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Cubicles That Make You Envy the Dead (2018)
Book Reviews

Cubicles That Make You Envy the Dead (2018)

Dilbert’s collection 46 is packed with more robot AI, annoying coworkers and office shenanigans than you might expect.

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Cartoonist and trained hypnotist Scott Adams’ stealthily changed his most famous’ creation’s outfit, a rumpled shirt and upturned tie, a few years back…and few noticed. But when did he also do away with his second most famous subject – the cubicle? That very thought occurred to me while reading Cubicles That Make You Envy the Dead, the 46th Dilbert comic collection. There’s no cubicles anymore, at least none of the suffocating variety that serve as secondary homes for millions of workers around the world. I guess that’s progress…? Regardless, you’ll now have something to follow-up last year’s Dilbert Gets Re-Accomodated, so it’s a win-win.

Collection 46 keeps the boat stern and steady, which means you’ll snag a healthy helping of colorized Dilbert daily and Sunday strips that you may have already read as they all appeared between June 11th, 2017 through April 29th, 2018. Exactly how is the real question as Dilbert may be the most distributed comic strip ever made: dead tree newspapers (they still exist), email newsletters, or even websites like Scott Adams’ extremely well-maintained Dilbert.com just some of the ways you can get your dose of interoffice politics and inanity on a regular basis – including these wonderful square-shaped slabs of reprints for those times when you simply need to disconnect.

Some have called Scott Adams a Trump supporter, and I suppose on some level that’s true. But if you dig a little deeper and hear his explanation to why he ‘supported’ our current President, as he described in last year’s Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter, you’ll see he’s really more a “Appreciator of Trump’s Persuasion Techniques” than someone with a political bent. It can’t be helped that some of the more distressing aspects of our overly politicized climate has wormed into the strip, however.

These include small series of Dilbert being accused of “colluding with the Elbonians”, complete with a special counsel to review his email and phone logs, the proliferation of misinformation, and even one about how conspiracy theories ‘happen.’ When confronted with the charges Dilbert defends himself, only to be told “You wouldn’t be so angry if it weren’t true.

But never fear, as the bulk of strips are strictly business as usual, or whatever passes for “business” in the land of office stupidity. Other topical series include the perils of whistle-blowing, blockchain realities, wireless earbuds, self-driving car follies and dabbles with AI. Highlights include the company’s attempt to turn the office Robot into a Alexa-style voice-controlled assistant and Dogbert’s evil plan to separate stupid peoples’ money – and their brains – by convincing them cryogenics is a thing that actually works. Spoiler: he’ll sell your investment – and your brains! – down the river.

Plus, there’s a few new characters mixed in, to various effect. Adams’ has always had a way with phrases, but really… Barry Dingle, the office drone who “hangs around” your office door to ask questions every time you hang up your phone? A little spot on, Adams… if you catch my drift. Less successful is the Storytelling Mothman, the new employee who “identifies the employees with the greatest workloads and wastes their time telling long stories.” Such a character is far too terrifying to laugh at.

This next bit may sound a bit strange for those not fully committed to collecting these paper collections, probably about as strange as buying collections of comic strips you can technically read for “free” online – or why a website would even review such a collection in the first place. But purists will appreciate the extra “oomph” that publisher Andrews McMeel adds to drastically improve the quality of their comic reproductions, especially in color, without increasing the price. Let’s be honest – Dilbert isn’t the most complex or stylized comic strip out there (that would be Berkeley Breathed’s revived Bloom County), but this makes it a great match for paper reprints, even on lesser quality paper stock.

Even the book’s cover reeks of quality printing with its slightly raised embossed title displayed in a slick reflective coating that’s sure to stand out on a crowded display at your locally owned and/or corporate bookstore (remember those?). Did I mention the flaps are back? You really can’t go wrong with having a nice set of flaps when you really need them.

Cubicles That Make You Envy the Dead may not deliver on its promise of cubicles, but the rest of the expected Dilbert insanity returns safe and sound for your comic collecting pleasure. Considering this is the 46 such collection you better make sure you’ve got the room – printed paper takes up a lot more space than digitized bits and bytes, but diehard comic completionists knew the risks of the game before they started. But even casual fans will appreciate the advances in print quality and shiny embossed covers – none of which add a penny to the asking price. Who would have ever thought, in our world of massive digital consumption, that good old-fashioned paper could be so competitive?