Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke

Several People Are Typing is a surreal novel told entirely through Slack conversations, as a man finds himself trapped within his company’s Slack workspace. Gerald was working on a spreadsheet when his consciousness became trapped in Slack, and how he can’t get out. His PR colleagues think he’s WFH whilst doing a ‘bit’ and are busy dealing with a crisis around poisoned dog food, his only support comes from his colleague Pradeep looking after his physical body, and it seems Slackbot might be getting some ideas…

I use (and support people using) Slack at work, so the blurb of this book appealed to me, but I was surprised by how gripping and accurately satirical it was, mixing what you should and shouldn’t say on work Slack with absurd concepts (at one point, Gerald becomes a vaporwave-style sunset GIF for a weekend) and maybe even some kind of message you could take away from it about how much of ourselves we might give to work digital tools. At times it’s almost surrealist horror, not only about being trapped in a digital form, but with Lydia who keeps hearing howling and the weird subplot about the dog food fiasco, and in that way it was maybe similar to books like Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstor (horror, but in a fake IKEA) just with less of the horror and more surreal satire.

Before reading Several People Are Typing, I was worried it would be a bit naff or just not work, but actually I found myself gripped by the clever satire of workplace Slack conventions (yes, in-joke emojis actually aren’t so funny) and also enjoyed the absurd narrative that played around with ideas of digital consciousness and what is real or not when working entirely digitally. People who don’t use these kinds of tools for work might find it less funny (and it may not be a book that ages that well as it’s very current moment), but for me this was a well-crafted use of a gimmick that allows you to confront the absurdity of digital life.