As the Pizza Burns

Fiction - Realistic
344 Pages
Reviewed on 09/01/2018
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Nick Powers is a husband and father. He's been writing as a hobby since he was fourteen years old and finished his first novel while he was still in grade school but decided against publishing it. He has had numerous jobs in the customer service industry, including management positions for fast food and retail. As the Pizza Burns is his first published novel.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers' Favorite

As the Pizza Burns by Nick Powers is a story told from the perspective of Tony, yet another unhappy employee of Pizza Corp, a nationwide chain of fast-food takeaway and delivery conglomerate. We meet several of his fellow workers, none of whom want to be there, but due to single parenthood, medical bills, and general bad luck are forced to work for minimum wages, long hours, changing schedules, and unreasonable managers higher up the food chain. Their lives are governed by ‘corporate speak’, meaningless phrases about higher productivity, perfect customer service, and maintaining the frenetic pace worked out by time and motion experts ensconced in their glass office blocks a million miles away from the workplace. Every day at work could be their last, as unforeseen circumstances may mean they cannot meet these tight schedules - a good reason for dismissal. Tony’s wife is pregnant, she also has cancer. The medical bills are mounting up, Tony dare not miss a shift, or fill in for a colleague. The stress is unbelievable, but it’s corporate-driven, so what can he do?

When I picked up As the Pizza Burns by Nick Powers, I was not expecting it to have such an impact on me. Much of the material is based on his own experiences. While presented in a humorous way, the impact of this book was very powerful. It made me laugh; it made me cry. The desperation of people doing their best to make a living, pay rent, horrific medical bills, or feed families came through so strongly. This should be a mandatory read for every corporate manager worldwide. The story reminded me that slavery in its most respectable form is alive and well. Reams of acronyms are carefully crafted to increase profits under the guise of creating happy customers. Often it is the customers themselves who are the problem; aggressive, unreasonable, and just plain mean. The giant corporations are asking the impossible and the blame falls on those who are forced through circumstances to turn up day after day to make and deliver endless pizzas for big profits and unappreciative clients. Recommended reading.

Grant Leishman

As the Pizza Burns by Nick Powers is a sharply acerbic and satirical look at the lives of those low-paid and overworked fast food workers that most of us take for granted. Through the eyes of Tony, a shift supervisor at The Pizza Corp, we are reminded that service workers at fast food restaurants are not mindless robots, but that they have lives, problems and difficulties just like the rest of us. Faced with unreasonable and angry customers who expect everything right there and right now, the fast food workers are required to be polite, understanding and conciliatory even when every fibre of their being is screaming out to punch the arrogant, demanding customer. Tony, like all his co-workers, understands that “nobody works for The Pizza Corp out of choice.” For Tony, with a pregnant wife who also is suffering from cancer, life is one long battle just to keep the demanding creditors, especially the medical bills, at bay. He has no choice, he cannot afford to lose his job and he desperately needs to get promoted to a salaried position. To do so, Tony knows he has to tow the corporate line and play by the corporate rules, as ridiculous and as unyielding as they may seem at times.

As someone who has fortunately never found the need to work for a fast food restaurant, As the Pizza Burns is a real eye-opener and a reminder to me never to take these hard-working, usually young people for granted. Nick Powers introduces us to a wide range of diverse characters who all add something to the mix that makes up The Pizza Corp team. The author’s style is simple, straightforward and very easy to read. I read this entire book in one sitting simply because it flowed so effortlessly. Tony is a character that is easy to identify with. He looks to the future, when things will work out for the good for him and his family, but realises for now he must do everything within his power to ensure his success at The Pizza Corp and guarantee the stability of his family, but at what cost. The author clearly drew on his own experiences in writing this fictionalised version of life in a fast food restaurant and perhaps that was what made the narrative so real and so starkly sad and equally funny in places. An author has achieved something special when he or she is able to open the reader’s eyes to something different to that which we take for granted and Powers has done this in this funnily sad story. I take my hat off to him and highly recommend this read to all.

K.C. Finn

As The Pizza Burns is a work of fiction in the drama genre. It is aimed at the mature end of the reading audience and was penned by author Nick Powers. The book follows pizzeria employee Tony as he forces himself through a daily routine of making nice with some of the most unpleasant customers in the country. Forced to put in as many hours at work as possible to make ends meet, Tony is tormented with the knowledge that these next few months may be the last he gets to spend with his wife. The impossible reality of Tony’s life risks pulling his very soul apart.

