King of the Mississippi is a dissection of contemporary male vanity and delusion, centered around a "war" for dominance of a prestigious Houston consulting firm. On one side of the conflict is Brock Wharton, an old money ex-jock. On the other is Mike Fink, a newly hired wily former soldier trying to ride his veteran status to the top of a corporate world.
King of the Mississippi...heralds a maturation of Freedman’s talent ... a biting send-up of corporate America, traditional ideas of masculinity, and flag-on-your-lapel patriotism. Freedman’s two main characters are sharply drawn, though they begin as caricatures ... The narrative...is generally fast paced. The middle third lags, though it does include a hilarious set-piece ... The final third...recovers from the second and surpasses the first, getting the epilogue just right ... King of the Mississippi is a novel for our time.
... [a] bonkers business satire ... The novel is pure in its cynicism, in that it doesn’t offer a single sympathetic character to throw these soulless buffoons into relief. (In this it reminded me of Helen DeWitt’s savage office farce Lightning Rods from 2011.) The nauseating extra irony is that, for all its noise and passion, the battle between Wharton and Fink signifies nothing, since the corporate world is protected in such a way that even its so-called losers don’t actually lose anything beyond a modicum of prestige.
This hyperliterate, darkly comic skewering of modern masculinity pits the two combatants in a battle for supremacy via quasi-military tactics and uproariously funny, cringe-inducing high jinks ... Freedman masterfully blends humor with thought-provoking and poignant insights. The dialogue hums and the two main characters are colorful, memorable, and thoroughly human, each on his own treacherous path toward the discovery of what it truly means to be a man.