Review: Accrual World

Just where do I begin with this book? 

Financial crises, religious conspiracies and rogue accountants, it's got it all.

Written by Andy Blackford in 2009, It's definitely aimed at accountants, although for someone with a non-accountancy background, it certainly had my attention gripped until the end. 

Prophetically written before the economic crisis, the UK is plunged into financial meltdown when accountancy is outlawed by the Britannic Party, who overthrow government for a very sinister reason, which is revealed later on in the book. 

In the novel, which contains elements of both Orwell's 1984 and Brown's Da Vinci Code, protagonist accountant Alan Gold and friends fight back against the cruel oppression of accountancy, which eventually leads to the meltdown of society and the economy, which spreads worldwide. 

Why?

There are no accountants to pay anyone, therefore no incentive for anyone to work, which makes sense really. 

The trio embark on an adventure accounting on-the-run, undercover from the prying eyes of the Britannic Party who pursue and prosecute rogue accountants. 

While I found it slightly difficult to get into, after getting through the first few pages I delved into twists aplenty to keep the book firmly glued to my hand; a mixture of interest at seeing what the writer would come up with next and slight humor at the thought of accountants as 'underground dealers'. 

The writing style was quite descriptive and at times quips and one-liners made me laugh out loud, although it was at times a tad cheesy (which may be a good or a bad thing, depending on your sense of humor). 

No matter what your opinion of the book, there's no doubt the fact that it was written before the financial crisis and the plausible (yet improbable) idea of a world without accountancy leading to meltdown does make you think. 

 

Want to review this book?

If anyone wants to read this sci-fi novel for themselves or challenge my review, you're welcome to apply for a copy, as we have a few to give away. Just PM me or email editor@accountingweb.co.uk and we'll send you a copy depending on when they are available. 

Comments

Accrual World    1 thanks

annelavinia | | Permalink

I would love to read this!

Rachael_Power's picture

We're down to just four

Rachael_Power | | Permalink

We're down to just four copies - who wants one of them for free? 

 

Sounds Interesting

jspeechley | | Permalink

Sounds like my sort of book.

stepurhan's picture

Nice idea but shaky execution

stepurhan | | Permalink

In an alternate version of the UK, the Britannic Party has swept into power on a platform of standing up for the small businessman against the banks. Accusing accountants of being in league with the banks against their clients, accountancy has effectively been banned. Now those wishing to practice the noble art of accountancy have to operate in secret, always fearful of being caught by the draconian Commercial Police. With the UK driven to economic collapse by their policies, one brave group of accountants sets out to investigate the party. They uncover an ancient conspiracy that threatens the entire world. Whilst this makes for an intriguing setting, the execution leaves something to be desired, with shaky prose and gaping plot-holes undermining the premise.

The central concept is an enticing one to the profession. Accountants are portrayed as so vital to the economy that their absence leads to its almost immediate collapse. The follow-up portrayal of accountants as brave rebels fighting a corrupt system is equally pleasing. Even the dark conspiracy, based on an important part of accounting history, firmly puts accountants centre stage. Whilst it would be nice to believe we held such a pivotal role, I can’t help feeling our importance is over-exaggerated here. We all deal with clients that inexplicably manage to operate a profitable business with no accounting records to speak of. In fact, as book-keeping doesn’t appear to have been banned, the assertion that no-one has a record of who needs to be paid seems fundamentally flawed. This would not necessarily be a problem if the author could decide how he wants to address this. Embarking into wild flights of fancy to acknowledge the exaggeration or playing the concept perfectly straight would both have worked, but the book veers between the two. As a result, jokes about building society Southern Pansy and its “Pond Life” mortgage customers sit uncomfortably alongside scenes of people driven to destitution

This variation in tone could also be partly responsible for the strange lapses in sense of the plot and characters. The conspiracy dates back for hundreds of years, and appears to have kept itself totally secret in all that time. It is hard to see how they’ve achieved this when they appoint the wife of an accountant to a top government role without the most basic background check that would have revealed her association. Later, the same secret society holds a not particularly clandestine meeting that is described as being heavily guarded. Despite the guards, two of our heroes apparently infiltrate the meeting by simply turning up, and later are able steal a government car from right under the guard’s noses without even being chased. Maybe the constant fluctuations between having apparently unlimited resources and not having two beans to rub together made things difficult for the conspirators.

