This is a video series about Graveyards of the Banks – I did it for the money; the first volume of a three-volume novel about banks in London, England, written by Nyla Nox.
I reviewed that first volume in February 2015; here. Much of what I wrote then is applicable to this new book as well.
Volume 2, ‘Graveyards of the Banks – Monsters Arising’ came out on Monday 14 September.
SPOILER ALERT: in this review are important parts of the plot of the book. So, if you want the book to really surprise you, wait with reading this review until after reading the book.
At the Amazon.com site is this summary of its contents:
Midnight in the City of London. The Masters of Finance rule the world. Small creatures run for cover.
Nyla is still working on the graveyard shift in the Most Successful Bank in the Universe, trying to survive. But the Monsters in the Bank are not sleeping.
The Fittest to Rule continue their cold, brutal regime, and Nyla’s abusive supervisors have absolute power over her bodily functions. Vera, a new arrival, becomes the ultimate target.
But Nyla’s love life is finally taking off. Lazy afternoons and kisses sweeten the relentless work routine.
Why should she have to stand up for freedom and decency when everyone else is looking away?
But as Vera’s torment continues, dramatic events force Nyla to confront the monsters (inside and out) and make a very dangerous decision.
Everything is on the line. Her job, her home, her education. Her relationship.
The graveyard shift is volatile.
And suddenly, a very different shape appears on the horizon that will shake up Nyla’s world forever…
Monsters Arising is volume 2 in the trilogy ‘Graveyards of the Banks’.
A short introduction ‘What Went Before’ brings the reader up to speed and this volume can be enjoyed on its own. Volume 1 ‘I did it for the money’ is also available on Amazon.
There is a somewhat bitter irony: this book, describing bad conditions for workers, is sold at Amazon, where the treatment of workers is bad as well.
Nyla Nox writes about the book on her site:
Author Nyla Nox worked herself for seven years in the Graveyards of the Banks and tells this very real horror story with dark, acerbic wit and surprising emotional depth in her complex and very relatable characters. Think ‘Les Miserables meet Naomi Klein in the Cancer Station’.
In this second volume, it turns out that the ‘new economy’, based on the IT bubble, in which supposedly there never would be an economic crisis again, as Nyla had been told in the first volume, is an illusion.
In the first paragraphs of this new volume, Nyla, the ‘I’ of the book, meets Peter, her love interest from the first volume, again. He had tried to escape from the bank; but that had proved impossible.
Peter had managed to get a degree in philosophy. But philosophy could not pay the rent getting higher and higher in London. So, he lost his home. And he lost his girlfriend (not Nyla, another woman).
Peter returned to the bank.
the Volume 2 Peter, not the Volume 1 one
looked like someone wounded from the wars. Wars that had been lost.
This sentence to me evoked PTSD, psychical problems of war veterans, more than bodily wounds.
Talking about war:
The BBC world service was broadcasting an interesting feature about post-war atrocities in some country far away. A war that I had hardly noticed although the main arms suppliers had quite recently merged through the services of our Bank.
Also early in the book, the author mentions another connection from the bank with the world of world politics and world economics. Nyla is trying to make a diagram of oil transactions in Central Africa. However, she is distracted by an attack by a foreman and a forewoman on new worker Vera. While a mid ranking banker says: ‘Remember: we’re the sharks.’
Like in the first volume, Nyla compares the bank to Mordor, the realm of evil in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Or to Minas Morgul, the city just west of Mordor, conquered by the armies of dark lord Sauron. Another comparison: the Milgram psychological experiment on obedience to authority figures. This experiment shows how obedience may cause people to torture.
Peter and Nyla also compare the bank workers’ treatment to Charles Dickens‘ and Jane Austen‘s descriptions of how poor people were treated in the nineteenth century.
Forewoman Claire quotes to her subjects someone higher up the ‘food chain’:
The manager told us at the meeting today that if anyone has any criticism they should be terminated immediately.
New Age-ish self-help books, claiming that if individuals fail then it is their own fault, undermine resistance to oppression, even in Nyla, who is skeptical about such books.
