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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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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining & Clever fiction! Dec 2 2008
By J. Tupone TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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. Barry establishes a number of clever & entertaining characters - such as Jennifer Government, the title character, who is a government agent set on bringing wrong-doers to justice, John Nike the egomaniac hell-bent on being number one at any costs & a number of characters who have become disillusioned with the world they live in & their role in it, such as: Buy Mitsui, Hack Nike & Claire Sears. There is even a woman pushing the boundaries of reason named Violet with no last name since she's unemployed. And there's even a Texas hick who finds himself temporarily out of a job before he becomes the unwilling pawn in a international conspiracy to reap chaos; an "innocent" guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, all the time.

Jennifer Government is a highly entertaining novel that pokes fun at the idea that free markets will solve all of our problems. It's highly absurd in most respects, but it's satire & is supposed to be absurd, funny & push the boundaries of what is reason: it's fiction, not fact.

Being a strong proponent of free markets & liberalization myself, I found a lot of humour in this book. It's a fun tale that takes a look at what happens when we let extremists make the rules without any checks & balances. The book is an incredibly fast read despite being a little over 300 pages. I'm a slow reader who often finds myself having to take frequent breaks & can only read or a period of an hour a day. This book was difficult to put down due to it being so entertaining & easy to read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Want to Know Why It's Easy to Buy This Book Used? Nov. 13 2003
Max Berry must be an idea man because this book certainly begins with a great idea. In fact, the best part of the book was the blurb that I read in the New York Times article listing this as a recommended summer read.
Perhaps Berry wants the readers to realize that it is possible to be more than the ads-on-the-moon style society we seem to be slouching toward. However, such wisdom isn't imparted with weak characters, predictable plot development, and boring dialogue. Another reviewer hit the nail on the head when he/she noted that for all that this is a disappointing book, it will be a great movie.
If you still must read it, do some good and support your local library. Sales of this book will only encourage more mediocrity.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It takes 320 pages to kill this premise. April 4 2004
The premise for this book is that in the future business is the most important thing. A person has a first name and their last name is the name of the company they're working for. The NRA is like an army, the government's investigations are privately funded by citizens, and a guy that works for Nike decides that if some customers are killed sales will go up. To me, that seemed enticing. So, I got the book and read 320 pages of someone ruining a good premise. It's almost as though Max Barry came up with this idea just so he can mess it up.

This story is very convoluted. Each chapter is from the third person point of view of a different character. There's John Nike, whose idea it was to kill the customers, Jennifer Government, whose job it is to arrest him, Violet, a tertiary character that's there just to make the book longer, and many other people. There's too much fluff in this book. There are superfluous characters and sub-plots, but the author has a lucid style that makes reading quick. But quick reading doesn't make up for poor content. Some people might read this book just to see how the premise is butchered, but it's not worth it.
Here's a one-word synopsis of the book: bad. ... run away and don't look back because the physical manifestation of this book isn't attractive to the eye.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nope. Feb. 26 2004
Anyone comparing this to "Catch 22" should have read both books. Inventive as it is, it remains a one-gag comedy. That George Clooney has optioned it is telling. Will Jennifer stop him before he thrills again?
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Great idea and quite special. I'll give him that. However, I stopped 2/3 into the book. Characters are mostly shallow and the plot has little to no depth. I kept asking myself why I keep reading this (when I could read a better book). I concluded that this book can't even have a decent ending. Yes, I understand that the depth of the characters serves a purpose (although painting everyone in the world as stupid and shallow as Max Barry did is probably over doing it) - but a little more color, background information could go a long way.... hey.. maybe I would have finished the book? Or do you need to be 20 something to really enjoy this?
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Overpraised Feb. 17 2003
By A Customer
This certainly is a cutely updated Orwell, and the ideas are occasionally interesting. For that reason I gave it a star. That was it. The slick marketing and online game, the movie option, and all the hype cannot take away from the fact that the author is a semi-talented amateur. Like a bad puppeteer, you can see the strings here. There is such <effort> in writing that should flow effortlessly, should sing and sparkle with smartass humor but plods in so many places as to turn the mindless, fun read that was promised into way more work than it is worth.
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Most recent customer reviews
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 13 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 23 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
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange, challenging and funny, too.
Archconservative Grover Norquist has been quoted as saying he'd like to make government small enough to "drown it in a bathtub. Read more
Published on June 6 2004 by James Kosub
3.0 out of 5 stars Extreme capitalizm
"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... Read more
Published on June 2 2004 by Nancy Eggert
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.
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