Satire is not easy. 1984 was powerful fiction but lousy prognostication. Catch-22 has some wonderful moments but goes on forever. Jennifer Government does just about everything right. It is fast-moving, funny, involving and, if you share Barry's dark view of the corporate ethos, all too serious. — Patrick Anderson
In his book, Max Barry seems to be making the point that anarchy is not freedom. In a time when characters take the last name of the organization they work for and police forces contract killings, Barry creates a materialistic world where money can buy you everything, except justice. In his world, corporations rule and being unemployed is worse than murder. As corporations unite and take on the help of the police and NRA (yes, the NRA!), the government doesn't have the necessary budget to fight them. Barry begins the book with the events that set this in motion. When Jennifer Government, a government agent, is tipped off that a Nike advertising campaign will involve the murder of several people, she sets out to prevent these crimes (crime prevention is in her job description). Along the way the author caricatures the NRA, the police, giant corporations, privatized government agencies, and ineffectual protestors. The sometimes graphic nature of the material in this book and the sophisticated subject matter make it a better read for more mature young adults. 2003, Doubleday, 321 pp., Ages young adult.
Yes, the eponymous heroine really does work for the government. In a world where corporations run everything, even giving employees their surnames, Jennifer steps in to help Hack Nike, who has unwittingly contracted to shoot teenagers wearing a classy brand of sneakers. You weren't expecting anything ordinary from the author of Syrup, were you? Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Adult/High School-In a satiric near future, privatization has taken over all aspects of public life-including schools, police, and government-and the world is divided among economic blocs. Surnames reflect the company people work for, and, increasingly, the alliance of corporations to which the company belongs. When hapless Hack Nike, a lowly Merchandise Distribution Officer, runs into the wrong people-John Nike and (yes) John Nike, Vice Presidents-at the watercooler, he is inveigled into a highly illegal, unethical merchandising act. When he goes to the police for help, they sell him a contract (which he can't afford) to take the job off his hands, and then subcontract the work to the NRA, which botches it, putting Field Agent Jennifer Government on the case. Jennifer is a single mother with a savvy daughter, Kate Mattel (children take the name of their school), who is a bit of a heroine herself. A hard-boiled detective with a soft heart and a ready wisecrack, Jennifer has an enigmatic tattoo, a mysterious past, and a mission to bring down wrongdoers-especially at Nike. The story takes her on a madcap chase across the United States Economic Bloc from Melbourne to London, culminating in a bizarre world war with a surprising outcome. The cast includes quite a few characters, and while they aren't deep, they are colorful, pointed, and funny. This fast read should please a variety of teens with its hip attitude and hilarious turns, and could spark lively discussions.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Bubblegum pop-future comedy in which corporations go to war like feudal fiefdoms. In a move guaranteed to provide the impetus for many a lawsuit, all Barry's characters have forgone use of their surnames in the interest of renaming themselves after their place of work-so we have Jennifer Government, John Nike, Hack Nike, Buy Mitsui, and Billy NRA. Jennifer is a former top advertising exec with a barcode tattoo on her face who is now a loose-cannon federal agent and single mother, as deadly with a pistol as she once was with ad copy. The world situation: corporations are even more rapacious than today, and they fight one another along battle lines drawn up by two big consumer reward programs: US Alliance and Team Advantage. Governments themselves are a thing of the past, with the exception of the US one, which is now privatized and running other parts of the globe, including Australia, where the book is set. Coldhearted marketing whiz John Nike (one of two characters so named) has decided that Nike's new sneakers would fly off the shelves all the faster if on the day they were delivered to Niketowns, several teenage customers got shot for them. It's a manufactured street cred thing. Shooters are hired-many from the now-privatized and militia-like NRA-and, despite Jennifer's best efforts, 14 teen shoppers get killed. The remainder of the story describes a rapidly escalating battle for supremacy between Jennifer's government agents and the forces of Nike, who believe themselves to be invulnerable and don't hesitate to use deadly force. At the same time, things are heating up between US Alliance and Team Advantage, with Burger Kings getting bombed, snipers going after rival chain stores, andriots erupting in the streets. Barry (Syrup, 1999) has a quick wit and a light touch, which helps the reader skate over some of the occasional patches of too-obvious satire and should translate easily (though more litigiously) to film. It's Catch-22 by way of The Matrix. Film rights to Section 8; author tour
"Wicked and wonderful. . . . [It] does just about everything right. Fast-moving, funny and involving."—The Washington Post Book World
“Funny and clever. . . . A kind of ad-world version of Dr. Strangelove. [Barry] unleashes enough wit and surprise to make his story a total blast.” —The New York Times Book
“May be the most fun you’ll find in a bookstore this year. . . . Full of wit, humor and imagination, Jennifer Government ultimately pulls off its over-the-top conceit.”—Time Out New York
“A riotous satirical rant. . . . [Its characters’] excesses . . . make Barry’s world of unregulated corporate greed and unrelenting consumerism so frightening and funny.”—Entertainment Weekly
“The plot rockets forward on hyperdrive . . . fresh and very clever.”—The Boston Globe
“[A] devilish satire that made me laugh out loud.”—Dick Adler, The Chicago Tribune