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Literature / Paranoia

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The 2004 novel written by Joseph Finder. Adam Cassidy is a cubicle drone in a technology company who, feeling rebellious and noble, impersonates a vice president of the company and makes it pay for a lush retirement party for a retiring blue collar worker named Jonesy. Quickly caught, Cassidy is given two choices by the CEO of the company, Nicholas Wyatt, be tried and convicted for embezzling funds and rot in jail for at least 20 years, or work as a corporate spy in a rival company. At home he has a belligerent, bitter father who he supports with his paycheck. What follows is Adam Cassidy's tour through the ins and outs of how to appear, how to give an interview, how to act, and an entire makeover.As he is quickly hired, he discovers the differences in the two corporations, how pleasant the atmosphere is, and how much of a Reasonable Authority Figure the company's president, Jack Goddard, is. Faced with the guilt of screwing over Goddard, who has taken a shine to him, his father's failing health, and his falling in love with someone at the company, he tries to navigate his way out of failing, and being sent to jail.

It was later adapted into a 2013 film, which took many liberties with the source material.

This book has examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Frank Cassidy is heavily emotionally abusive to his son Adam. He constantly tells him that he is unable to achieve anything, tells him he is a loser for not getting anywhere, then demeans him for when he gets a corporate job and is actually doing well, telling him off for not going his own way and being his own person. A lot of this stems from his once working as a coach for a prep school's football team, but that ended when he hit a kid. After repeating that with a public school, he's worked as security guard ever since, until his emphysema forced him to retire, and live off Adam's paychecks for all his medical bills. He then dies from his continuing to smoke, giving Adam a complex about having an argument with his dad being the last conversation he had with him.
  • A Father to His Men: Jack Goddard, in heavy contrast to his competitor, Nick Wyatt. He has both the traits of being gentle with his employees and taking care of them when he can, but also of being rather strict when they screw up, as he has a rather low tolerance for stupidity. He becomes a far more twisted variant of this at the end, as even when it's revealed that he'd been manipulating Adam this entire time in order to take down Wyatt, he genuinely wants to keep Adam on instead of tying up loose ends by cutting him loose.
  • Batman Gambit: The closing chapters reveal that Goddard had been playing Wyatt the entire time, deliberately dangling the promise of an optical chip by manipulating his mole, Adam Cassidy, so that Wyatt would bankrupt his company chasing after a pipe dream Goddard never even believed in to begin with.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Nicholas Wyatt, the more obvious Corrupt Corporate Executive, gets his comeuppance and is ousted from his company in disgrace. However, at the same time Goddard is revealed to be a manipulative chessmaster with a history of sabotaging and buying out his competitors via subterfuge. Regardless of whether or not Adam Cassidy agrees to stay with him, he and his co-conspirators will get off scot-free for all their manipulations.
  • The Baroness: Dr. Judith Bolton,for Nicholas Wyatt, of the Rosa Klebb variety. Actually working for Jack Goddard the whole time.
  • Becoming the Mask: Adam eventually figures out that he is becoming the big-shot corporate executive that he's been imitating to be hired.
  • Brains and Brawn: Nick Wyatt, founder of his company and is built like a bodybuilder.
  • The Charmer: Adam Cassidy's greatest strength is his ability to do this to get himself out of trouble.
  • The Chessmaster: Jock Goddard and Judith Bolton are revealed to be a dangerously crafty duo who orchestrated the entire plot of the novel to send Wyatt Telecommunications into bankruptcy so Trion could buy them out. They even went as far as to fabricate a tragic story of Jock's deceased son to emotionally manipulate Adam. Predictably, he is disgusted when he learns of this, something Judith even acknowledges as she tries to talk him into staying on.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Nick Wyatt is not above using blackmail and the threat of sending Adam to a maximum security prison for embezzling in his company to get him to do what he wants.
  • Cubicle Drone: Adam Cassidy works as one in the start of the book, with his injustice at the company executive's excesses and his endless boredom causing him to pull off a huge prank that puts him into the position of being blackmailed for the rest of the book to do the CEO's bidding and engage in corporate espionage.
  • Disk-One Final Boss: Nora, Adam's immediate boss once being hired, does all she can to keep him in place and put into a dead end, but he is able to hop through the hierarchy.
  • The Dragon: Arnold Meachum for Nicholas Wyatt.
  • Feed the Mole: Goddard and Bolton are doing this to Adam to take down Wyatt. It's revealed to be part of Trion's MO; they have repeatedly orchestrated their mergers and acquisitions by duping gullible competitors who were attempting to spy on them.
  • Flawed Prototype: Golddust, the fictional wifi-like technology in the book, is noted for being heavily flawed compared to wifi, and has no market potential, until Adam is able to find one for the product via military applications.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Jack Goddard, for the most part until the reveal about how he'd been manipulating Wyatt the entire time, and using Adam to do so. He's also strongly employed to have paid off the engineer who developed the Goddard modem so that he could claim sole credit, casting his entire legacy in a dubious light.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Adam Cassidy's boredom working as a Cubicle Drone and seeing the injustice of Wyatt Industries instituting cost cutting measures across the board while its executives go on lavish vacations and have lavish parties, is to impersonate one of the board members and have the company pay for the exact same lavish party for a retiring security guard. The CEO, Wyatt, does not approve, and threatens jail for him if he doesn't become his personal spy on another company. Cassidy notes that if he had instead stolen the money and used it to booze up with his friends or pay for an expensive car, Wyatt would probably have approved.
  • Life of the Party: Seth, Adam's friend who works as a bartender instead of getting a 'grown-up job' that Adam is doing.
  • Nice to the Waiter: One of the major differences between Wyatt and Goddard is that Goddard is courteous to his help while Wyatt treats them as things to be conquered or used up.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Jock Goddard
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Nora's plan, when Adam puts one over her during a board meeting, is to send him to an office in North Carolina, which would quickly kill his career. He is luckily able to avoid that because of Goddard's interest in him.
  • Scary Black Man: Antoine, Frank Cassidy's physical trainer, is an ex-convict. However, this is pretty much all appearance, as he is a rather nice guy who just plays hard ball in order to make sure the guy exercises.
  • The Mole: Adam Cassidy is essentially forced to be one throughout the story. Towards the end, he tries to quit and become a genuine employee at Trion, and when Nick refuses to let him go, he outright attempts to turn him into the FBI. It's all rendered moot at the end when it's revealed that Goddard had been manipulating him all along in order to lead Wyatt to his doom.
  • The Social Darwinist: Nicholas Wyatt is this personified, viewing anyone who doesn't measure up as unworthy of surviving in the corporate world. This makes his total loss to Goddard at the end of book rather fitting. Goddard himself shows shades of this when trying to convince Adam to stay on at the end, claiming that unlike his father Adam had truly "proved himself" as a winner.
  • Super Prototype: The optical chip, a new technology that would revolutionize the entire technology industry, that is the macguffin for the majority of the book. It doesn't exist, and was a bluff created by Goddard to get Wyatt to bankrupt his company by buying a company that had the hold on making the process, thereby allowing Goddard to buy out Wyatt's company once it ran out of capital and his debts were called in.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Adam eventually asks this when everything has been revealed, to Jock Goddard, Dr. Judith Bolton, and finally his girlfriend, Alana. Judith and Alana in particular try very hard to convince him otherwise, but he remains disillusioned.
  • Weasel Coworker: Chad. As soon as Adam meets him, the man does everything he can to sabotage Adam, with Adam eventually learning to dodge the traps Chad lays out for him.