Jennifer Government

A couple nights ago I was quickly flipping pages as I read Max Barry‘s Jennifer Government. It’s an innovative, insightful and well paced thriller taking on consumerism with ample doses of wit and humour in a present not that far removed from the one we face ourselves.

Welcome to paradise! The world is run by American corporations (except for a few deluded holdouts like the French); taxes are illegal; employees take the last names of the companies they work for; the Police and the NRA are publicly-traded security firms; and the U.S. government only investigates crimes it can bill for.
Hack Nike is a Merchandising Officer who discovers an all-new way to sell sneakers. Buy Mitsui is a stockbroker with a death-wish. Billy NRA is finding out that life in a private army isn’t all snappy uniforms and code names. And Jennifer Government, a legendary agent with a barcode tattoo, is the consumer watchdog from hell.
(- Max Barry)

Jennifer Government follows the title character and a host of others through a series of events instigated by corporations with the goal of improving profits (by limiting competition, marketing with illegal means and eventually removing all government regulations). In a world where corporations rule and people are content to go along with it the search for profit expands to daring campaigns such as Nike’s move to increase the street cred’ of a high-priced, high-hyped new sneaker by having 10 teens killed, making it seem that “ghetto kids” are killing for the shoes. The audacity of corporations and a key player from Nike increases over the course of the novel, providing twists and exciting leaps of plot that kept me reading at a furious rate.
The characters were able to grant life and depth to the story, underlining the themes with their lifelike reactions to events. Buy Mitsui and Hack Nike were especially interesting characters for me because of the real conflict they both developed as they were exposed to the super-corporate world’s seedier side. Hack’s development from over-passive to over-assertive was nicely done.
This novel is masterfully crafted, a brilliant mix of thriller, Orwellian-like warning and parody. The satire was rich but not overpowering, eliciting chuckles between the brutal turns while the violent action was likewise well managed. This is a broadly appealing, deeply funny and sharply insightful pop novel, one certainly worth being caught up in.

5 comments on “Jennifer Government

  1. averagejoe says:

    This book is awesome. I picked up a copy earlier this year when my wife and i were visiting the West Coast and I just couldn't put it down. Have you read Max Berry's other book?

  2. FrozenTruth says:

    I haven't yet read Syrup, but I hope to in the next year if I can make it far enough down my Books To Read In 2005 pile.

  3. Kate says:

    You should try the NationStates game that was inspired by Jennifer Government.

  4. FrozenTruth says:

    I played that game over a year ago and found it rather amusing, if rather lacking in choices (I'm all about nuance and developing political policy, so broad strokes annoyed me a bit).

  5. Micah says:

    I read the first chapter of the book, but it became due at the library before I could read any further. I'll continue it one day.

    I played the Nation States game for a long time before being fed up with it. For many issues I didn't agree with any of the choices offered.

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