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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Maxx Barry

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To purchase Syrup

Title: Syrup
Author: Maxx Barry
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999
Length: 294 pages
Availability: Syrup - US
Syrup - UK
Syrup - Canada
Soda & Cie - France
Sirup - Deutschland
  • Syrup was made into a movie in 2013, directed by Aram Rappaport and starring Amber Heard

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Our Assessment:

B : amusing enough, but extremely lite reading

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Age A- 11/9/1999 Michael Veitch
Fast Company A- 9/1999 Polly LaBarre
The LA Times B+ 4/7/1999 Mark Rozzo
USA Today B- 9/7/1999 Bob Minzesheimer
The Washington Post B 6/8/1999 Carolyn See

  Review Consensus:

  Lite literature, but gleeful fun.

  From the Reviews:
  • "Everyone's actions are entirely morally suspect in this very contemporary story and Barry has captured an appropriately smooth, slick throwaway style that hurtles along at breakneck speed. Occasionally we are drawn into some eyebrow-raising passages of disbelief suspension (...) but the characters are so recognisable and engaging that nearly all is forgiven in the pace and zest of the plot." - Michael Veitch, The Age

  • "(A) very spicy, slightly repugnant, yet strangely compelling satire of marketing as a vast, invisible conspiracy." - Polly LaBarre, Fast Company

  • "(S)atisfyingly revenge-driven, full of scary marketing tips and fizzy as Fukk." - Mark Rozzo, The Los Angeles Times

  • "(T)hough this is novel writing at its most frivolous and certainly unrealistic (...), there's something so nostalgic and right on the money about this novel that the reader has to sigh." - Carolyn See, The Washington Post

  • "It's a Seinfeld kind of novel, self-absorbed, seductively hip, mostly attitude." - Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Syrup breaks out of the ranks of books that self-reflectively and self-consciously are about writing and literature and books. Syrup is about marketing, and -- no surprise -- Syrup is a product to be marketed. That concept alone sends shivers up our collective spines, but that is what the world has come to, and we grudgingly accept it. We look forward to the movie version, and the soft drink tie-in.
       The novel's main character is Scat. Michael George Holloway, actually, but, as he admits "I had no chance of getting into marketing with a name like that." Others in the book are named "6" and "@". Since the author has added an "x" to his name, we'll go along with it. (While there are a number of clever ideas in the book it is telling that the strongest is the author's revised name. Image be everything, indeed.)
       Scat wants to be rich and famous. He even has some decent ideas that might help him achieve his longed for success, but he manages to blow his first big opportunity when he lets his great idea for a new soft drink be stolen from him.
       Plotting revenge he and a corporate insider -- said 6 -- work together to land a great coup. The idea is to make a feature length movie that is in fact an advertisement. A movie goes into production, Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Winona Ryder star (fairly pointless star-studded padding for the novel), and it comes to the great showdown with Scat's nemesis (and former roommate).
       Barry keeps the novel moving at a brisk pace. There are romantic entanglements, a roller coaster of success and failure (with Scat generally and frequently (and fairly humorously) failing, in both his personal and professional life), and many amusing asides about marketing and how image is, ultimately, all there is.
       The writing is fairly painless, with no glaring awkwardness, and Barry manages a few genuinely witty scenes. Nevertheless, it is mostly fluff, the action grossly oversimplified, the characters either flat or cartoonish. It is entertaining, but Barry misses his opportunity to make his marketing point more emphatically. We would have liked a little more depth and substance, but it is a fine little read and for a decent laugh (and at least some thoughts on how marketing totally dominates our lives) we can certainly recommend it.
       We are very curious as to how the book will be marketed. We believe its best selling point is its author's revised name. We are, however, disappointed by the book's title. Syrup blows. In fact, it might actually be bad enough to sink the book. That would be a shame, but would also be a lesson we could revel in.
       Syrup has its own website. It is a product to be marketed more than a book to be read. That is not all bad, but don't ever lose sight of that fact. Marketing is manipulation, and it's what turns the world round nowadays. Think about whether you want to play that game. (On balance we think this book more beneficial in helping raise your awareness of the issues addressed, as opposed to simply taking advantage of you. But it is a close call.)

       Note that the company that markets Scat's impressively named soft-drink, employs (intermittently) Scat and 6, and then produces the movie is Coca Cola. While Barry offers a disclaimer proclaiming that Coca Cola is nothing like how it is portrayed in the book and would never do the things the company in the book does, in our opinion the portrait seems an extremely accurate reflection of that venerable Atlanta corporation. We are surprised they have not taken stronger action against the book, but then maybe they are the ones with the movie and soft-drink tie-in .....

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Syrup: Reviews: Syrup - the movie: Max(x) Barry: Other books by Max/Maxx Barry under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Australian literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Maxx Barry (actually Max Barry) lives in Australia. A marketing professional, he has taught at Monash and Curtin universities in Australia.

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