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Jennifer Government [Paperback]

Max Barry
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 6 2004 Vintage Contemporaries
Taxation has been abolished, the government has been privatized, and employees take the surname of the company they work for. It's a brave new corporate world, but you don't want to be caught without a platinum credit card--as lowly Merchandising Officer Hack Nike is about to find out. Trapped into building street cred for a new line of $2500 sneakers by shooting customers, Hack attracts the barcode-tattooed eye of the legendary Jennifer Government. A stressed-out single mom, corporate watchdog, and government agent who has to rustle up funding before she's allowed to fight crime, Jennifer Government is holding a closing down sale--and everything must go.

A wickedly satirical and outrageous thriller about globalization and marketing hype, Jennifer Government is the best novel in the world ever.

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From Amazon

In the horrifying, satirical near future of Max Barry's Jennifer Government, American corporations literally rule the world. Everyone takes his employer's name as his last name; once-autonomous nations as far-flung as Australia belong to the USA; and the National Rifle Association is not just a worldwide corporation, it's a hot, publicly traded stock. Hack Nike, a hapless employee seeking advancement, signs a multipage contract and then reads it. He discovers he's agreed to assassinate kids purchasing Nike's new line of athletic shoes, a stealth marketing maneuver designed to increase sales. And the dreaded government agent Jennifer Government is after him.

Like Steve Aylett, Alexander Besher, Douglas Coupland, Paul Di Filippo, Jim Munroe, Jeff Noon, and Chuck Palahniuk, Max Barry is an author of smartass, punky satire for the late capitalist era. It's a hip and happening field; before publication, Jennifer Government (Barry's second novel) was optioned by Stephen Soderbergh and George Clooney's Section 8 Films for a major motion picture. However, the level of literary accomplishment varies wildly among practitioners, from brilliant (Di Filippo and Palahniuk) to amateurish (Besher). This field is so hot, its writers needn't be nearly as accomplished as they'd have to become to break into any other form of fiction.

