Top critical review
on February 21, 2004
Don't be fooled. Jennifer Government does not rank with Orwell, or the film Brazil, or any other major Dystopian fable. This is because, after luring the reader into a compelling Dystopian environment, where corporations openly rule, and the government can't compete with the even lower morality of big-business, Max Barry decides to turn the whole affair into an Elmore Leonard novel, or a Carl Hiaasen romp. This book, somewhere along the path, morphs into a clicheed, smart-mouthed crime novel, with lots of zany characters running around with guns trying to get the best of each other by hook, or by crook, or by cellphone, or by board meeting, or by missile launch, or by whatever. Characters are interesting at first, but they end up merely gliding along after they have been suitably plugged in and lit up for display, and as the book progressed, with lots of chaos flowering in all directions as we bounced back and forth between players, I felt it didn't matter who was who, or what they were like. Action and sardonic wit prevail, with Jennifer Government herself coming in a close second to Slickness, when it comes to listing the reasons to read this book. Yes, Jennifer emerges as a strong character, but then some clicheed villains decide to do the usual, go after her family, sparking a final gun-bedecked confrontation, and here we go again. Characters' final fates are nicely wrapped up in prompt, slick style as the pages dwindle, and there we have our promising Dystopian setting having done not much more than supply smart remarks and some familiar action sequences.
But, it was all kind of entertaining. The SF underpinnings struggle mightily throughout to somehow mean something; the spirit of Orwell battles nobly with the overpowering Carl Hiaasen, witty-slick-crime-escapade virus that slowly takes over the book. Orwell loses. Read it for fun and games; go elsewhere for a really disturbing, really necessary Dystopia.