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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. 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...
Published on Dec 2 2008 by J. Tupone

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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 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...
Published on June 2 2004 by Nancy Eggert


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5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining & Clever fiction!, Dec 2 2008
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J. Tupone (Saskatchewan) - See all my reviews
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Strange, challenging and funny, too., June 6 2004
By 
James Kosub (Maryland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jennifer Government (Paperback)
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. Acting a moral center to the novel is the eponymous heroine Jennifer Government, once an advertising ace so devoted to "capitalizm" that she had a barcode tattooed under her eye, and now a crusader for a kind of equal justice that's been completely abandoned by the "me first" mentality of the USA countries.
Barry's prose reads quickly and doesn't depend on tricks of language to amuse the reader. Instead Barry lets the strangeness of the situation speak for itself. Jennifer Government ties together the lives of a handful of characters taken from a variety of socioeconomic levels and demonstrates how each attempts to function in a completely dysfunctional society. It's to Barry's credit that no character ever steps up onto a soapbox and badly states that what we're reading about is wrong, wrong, wrong. Rather, any sensible reader will come to that conclusion on his or her own, confronted by the situation on the page. This is the restraint that marks all well-written satire.
The tone of JENNIFER GOVERNMENT shifts inexorably from whimsical to dark, but does so in such a subtle manner that the transition is never jarring. Humor comes in a wide variety of guises, and even when events are at their grimmest, Barry still comes through with events, turns of dialogue, or character moments that elicit a smile. Unlike many writers trying to make a statement about How the World Is Today, Barry demonstrates great skill at keeping his work entertaining without ever losing focus on the point of the novel.
Max Barry's debut novel, SYRUP, about marketing and the soft drink industry, vanished without a trace in a sea of new releases as so many other first novels do. JENNIFER GOVERNMENT has an assurance that is, considering the disappearance of its forebear, remarkably well developed. JENNIFER GOVERNMENT shows that Barry is the real deal: an author with skill, something to say, and a distinctive voice with which to say it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Extreme capitalizm, June 2 2004
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"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
This review is from: Jennifer Government (Paperback)
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
This review is from: Jennifer Government (Paperback)
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? When the novel threatens to careen around a corner, two wheels off the side of the cliff while the others still hang on, you get the feeling the brakes are tapped at the last minute. A little screeching of tires, some skid marks, but still on the road.
It was fun, though. Quick beach reading, rainy day stuff. Read it and lend it to a friend. They'll appreciate it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent plot, weak characters, May 22 2004
By 
Kimberly Hamm "kimatha" (Gainesville, FL) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jennifer Government (Paperback)
Almost everything in the United States and its affiliated countries (including Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain) is privatized. People take the surnames of the companies they work for. Kids go to corporate-run schools. Even freeways are private, costing a dollar a mile. The Government investigates and prosecutes crime, but that's about all they do, and they can only do it if they can raise funding from the victims.
The story starts when Hack Nike, a hapless corporate merchandiser, is approached by a couple of guys, both named John Nike, with a contract for a Marketing job, which he signs without reading. He finds out that the contract involves killing the first people who buy Nike's new product, "Nike Mercurys", in order to generate market demand. Since he doesn't want to kill anyone, he subcontracts with the Police, who then subcontract to the NRA, which has evolved into a company of mercenaries.
Jennifer Government and her fellow government agents get a tip that the murders are about to happen, and are in place at the local Nike store. Also on location is Buy Mitsui, a stockbrocker who is so relieved that he's met his annual quota that he gives a lot of money to a random kid, Hayley McDonald's, who longs for a new pair of Nike Mercurys but doesn't have the money. Hayley gets killed in front of Buy, and the bad guys get away from Jennifer.
Jennifer investigates the crime amid a lot of other supporting characters and subplots that all come together in a convoluted but brilliant way. The plotting is excellent: creative and unexpected. The world Max Barry creates is intricate and well-rounded. And although it would be easy to make a statement about how all corporations are evil with this kind of speculative fiction, Mr. Barry does not fall into this trap. For example, even though the ultra-free-market mentality is delightfully skewered, so is the ineffectually idealistic protest group. There are no happy solutions to the ludicrous overarching free market, and this free market, while awful, ultimately turns out not to be completely terrible, either.
The one weak point in this book is the characters, who are neither unexpected nor well-rounded: Jennifer is an overachieving public servant with a mysterious past who doesn't have enough time for her daughter; John Nike (one of the John Nikes, anyway) is sheer evil; Billy NRA is a lying, inept doofus; Hack Nike is a hapless idiot who falls in with a group of equally idiotic socialist protesters; Violet ExxonMobile is scheming and ineffectual.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great ideal, mediocre execution, May 6 2004
By 
Matthew D. Johnston (Burford, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jennifer Government (Paperback)
Max Barry's "Jennifer Government" takes us into a not-so-futuristic world in which corporations have more power than governments, the newly-revamped NRA has more firepower than the recently privatized police force, and people assume the surname of the company for which they work. The story follows a fistful of characters as they battle to meet their own needs as two competing parent corporations, Team Advantage and US Alliance, fight for market loyalty. Various sabotage schemes evolved, including one which has Hack Nike, a lowly Nike employee, inadvertently contracted to kill Nike customers in a savy marketting ploy.