This book is a very hard-hitting story about what it’s like to live on the breadline in the 21st century. The very thin thread that so many people are holding onto in order to avoid slipping into desperate poverty is one that we don’t realize until it suddenly snaps, and such is the journey of Tony. In a scathing critique on the toll that the dream of capitalism can take on the individual, Nick Powers does not shy away from holding up a mirror to the often deadly realities of being on the bottom rung of the corporate ladder. As The Pizza Burns is an essential read. Tony is an exceptionally well-realized protagonist who readers will potentially recognise from somewhere in their own lives. I recommend this book to people keen on literature that explores the social issues of the day with unflinching bravery and outstanding storytelling.

Vincent Dublado

The customer is always right? Maybe, but in the novel As the Pizza Burns, author Nick Powers is skeptical about it. He writes a tale that demonstrates the stark terms akin to selling your soul to the devil when you work for an incompetent and greedy pizza company. This is the story of a guy named Tony, who is given the task to meet customer expectations by solely relying on his customer-oriented values in representing Pizza Corp’s work and service culture that everyone can appreciate. Tony knows that it is easier said than done, but he still performs his job with dedication. His wife Trinity has a life-threatening pregnancy, a malignant mass is found inside her womb, and the medical expenses she will accrue are three times his yearly salary. And for a job that demands Tony to work eighty hours a week, he wonders if Pizza Corp will have the heart to support him and if everything he has done for the company is worth it.

Nick Powers has created a character in Tony that is worth remembering. Tony is a working-class hero, made so by the unreasonable treatment by a corporate apparatus. Hero yes, but not necessarily a saint. And this is what makes the plot and character a great study in existentialist philosophy and Smithian principles in economics. Tony’s heroism is not exactly conferred, but it is solely his function for the unjust work stipulations that are placed upon him. You feel genuine sympathy for Tony when he re-evaluates his job. The thoughts that run in his head are surely something you can relate to if you have ever held a nine-to-five job and even more so if it involves customer service. As the Pizza Burns is a novel for the common man. Since the analysis of profits is intimately tied up with customer satisfaction, read this book and step back to see what you have been missing.

Christian Sia

As the Pizza Burns by Nick Powers brilliantly portrays the challenges that customer service representatives face in fast-food corporations. But it is more than that! It is the story of Tony, who works in a fast-food corporation as a shift supervisor, where customers have unrealistic demands. What is worse is that the upper management expects Tony to get things done, but they don’t provide the tools and support he needs. To make things worse, he is burnt out, working for very long hours, and not being able to spend enough time with his wife, Trinity, who is six months pregnant, and who has a delicate medical condition. She might not even live through the pregnancy. Even on her birthday, he cannot have a day off. His paycheck is not even enough to give them a life. Torn between putting in more hours at Pizza Corp and spending time with his pregnant wife, Tony has a difficult choice to make.

This book intelligently exposes the working conditions of low-income workers and as one reads, one begins to understand how corporations can suck the life out of workers. Even with robots taking orders, the chaos at the Pizza Corp is beautifully written and I adored Nick Powers’ characters. The protagonist is Tony and his voice echoes the struggles and frustrations of many people who find themselves forced to work where they don’t find fulfillment. Other characters allow this aspect of the story to shine through. Tony is a real character, and the exploration of his humanity is clever and skillful. The internal conflict is masterfully written and the author is great at creating emotions in characters that readers can relate to. The writing is gorgeous, and the liveliness in the tone enriches the reading experience. As the Pizza Burns is filled with realism and characters that feel like our next-door neighbors; they are real and compelling.

Ruffina Oserio

As the Pizza Burns by Nick Powers introduces Tony, an employee with a minimum wage working for a fast-food corporation. Tony is a shift supervisor at The Pizza Corp, and while he is expected to deliver stellar customer service, the working conditions are unbearable, not only for him but the overworked staff. But he has other concerns apart from the overbearing and inconsiderate customers: his wife, Trinity, is six months pregnant and in addition to the pregnancy, she has cancer. With his minimum wage, can Tony pay off creditors, provide the financial support his wife needs, and sail smoothly through the pregnancy?

This is a novel that United States Senator Bernie Sanders would highly recommend, a book that offers a strong indictment of the exploitation of workers by fast-food chains. The satire is biting and it is anchored in the pathos with which the characters are written. The prose flows and the first-person voice lends strength and authenticity to the narrative. The author has the unique gift of plunging readers into Tony's mind as he thinks about his predicament, and this absorbs the reader into his world. Readers encounter a hero in Tony, a man who works so hard but is paid very little, but one who continues to believe in pay-raise and promotion.

As the Pizza Burns shines a strong light on the working conditions of low-income workers in fast-food corporations, allowing readers to see their humanity and to understand that these overworked employees are people with personal and family problems to handle and that they deserve more than what they get from customers and employers. It is very entertaining and thought-provoking.