That said, like many of his fellow turn-of-the-millennium satirists, Barry is uneven. He has a lively imagination and a sharp eye for the absurdities and offenses of hypercorporate capitalism. But, with its sketchy characters and slow dialogue, Jennifer Government will disappoint anyone who believes the cover copy's grandiose claim that this is "a Catch-22 for the New World Order." --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The most unnerving thing about Max (formerly Maxx) Barry's new novel is that its hyperbolic vision of the not too distant future doesn't seem too far out there at all. The world is run by giant corporations who literally go to war with one another; Australia and the U.K. are annexes of the United States; the police are for sale to the highest bidder; and employees take the last name of their employers. Thus, the cast of characters includes John Nike, Georgia Saints Nike (she volunteers at the Church of Latter-Day Saints), Billy NRA, Buy Mitsui, Hayley McDonalds, and so forth. Jennifer Government, a former advertising executive turned government agent, is hot on the trail of the villainous John Nike for murder. As the mastermind of the latest Nike campaign, he planned the murder of 14 teenagers in order to build up the street reputation for Nike's new $2,500 sneaker, Mercurys. Frederick's reading of this wacked-out morality play is first-rate. His obvious enjoyment of the satire fuels his performance. Especially entertaining are his stereotypical foreign accents, which would seem out of place under most circumstances, but they fit the comic book-type characters waging chaos in this saga like an Aris glove.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange, challenging and funny, too. June 6 2004
Archconservative Grover Norquist has been quoted as saying he'd like to make government small enough to "drown it in a bathtub." If he and like-minded individuals were successful in doing so, the world that would result might very well look like that depicted in Max Barry's second novel, JENNIFER GOVERNMENT. In this world, government has been downsized to the point where it has to petition funds from its own citizens in order to pursue murderers, and everything from roads to utilities has been wholly deregulated.
Barry's point is satire, and he does a grand job of it. Within the first few pages, readers are introduced to the predominantly Australian cast of characters - Australia has become a "USA country", a sort of franchise of the United States - who exist in a society where citizens take as their last name the names of the companies for whom they work. We see schools sponsored by McDonald's and Mattel, where children are indoctrinated into consumerism as thoroughly (if not more so) as they're taught math and language. We see a corporate culture so thoroughly divorced from a government-mandated sense of decency that it's considered good advertising to kill the buyers of a certain brand of shoes in order to imbue the product with a certain kind of thrill.
If it sounds insane, then Barry has gotten his point across. The events in JENNIFER GOVERNMENT are insane, and some of the more unscrupulous characters in the book are definitely certifiable.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Extreme capitalizm June 2 2004
"Jennifer Government" is a fast and fun read, good but not great. In the not-so-distant future, corporations have taken over the world, capitalism is the god everyone worships, and the USA is no longer a country but a federation. People now take the last name of the company they work for. Marketing schemes have become increasing outrageous, until a couple of Nike marketing executives hit on the plan of killing some of their own customers to gain "street cred" for their newest product. Only Jennifer, a dedicated government agent, figures out who's really responsible for the killings. I agree with other reviewers that after a great start, Barry sort of backed off on his concept. It was nice to find out what Jennifer's barcode tattoo meant, but why not barcode everyone? Also, there were some predictable moments: I figured right away that the bad guys were going to use Jennifer's kid to get to her, but even that was somewhat flat. However, for all its flaws, it's great as a beach read or to take on an airline flight.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good But Not Great May 25 2004
By A Customer
I read Jennifer Government in two quick days; one a coast-to-coast airline flight and the other day waiting around a courthouse. It is good entertainment; fast paced, easy-reading. You won't want to put it down as a bad book.
However, Max Barry could have pushed it so much further. The first 80 pages you marvel at how brilliant his ideas are, but then he gets bogged down in the transcontinental plot and all the characters. He runs out of steam a bit, and you wish that this could only be a draft. Acts II and III are not as hot as the opening. It's no Brave New World, but it is a good effort.
Examples of what I mean: explaining Jennifer Government's tattoo, for one thing. It would have been so much cooler if EVERYONE were bar-coded--then Max Barry could have explored the strange connection between letting capitalism run free and yet eliminating personal freedom (i.e. tracking everything about everybody all the time for their buying habits etc.) Anyway, a good early novel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Douglas Adams lite, sort of May 24 2004
Yah, it was OK. Good, actually. A bit subversive, a little silly, lots of good pokes at ultraconservatism and libertarianism in there. You know, fun to read, but a little smart, you get to feel a little superior after you've read it because it's not just fluffy escapism. More kind of thinking person's escapism.
Time and place are the world, a little in the future. Government is almost, but not quite, irrelevant; the Bushies have pretty much triumphed and big corporations, mostly American ones, have become the de facto world leadership. Even The Police are privatized (theme song "Every Breath You Take" is played in the The Police station) and have a competitor, the NRA. Corporations are so important, in fact, that your very name is tied to your employer. John Nike, Theo Pepsi, and the title character, Jennifer Government, for example.
Jennifer is a Government agent who, now that she has secured funding for her operation from a crime victim's rich family, is on a mission to bring down the requisite bad and evil man. She's a neat character, a combination of the Terminator and Mom Next Door. Barry does a nice job fleshing her out while leaving most of the other characters comically two-dimensional at most, a swatch of a few softer pastel hues in the midst of rowdy primary colors. Characterization was the best part of the novel, and worth reading the book for.
Was it great? Nah. The style is a little like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, that kind of unhinged, not-at-all-believable-but-somehow-makes-sense kind of fiction, but really only two of the hinges out of three are off. A little more reserved? A little too much sense?
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining & Clever fiction!
Jennifer Government is a fictional novel set in a world where free markets have been taken to the extreme & the only rule is: make as much profit as possible. Read more
Published on Dec 2 2008 by J. Tupone
5.0 out of 5 stars A Futuristic World, but a Modern Plot
Jennifer Government is a novel that takes place in the future, but still encompasses many of the social and political issues we face today. Read more
Published on June 4 2007 by Bubba
4.0 out of 5 stars It is to laugh...
Forget the overt, pretentious literary criticism of the previous reviews. Imagine a world in which George Dubya Bush, Wal Mart, and Nike actually win (not so hard, is it? Read more
Published on Aug. 10 2004 by John R. Vokey
3.0 out of 5 stars You'd think he'd have it down by now
Okay. I really don't want to crap all over Max Barry here. But this book was lacking in a lot of areas that I know Max is capable of handling. Read more
Published on July 12 2004 by Daniel E. Donche Jr.
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Fast, Very Fun
Barry's work is excellent. 'Jennifer Government' is an excellent novel in which William Gibson meets Dave Barry. Read more
Published on July 7 2004 by Emerson Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read! Smart, easy, and resonant.
I picked up this book based on the cover, title, and jacket. Not my usual way of choosing reading material, but all three were striking. I wasn't disappointed with my purchase. Read more
Published on June 22 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, better than average but not amazing
I just finished Jennifer Government after finding out about it through It is a fun read if you like economics and political science, and really fast. Read more
Published on June 15 2004 by J. Watts
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent ride through a parody future
Jennifer Government is a fresh and vital sci-fi look into the future of postmodern humanity. Max Barry describes with wit and edgy style a future that is both completely... Read more
Published on June 2 2004 by Rekz kaRZ
5.0 out of 5 stars There's No Denying It
It's simple: Max Barry is a god, and a genius. With this masterfully written novel, he's proved his status as the New Australian King of All Things Satirical. Read more
Published on May 30 2004 by R. M.
5.0 out of 5 stars Friggin AWSOME Man!
This book is so cool! Max Barry isn't lying when he says, "...Jennifer Goverment is the best novel in the world ever." This book if full of non-stop action! Read more
Published on May 24 2004 by Haidee
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