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Jennifer Government by Max Barry
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Jan 25, 09

Read in January, 2009

Jennifer Government poses the most humorous "future gone wrong" I've encountered in the many of the other books of its kind that I've read. I've kind of been on a dystopian kick lately, and Barry's world of tomorrow isn't quite as grim as some other authors have dreamed up, but there've been some big changes.

First, 75% of the planet is now part of the United States, with only pockets of foreign countries still rooted in democracy and free market. The parts of the world governed by the US are under control of the corporations. In this future, people take on the last name of the company they work for -- for example, John Nike or Violet ExxonMobile. The Government now seeks to solve crimes but doesn't impart justice -- it's too expensive. The Police are third-party hit men for the corporations and private citizens, the NRA mercenaries for hire. It's crazy stuff.

The character development in Jennifer Government isn't great -- I didn't find myself caring about or relating to the central characters. The book's namesake, Jennifer Government, is a single mother with a secret, a former advertising wunderkid who now has cast off corporate life to work for the Government. Why is part of the central storyline. Another part of the problem is the sheer number of characters Barry throws at the readers. It's especially confusing when characters change jobs or employers, thus getting a new last name. Luckily, the story is fun enough to get past these problems. It's not going to earn a place among my favorite books, but I did enjoy Barry's satirical and cautionary tale of tomorrow, where consumerism has taken over and brand power is worth killing for.
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