A Shortage of Engineers by Robert Grossbach
A Novel

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When Zack Zaremba graduates form engineering school, he wants little more from his career than to do useful, interesting work. It is not long, however, before life becomes more complicated: He's assigned to an Air Force contract with impossibly difficult specs, $100,000-a-day late penalties, bullying managers, disgruntled coworkers, and parts that must be ordered before there's a design. When he fall fervently, passionately in love with Lilah Li, a beautiful Asian-American programmer with a whistle-blower's agenda, he realizes just how irrelevant his engineering education was in preparing him for moral choices.

Zack's coworkers include Warren Kushner, who's never had a date and draws up flowcharts of even casual phone conversations with women; Shopper Jim, engineer-for-hire, whose engineering survival rules include, "Always keep enough cardboard boxes under your desk to carry out all your stuff"; the Frenchman, who wears his clothes backward as a sign of bureaucratic defiance; and the silky smooth Wonderboy, whose corner-cutting extends from finessing the Air Force to cheating on the office contest in tiny writing.

Zack soon discovers himself covering for the incompetence and corruption of others. Middle management-the dyspeptic A Boy named Hsu, the heavily pustuled Medieval Man, sick-leave king Whispering Bill, in-business-for-himself Marv-only makes things worse. As it gradually becomes clear that the hardware can't meet the promised specs, Zack is seized in a crosscurrent of loyalties when he must decide whether to lie at a Critical Design Review. His only anchors are Lilah, her son, and the six-year-olds he volunteers to coach in soccer, a sport he's never played. As his team loses game after game, Zack struggles with the mysterious, painful, age-old task of engineering: making things work.

About Robert Grossbach

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Robert Grossbach is an engineer for a firm that manufactures electronic components. He is the author of three other novels, Someone Great, Easy and Hard Ways Out, and Never Say Die. He lives in Commack, New York.
Published July 13, 2001 by St. Martin's Press. 288 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for A Shortage of Engineers

Kirkus Reviews

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Hilarious corporate satire—or, how to succeed in aerospace engineering without really trying.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of A Shortage of Engineers: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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At its best, however, as in the oddities of the bureaucratic paperwork or the splendidly fraudulent meetings called to discuss progress, Grossbach's book engages exactly the right gear—and makes a reader wonder how any of our vaunted miracles of military hardware ever get off the assembly line, w...

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BC Books

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Zack Zaremba, fresh out of college and assigned to a shady Air Force weapons project at his new place of employment, International Instruments, would like to think that "most of the things in life that've made a difference were accomplished by Pollyannas and Quixotes, naifs and malcontents and ob...

Jan 12 2006 | Read Full Review of A Shortage of Engineers: A Novel

Book Reporter

Lilah possesses a whistle-blowing mind set, and a mystery evolves as she discovers some duplicitous book juggling to pad cost overruns and embroils Zack in her efforts to disclose the practice, which leads him into deep waters.

Jan 23 2011 | Read Full Review of A Shortage of Engineers: A Novel

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