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It all began some four years ago, when I was working a four-week IT contract for the National Health Service. The guy I was working with was a huge Dilbert fan, to the extent that our morning routine consisted of making our first coffee of the day, checking out Dilbert's Web Site and then that annoying little thing called work.
The Dilbert phenomenon is the brainchild of one Mr. Scott Adams - at the time of writing, he's a forty-seven year old syndicated cartoonist with some fascinating career-based anecdotes and a sense of humour so dry it's positively arid.
The Dilbert Web Site (www.dilbert.com) offers full history on both Mr. Adams and the Dilbert series so I won't duplicate it here. Suffice it to say that in 1989, Dilbert came alive as a syndicated cartoon series from United Media and has gone from strength to strength ever since.
The Dilbert Bunch is based more than a little loosely on the Brady Bunch TV series. The front cover of the small hardback book displays the Brady Bunch signature three by three cube set of character portraits of eight of the most popular Dilbert characters.
Ratbert, the proudly-optimistic, eternally-looking-on-the-bright-side, nothing-gets-me-down rat.
Dogbert, the often-sadistic, multi-millionaire, former dictator general of the country of Elbonia dog.
Wally, the engineer who makes a living out of not working, is always busy doing nothing, cynical Dilbert's team mate.
Alice, the woman's lib champion, not afraid to bust some noses, hard hitting and straight talking Dilbert's team mate.
The Pointy Haired Boss (PHB), the personification of just about every bad idea management have ever had, and just as clued in to what's happening in the real world.
Bob the Dinosaur, purveyor of ultimate wedgies, recently come out of hiding in Dilbert's garage when Dogbert proved that Dinosaurs never died out - they simply hid.
Catbert, evil Human Resources manager, devisor of cruel and vindictive personnel policies in Dilbert's workplace.
And finally, the star himself - Dilbert. What does one say? The kind of person that all male (and I've heard even some female) computer engineers want to be. He's naieve but not ignorant, and he loves his gadgets.
The book itself, some thirty pages long, is split into sections - each dealing with individual characters from the Dilbert universe. Scott Adams has picked five or six cartoons featuring each of the characters in the spotlight. Also making appearances alongside the characters on the front are Dilbert's mother, Dilbert's sometimes Girlfriend Liz, Phil, the Prince of Insufficient Light, Ruler of Heck, the world's smartest ever Garbageman and several members of the population of Elbonia.
I've read a lot of Dilbert cartoons over the past four years, and personally I think there were funnier examples of each character than the ones that went into the book - but that's just my opinion. That's not to say the cartoons included aren't that funny, though. They still get chuckles out of me. As an introduction to the world of Dilbert, this book cannot be faulted other than to say it's a little on the compact side.
The book is available from all good bookshops, along with a large number of other Dilbert books. I was surprised at the cost of the book, quite a high £5.99. As I said, it's only thirty pages or so long and is the size of a small paperback book, so six pounds seemed a little steep.
It's a fantastic read, albeit a short one. It would make a fantastic stocking filler for Dilbert fans everywhere, and they can only thank you for getting it. I loved it, and I'm always going back to it.