Contemporary Fiction

A Bit Too Much

By

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A topical, hard-hitting story about job loss in the face of automation and AI

Synopsis

I hated looking for work. I hated circling the classifieds, I hated the web searches, I hated the web job sites, I hated the phony resumes, I hated the phony interviews.

Jack Lack has just lost another job to the invisible forces of automation, algorithms, and artificial intelligence. This time, though, he decides to get off the high-tech merry-go-round of serial job loss. This time, he is determined to fight back - but against who? And how?

A Bit Too Much is a darkly humorous satire that will intrigue readers of contemporary fiction with its intriguing portrayal of a young man who grew up in the haze of Texas Gulf Coast refineries and is facing an uncertain future.

A Bit Too Much isn’t a comfortable read, despite the tongue-in-cheek humor and biting sarcasm. It hits too close to the bone as it describes how Jack Lack, a man without an advanced college degree, loses job after job to automation and artificial intelligence (AI).


He takes computer course, so that he can ‚Äúdine with the enemy,‚ÄĚ but he ends up with humongous student loans‚Äď-and the bills keep piling on.


This dispiriting state of affairs is further compounded by the fact that everywhere he turns, he finds humans losing their livelihoods to machines. Jack fights back in the only way he knows‚Äďand it is so distressing to read about this hapless man with no future to speak of.


Writing/Plot

The fear of losing one’s job to a robot is not misplaced, as 2019 news reports say that one-quarter of American jobs are at a high risk of automation. Clack has picked up on this sentiment perfectly and woven an all-too-real story around it. Descriptions of Amazon’s automated stores and Uber’s driverless cars give the story a sense of immediacy.


The writing is smooth and descriptions are informative, although I was wondering where the story was going as Jack bounced from one job to the other. The ending is heartbreaking, although I’d say there’s somewhat of a silver lining as well.


Final Thoughts

You‚Äôre free to make what you want of the story because it offers no solutions, nor does it take any sort of stand. It is simply a tale of the misfortune of low-wage, low-skilled workers who find themselves facing the brunt of technological ‚Äúprogress.‚ÄĚ


It certainly got me thinking about neo-luddism. I wondered if governments have a responsibility toward their citizens to ensure that they are not thrown out onto the streets as a result of AI taking over their jobs.


Should companies attempt to reskill their workforce instead of laying them off?

How can governments solve the problem of growing unemployment?

Reviewed by

I enjoy reading books across a wide variety of genres--historical fiction, literary fiction, mystery & crime, thriller & suspense, women's fiction, and self-help.

I believe balanced reviews are essential to help readers discover new writing, especially those by indie authors.

Synopsis

I hated looking for work. I hated circling the classifieds, I hated the web searches, I hated the web job sites, I hated the phony resumes, I hated the phony interviews.

Jack Lack has just lost another job to the invisible forces of automation, algorithms, and artificial intelligence. This time, though, he decides to get off the high-tech merry-go-round of serial job loss. This time, he is determined to fight back - but against who? And how?

A Bit Too Much is a darkly humorous satire that will intrigue readers of contemporary fiction with its intriguing portrayal of a young man who grew up in the haze of Texas Gulf Coast refineries and is facing an uncertain future.

Texas City

I’m an Uber driver. The days are long, pay is bad, no benefits. That's the 

way it is in the gig economy. 

 

 I didn't start out to be an Uber driver. No driver I know did. It's 

where I wound up, options dwindling. It doesn't take much to be an Uber 

driver.  

 I grew up in Texas City. a grimy refinery town where the fumes 

linger in the air and the sky is a gritty gray. It’s perched on the Gulf 

between Houston and Galveston right on Highway 146. Once 146 crosses 

south of I-10, it might as well be called Refinery Row. For thirty miles 

from Baytown just north of the Houston Ship Channel to La Marque just 

north of Galveston, the gulf coast is just a shout east of 146 and is lined 

with refineries and petrochemical plants with a brief interruption for 

Kemah, a tourist attraction where the wealthy park their yachts for their 

seasonal joy rides. All along 146, countervailing gulf breezes slow down 

the prairie winds, the humidity dampens the atmosphere. The air is laden 

with city smog, the toxic wastes of the ship channel, the belching 

refineries and chemical plants. 18-wheeler container trucks, pickup 

trucks, SUVs and cars cough up their exhaust in the never-ending road 

construction traffic jams. Fast food chains, modest independent 

businesses, pawn shops, auto repair shops, bars, ice houses, and, 

improbably, a British pub, dot the landscape along 146. And of course, 

gun stores galore stock the corridor, well stocked loaded with Glocks, Sig 

Saurs, Barettas, Smith and Wessons just to name a few, and shooting 

ranges, offering fun for the entire family! 

~ 

The state calls them "process escapes", releases of toxins from the 

refineries and plants, the periodic alarms signaling a hopefully 

temporary evacuation of the plant and nearby homes. The state duly 

records the process escapes and promptly forgets them. Chronic asthma 

is a way of life for those mostly minority families who live in the oldest 

and poorest neighborhoods closest to the refineries. The refineries give 

them $500 a year to compensate them for their unfortunate proximity to 

the plants and get them to sign non-disclosures agreements. $500 is a lot 

for most of these folks.  


  In Texas City, we survived hurricanes and tropical storms like Ike. 

We grew up seeing our parents, aunts, uncles and neighbors lose their 

jobs to computers and robots. Proud men who had gotten their hands 

dirty keeping the pipes humming, the gauges regulated, anticipating and 

heading off disasters with knowledge, grit, and determination, they 

wound up stocking shelves at the grocery stores and discount shops. 

Their drinking got heavier. New careers opened in cooking meth for a 

steadily growing market, redistributing opioids, or offloading coke, 

weed, poppy, opium, heroin, fentanyl, ecstasy, and exotic specialties 

from fishing boats, pontoons, yachts, schooners, sail boats, along the 

coastal inlets, nooks, crannies and marshes, for inland distribution in a 

buzzing hive of off-the-market supply chain management to rival that of 

major corporations.  


  One of these proud men was my Dad who left Mom and I when I 

was five. I don't remember much about him. Mom always worked two to 

three jobs at the same time when she was sober. I didn't see that much of 

her. I was mainly raised by my Aunt Louise, who had married a refinery 

executive and lived off the settlement money after her divorce. I worked 

boring minimum-wage jobs part-time after school, barely worth the 

money. Me and my fellow working stiffs would sneak out to smoke 

weed by dumpsters on asphalt pavement at the back of stores and 

warehouses as much as possible. It's a miracle we never got caught. 

 As high school graduation approached, we wondered what the 

future held for us, at least the few of us who weren't doping and failing 

all the time. Every adult within shouting distance told us we had to go to 

college for our future. Not much attention was given to why, other than 

to get a good job. To get a good job, they said, you needed to major in 

some form of engineering, business administration, or computer science. 

That's why you went to college. English, History, Art, and the like were 

for losers.  


 The kids of refinery execs went to private schools and then the Ivy 

 leagues or, failing that, Ut or A&M. The rest of us scrambled. 

 

 

 

About the author

Johnny Clack is retired from NASA. He lives in Temple, Texas with his wife Belinda. He has an extensive collection of Ngarden Gnomes. He has three exceptionally beautiful granddaughters - Fiona, June, and Baby Hazel. view profile

Published on February 01, 2020

30000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional ūüŹÜ

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Reviewed by

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