Perhaps it is lucky for our heroes that their foes are so incompetent though, as they seem equally prone to ill-advised action. Early on, they decide that, having to operate their profession in secret, a bus would make an ideal inconspicuous getaway vehicle. Later, the leader of the group wants to broadcast messages across the UK. Needing to come upon a means of avoiding government jamming, he comes up with an accountancy based means of selecting the frequency for the next broadcast. This is justified as fool-proof as, having banned accountancy, there are no accountants in government. I guess he had forgotten that accountants have been recruited by the government throughout the book, and that the commissioner of police he met a mere 15 pages earlier is an accountant known to him.

I also rather hope that the proofreaders and fact-checkers for this book are not the same ones covering CCH's technical publications. I could accept the repeated use of “HMCR” as a deliberate alternate world change. However, the spontaneous name-change of a character two thirds of the way through the book has no such excuse. It also didn’t take me a great deal of research to confirm that the 0.247 Hertz quoted in the book is not a feasible frequency for radio broadcast.

When I first heard about this book, I had high hopes for an interesting satirical farce. The result is an uneven read that mostly irritated me with its inconsistencies and unsteady plotting. There are some good parts to be found here, a joke about a librarian strike in East London being a personal favourite, but these were not enough to save the book for me. Casting the accountants as heroes is a rare, but not unique, concept, but members of the profession may be better served elsewhere.

petew's picture

Worth a read?

petew | | Permalink

I have a copy of this and eagerly set down to a spot of reading over Christmas but found it was hard going and didn't grip me at all. In fact I gave up after 20 or so pages and started on something new.

Having read stepurhan's review I can't say I'm over inspired to give it another go.

 

Can anyone make a good case for me trying again?

John Stokdyk's picture

Give it a go!

John Stokdyk | | Permalink

I, too, subscribe to the "nice idea, pity about the execution" school, but with certain shades of difference - I have to as I am named in the acknowledgements as one of the people who encouraged Andy Blackford and MYOB to press ahead with the project!

While reading it, it's very clear that he's got a big job on his hands to build up a social context for his distopia and to engineer a believable plot into it. That ultimately may have been too much to ask and the book suffers a little for this "message" element.

But don't overlook the good points.I think Andy Blackford is very good on atmosphere and location. He visits several sites that I know well (including the old MYOB/CCH headquarters on the Hangar Lane gyratory), which he describes to a tee). 

The parallels he draws to the rise of fascism in the 1930s are also very evocative and convincing, and I did enjoy the way he spliced a Dan Brown-style eccliastical conspiracy into the plot. Yes the joins were visible, and the co-incidences and derring-do on the outlandish side, but name me a contemporary Hollywood thriller that doesn't have the same faults?

'Accrual World' holds its own against such comparisons (which is where author and publisher deliberately tried to pitch it). Stephen's jibe about the CCH proof-readers was amusing, if a little unkind to them. Trust accountants to zero in on the detail and to use the flaws to discount the overall effect.

I did bump into occasional implausiblilties too, but could appreciate they were a side-effect of the scenario Andy was trying to depict. The book gained added weight in my eyes because he wrote it before the credit crunch, which made the breakdown of the financial as we know it a much more realistic prospect.

Questioning whether the story was believable forced me to ponder what would happen if authorities dispensed with the services of accountants. I may well have come up with different answers, but he succeeded in getting me to think about the profession's importance.

So on that score I think he and CCH succeeded in their mission.

stepurhan's picture

Flaws were the overall effect for me.

stepurhan | | Permalink

With all due respect to John Stokdyk, isn't zeroing in on my proof-reading criticism as me using "the flaws to discount the overall effect" doing exactly the same thing to my review? I have detailed a number of other areas where the story showed weakness. I am happy to detail more examples if you wish. In my view, the flaws go well beyond the joins showing a bit. Even Hollywood thrillers usually manage some internal consistency, though I will acknowledge that suspension of disbelief is required to some extent. I would also point out that this is a book, not a film. I think you will find that, where a film will cut corners and rely on visual dazzle to hide this, a book cannot do the same. When you read a contemporary thriller, you will usually find it far more tightly plotted than any film adaptation.

But since you have raised my "jibe" about the proof-reading, perhaps you could explain how the two specific errors I mentioned got into the final proof. A major recurring character is called Thelonius up to page 142, but in all subsequent mentions is called Theodore (page 149 onwards). Then we have the radio frequency that breaches the laws of physics at the bottom of page 165, "Point two-four-seven Hertz"  These are not minor typos, these are an important character with an unexplained name-change and a fact that it took me moments to check. I am disappointed that these are being so casually dismissed. Why should the proof-reading on any publication by a professional publisher be anything less than robust?

Add comment
Log in or register to post comments
Group: AccountingWEB Book Club
An informal group where members can review and discuss books.