The story, and the satire, have their strengths and weaknesses. As a story, there are simply too many characters to care about any one of them and towards the end I found the novel veered away from its proper roots as a corporate satire and into a more mainstream gun-fighter cat-and-mouse chase type action novel. Add a few unlikely personal relationship coincidences and a bad guy run amok of all common sense and I didn't find the finish of the novel overly compelling. I enjoyed the earlier chapters, where every action was dictated by some obscene futuristic corporate ideology, far more.
As satire there's only so much to say, because only so much is there to delve into. I was disappointed that there weren't more layers introduced and more focus given to some of the issues raised, because each and every one of them is interesting. What if corporations tried to physically eliminate the government? What if law enforcement units had to raise funding before beginning investigations, no matter what the crime or societal interest in justice? What if corporations waged war on each other, as countries do now? In the end, you won't find an overly compelling answers, just glossed over ones. This isn't "1984", where every nook and cranny and ideological point of this new society is given in full detail and rational and punched home with every single things that happens throughout the novel. I was still left wondering about how this world had evolved, what the interaction between the government and corporations had been limited to, what had become of hot-button issues like poverty, the environment and crime. But, on the other side, even raising these questions is more than most novels do, and for that, perhaps, the novel is still worth a read.
That said, there are some ingenious set-ups, some interesting (if almost uniformly similar) characters, and memorable lines. The most memorable thing I will take from this novel, however, is the cover photograph, which will live in my mind long after the details of this novel have completely faded away.
Matthew D. Johnston
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5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, clever and fun, May 6 2004
By 
Karen Bester (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jennifer Government (Paperback)
The most obvious thing about this novel is, of course, that it is about consumerism and the dirty deeds many will get up to in the name of business. I would say it is more than this - it's a classic hunt for the 'bad guy'. Naturally, the one looking for the bad guy has to have a personal grudge against him, but that predictable part really does not in any way hinder one's enjoyment of the book.
Essentially, therefore, the book is a gritty thriller - the fact that the consumer and business related stuff is so original just adds to it. It is also very witty - this is especially evident when looking at the main character, after whom the book is named.
It takes a little while to get used to the myriad of characters and so on, but once you do so and they all begin to come together, the book is a definite page turner. I finished the entire second half in one morning!
A dark but humourous thriller, satirising capatalism (though not necessarily denegrading it, according to Barry himself). A very definite thumbs up.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not rough enough, April 24 2004
By 
Dangle's girl (Astoria, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jennifer Government (Paperback)
How do you create satire in a world where George W. leads a nation and "The Swan" rules the airwaves? That's a question that kept coming up as I read "Jennifer Government." This book takes globalization and pushes just a little into the future, where the U.S. has literally bought out big chunks of the world and people's last names are their same as the company they work for. I had high hopes as I started this book, and Max Barry's smooth and vivid writing style kept me optimistic. What's missing, however, is what drives the best satire-righteous anger. Barry can't seem to summon much rage either within or directed toward his brave new world, just a sort of world-weary cynicism. His lack of commitment failed to keep this reader engaged, and I found myself skipping through big chunks of the novel. Tons of characters with similar names and thin characterizations didn't help. So although "Jennifer Government" is entertaining, I'm still waiting for the great anti-globalization novel.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, although a little odd, April 3 2004
This review is from: Jennifer Government (Paperback)
I was clued into this game from a website called NationStates, which is run by the author of Jennifer Government. The website allows you to run your own country, and it peaked my interest in this book. The book itself isn't related to the website, but it's still and interesting read.
In the future the United States seems to be everywhere, large corporations run everything, and employees take the last name of the company they work for, taxes are illegal, and corporations run the schools. It's a really odd place, although everyone seems right at home. When Nike hires one of it's peons (Hack)to create a furor over their new shoes by killing some kids, a whole cast of characters is assembled. You have Hack Nike, the peon for Nike; Violet, his unemployed computer whiz girlfriend; Buy Mitsui a stockbroker; Billy NRA, a private gun for hire, and Jennifer Government, an agent with a barcode tattoo under her eye. Everything falls apart after Hack completes his contract, and it's up to all the characters to play their parts until everything can fall back into place.
Overall the novel is interesting, although I found a hard time suspending my belief at some points. The world Barry creates is pretty unusual, and even with the map on the back of the book I had some trouble following along with what companies were good and what ones weren't.
I think the book kind of flies past some of the more important parts, and drags in others. Also, given its length there's a lot of characters thrown into the book, and sometimes you have trouble with who did what and where and what are they going to do. It's a catch 22 though, had he decreased the characters the story would have been completely different, and if he's developed them all more the story would have drug on for too long.
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Jennifer Government
Jennifer Government by Max Barry (Paperback - Jan. 6 2004)
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