‘Graveyards of the Banks – Monsters Arising’ describes the oppression as happening inside the bank building; during working hours. Outside the bank, in spare time, the book concentrates on the relationship of Nyla with Peter: the only person to whom she can talk freely about the oppression at work.
Compared to when Nyla started working at the bank, described in the first volume, things have become worse for new workers. Recently employed Vera had to pay a subcontractor to be allowed to do a test as a bank graphics worker. Contrary to Nyla who did not have to pay her subcontractor for that test yet. Vera plays in her spare time a video game called ‘Monsters Arising’ which found its way to the Volume 2 title, as a metaphor for workers’ circumstances getting worse.
Another side of the oppression: Vera says that Nyla is the only person at the bank not shouting at her.
Vera eventually dies. Nyla feels guilty about her death; as she thinks she has not been supportive enough to Vera against the bullying, in fear of becoming a target herself.
The Most Successful Bank in the Universe has its headquarters in New York City in the USA. London, where Nyla and Peter work, is only a branch office. Let us take a look at New York. In that city lives, not in a novel, but in reality, a woman, roughly Nyla’s age (32 years): Kamilah Brock. Ms Brock has the advantage over Nyla Nox of working at a head office.
She has another advantage. Nyla Nox works in the graphics department of the bank, despised and bullied by the better paid people in the financial departments. The novel refers to those better paid people as ‘bankers’. In some contexts, people use that word only for top managers of banks. Nyla Nox uses the term clearly in a broader sense. She writes that most of them, too, are bullied and in danger of being sacked at any time by higher-ups. Ms Kamilah Brock is such a banker. How highly paid, we don’t know. Highly enough to own a BMW car. A car far beyond the budget of Nyla Nox.
However, Kamilah Brock turned out to have a disadvantage: being African American, contrary to Ms Nox. The New York Police Department stopped Ms Brock for ‘driving while black.’ The only explanation racist policemen have for a black woman driving a BMW is that she must have stolen the car. Kamilah Brock was handcuffed, taken to a psychiatric hospital though she had never had any mental health problems, stripped naked and injected with sedatives.
So, even where there is at first sight a bit less oppression at work, oppression in the wider society can still have terrible consequences. However, one can’t blame a novelist like Nyla Nox for not writing extensively on all aspects of oppression in society. The short references to wars, weapons corporations, oil corporations and homeless people not far from the bank building do point out connections from inside that building to the outside. But they are short and passing, describing a corporate culture in which lower level workers are not supposed to investigate or understand these connections.
Talking about banks in London with headquarters in New York City; from daily The Independent in Britain:
City traders at a leading investment bank saw women as sex objects and called “bid” for those they considered attractive and “offer only” for those they disliked, according to evidence submitted to an employment tribunal.
Dalal Alaoui Belghiti alleged that during her time on the European credit sales team at the Jefferies Group there was a “culture of discrimination” that led her to resign. The Moroccan national with British citizenship is now suing the bank, whose headquarters are in New York, for £3.5m. …
She added that she wanted to show that she could do the job, despite of all the problems and initially she did not report the men for their behaviour.
As a result, she said, her mental health suffered and she became “isolated and excluded” by male staff, before she left the company in March 2014. … “I do not know if I will be able to work in finance again,” she said.
The Jefferies Group is considered to be ‘one of the best companies to work for in the UK’. That is not even a quote by the Jefferies Group itself; similar to the propaganda Nyla and her colleagues get all the time from their employer. It is a quote by The Sunday Times. However, as The Sunday Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also considers the bloody absolute monarchy Bahrain to be a free country, one should take that with the contents of a big salt mine.
Like Ms Dalal Alaoui Belghiti in the London banking reality, Nyla Nox ‘initially did not report’ the bullying at work. She only does so after hearing that Vera died.
Completely unexpectedly, Nyla complaining after Vera’s death about the bullying causes some bullies to be fired. For some time, Nyla’s situation gets better. Not all gets better: her relationship with Peter breaks up. There is a cliffhanger at the end of the book about Nyla maybe getting into another relationship. But we will have to wait for Volume 3 to find out.