on July 19, 2016
The premise of the novel is great; it definitely got my interest when I heard of it years ago, but I kept pushing it down my reading list. Maybe I've been tainted by YA, but I feel like it fell flat with its idea. I wanted revolution! Change! And instead I got an interesting and clever plot that started with plain characters in boring situations and ended in a perfect convergence of plots. Also, the writing reminded me of the Hitchhiker's Guide; not quite as witty, but still direct without reading off as simplistic.
I did read through this pretty quickly so some issues I have are mostly my fault. For example, the characters often left me wondering who they were. I'd start their viewpoint and would completely forget which plot their name is linked to but the author did a good job of reminding me without hitting me over the head with it. The characters themselves are also really well made. They are distinct from each other in not so subtle ways, making it easier to rely on their actions and words to distinguish them instead of their names.
It was great seeing how one small decision a boring office worker made spiralled into a huge debacle, combining all of our characters' efforts and weaving their stories so seamlessly. I wish I paid a bit more attention because I've already forgotten how some characters ended up (mostly minor ones, however), and I wish their stories had more closure, but the ending with John and Theo was perfect; that last line hit it so well. It left the issue hanging, making me wonder if one day someone else will try for my aforementioned hoped-for revolution, yet wrapped up this story about their government nicely.
I could've done without some super direct writing (there are quite a few scenes where someone cries, and usually it's the scene ending with "and NAME cried"), and the story might've done better with a different title (I believed Jennifer Government would be the one to bring down the disestablishment and the story in the end didn't feel like it had one main protagonist - let alone Jennifer), but it was a good read.
on December 16, 2014
Such a good book! I loved it so much! A society you really don't wanna live in!
Do not read if you are a member of the tea party or work for Koch Industries :P
on December 2, 2008
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.
on June 4, 2007
Jennifer Government is a novel that takes place in the future, but still encompasses many of the social and political issues we face today. The privatized consumer-driven setting of the futuristic society provides an interesting, fast-paced, and suspenseful story. The wonders and horrors of a completely materialistic world are explored and revealed to the rim. The best part, though, are the characters' wit and personality. They represent the extremes of humanity. John Nike's ambition, Jennifer's vengeance, Hack's desire for respect, and Billy's simple urge to ski collide for a comedic and satiric plot. Even in a futuristic world these characters realistically portray the deep feelings, emotions, and shallowness of the challenges we each individually face.
on August 10, 2004
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? You may already be living it.). Now, imagine trying to be a citizen within it. This is a very funny, serious book, from the initial premise (the insane globalisation that permeates everything, is accepted as normal, and everybody's last name is the company they work for), to the ribald, unbelievable, you wish you would do that if things were like that action that makes up the plot, this is a film waiting for a book deal. As it should be. Read it and laugh, and weep.
on July 12, 2004
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. The thing that got me most is how every time there is a phone conversation, Max still put the dialogue in. How many times can a guy read everybody answer the phone the same way? There wasn't as much cleverness in this one as there was in 'Syrup' either, which would have been cool.
I did like the idea behind this story; I thought it was very original and unique. Everything fits together nicely as far as plot goes, but normally with fiction, when a story has an over-elaborate plot, the characters tend to suffer. Which is what happened. Still, read it. But not while driving.
on July 7, 2004
Barry's work is excellent. 'Jennifer Government' is an excellent novel in which William Gibson meets Dave Barry. A hilarious social satire about the corporate world, Barry's novel succeeds because he avoids the particular slang that permeates Gibson's work. Every phrase in the novel is clear and obvious,and the marketing euphemisms used will make you laugh out loud. And fittingly enough for a novel about marketing to a generation with incredibly short attention spans, 'Jennifer Government' is a quick and easy read that will leave you smiling all day.
on June 22, 2004
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. This was a joy to read, and is still resonating with me weeks later. Orwell meets Douglas Coupland is the best way to describe this text. This book is not going to save your soul, but it may put you off of wearing corporate logos for a while. Fun, witty, and well-written. Highly recommend.
on June 15, 2004
I just finished Jennifer Government after finding out about it through nationstates.net. It is a fun read if you like economics and political science, and really fast. I read the majority of it in one day. Darkly funny, or I guess funny in an ironic sense it creates loveable characters and ends wrapped up in a nice little package. I liked it. I would reccomend it for a quick summer read by the pool.
on 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. 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.