neatly cruel philosophicals, homilies, originalities, mind-opening sayings …
DF Lewis at dflewisreviews.wordpress.com