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Jennifer Government

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In Max Barry's twisted, hilarious and terrifying vision of the near future, the world is run by giant corporations and employees take the last names of the companies they work for. It's a globalised, ultra-capitalist free market paradise! Hack Nike is a lowly merchandising officer who's not very good at negotiating his salary. So when John Nike and John Nike, executives from the promised land of Marketing, offer him a contract, he signs without reading it. Unfortunately, Hack's new contract involves shooting teenagers to build up street cred for Nike's new line of $2,500 trainers. Hack goes to the police—but they assume that he's asking for a subcontracting deal and lease the assassination to the more experienced NRA. Enter Jennifer Government, a tough-talking agent with a barcode tattoo under her eye and a personal problem with John Nike (the boss of the other John Nike). And a gun. Hack is about to find out what it really means to mess with market forces.

335 pages, Paperback

First published October 17, 2002

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Max Barry

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,269 reviews
March 4, 2021
A marketopia populated by the rabid people, surnamed after the companies they work for. An inane world-for-profit. Tongue-in-the-cheek market worshipping leading to perception of capital and enterprise as the pinnacle of human achievement. And don't forget your constitutional rights, fraud included.
Add to that all the nice touches. The gun of sentimental value. The Nike hype. The John guy assaulting a gal and all the way threatening to sue her for damages! Wow! Consider me a Max Barry convert!

“Hey, don’t worry about it,” Vice-President John said. “Career change can be very stressful. I read that somewhere.”
Hack was a Merchandise Distribution Officer. This meant when Nike made up a bunch of posters, or caps, or beach towels, Hack had to send them to the right place. Also, if someone called up complaining about missing posters, or caps, or beach towels, Hack had to take the call. It wasn’t as exciting as it used to be.
They were smiling at him as if he was an equal—but of course, Hack was on the wrong floor.
Then they stuck out their hands. “I’m John Nike, Guerrilla Marketing Operative, New Products.”
“And I’m John Nike, Guerrilla Marketing Vice-President, New Products,” the other suit said.
“Hack, we need someone who can make snap decisions. A fast mover.”
“Someone who can get things done. With a minimum of fucking around.”
“If that’s not your style, well… let’s forget we spoke. No harm done. You stick to Merchandising.” Vice-President John reached for the contract.
“I can sign it now,” Hack said, tightening his grip.
“Yeah.” Hack hoped he sounded confident. He didn’t really understand marketing.
“So you know what we’re going to do?”
He shook his head.
“We’re going to shoot them,” Vice-President John said. “We’re going to kill anyone who buys a pair.”
“I remember when you could always rely on those little street kids to pop a few people for the latest Nikes,” Vice-President John said. “Now people get mugged for Reeboks, for Adidas—for generics, for Christ’s sake.”
“The ghettos have no fashion sense anymore,” the other John said. “I swear, they’ll wear anything.”
“Um…” Hack said. He swallowed. “Isn’t this kind of…illegal?”
“He wants to know if it’s illegal,” the other John said, amused. “You’re a funny guy, Hack. Yes, it’s illegal, killing people without their consent, that’s very illegal.”
Vice-President John said, “But the question is: what does it cost? Even if we get found out, we burn a few million on legal fees, we get fined a few million more… bottom-line, we’re still way out in front.”
Hack sat in traffic, biting his nails. This had not been a good day. He was beginning to think that visiting the marketing floor for a cup of water was the worst mistake he’d ever made.
“Well, that’s cheaper. We can make sure we don’t take out anyone with means. For, you know, retribution. And you need ten capped, so there’s a bulk discount. We could do this for, say, one-fifty.”
Jeeps were one of the safest vehicles on the road, Buy had read; safe for people in the Jeep, anyway.
Until recently, Buy had thought that moving to a USA country was the best move he’d ever made, with the possible exception of changing his name from Jean-Paul.
“I know first aid.” Not many people did; there was too much risk of being sued.
“Nine-eleven Emergency, how can I help you?”
“I need an ambulance. Quickly, a girl has been shot at the Chadstone Wal-Mart mall.”
“Certainly, sir. Can you tell me the girl’s name?”
“Hayley. Hayley something. Please, come straight away.”
“Sir, I need to know if the victim is part of our register,” the operator said. “If she’s one of our clients, we’ll be there within a few minutes. Otherwise I’m happy to recommend—”
“I need an ambulance!” he shouted, and it was only when water splashed on his hand that he realized he had started to cry. “I’ll pay for it, I don’t care, just come!”
“Do you have a credit card, sir?”“Yes! Send someone now!”
“As soon as I confirm your ability to pay, sir. This will only take a few seconds.”He looked at the faces around him. “Someone help her. Help her!” The kid who had loaned Buy his cellular knelt down and held the jacket over the wound. A girl began stroking Hayley’s hair. Buy dragged his wallet out from his back pocket and retrieved his credit card. Hayley’s eyes were fixed on him. I promise, he told her. I promise. “I have American Express—”
“That’s fine, sir. Could you read your card number to me, please?”
“Nine seven one four, oh three—”
Two shots rang out from somewhere below them, close. The people around him shrieked and fled; only the kid stayed, crouching lower.
“—six six—”
People were screaming. Something hit the ground—or one of the Mercedes?—with a deafening boom.
“Sir? Are you there? I didn’t catch the number, sir.” “Nine seven—”
The kid put his hand over Buy’s. “Mister…I don’t think it matters.”
Hayley was no longer looking at him. Her eyes were turned upward, at the Nike Town sign, at the fluorescent lights. Her face was white.
“Oh, no,” Buy said. “No, please.”
“Sir?” the operator said. “Can you please repeat your credit card number for me, sir? Sir? Are you there? Sir? Sir?”
Hack, what you just saw was a press release. We have no intention of hunting down the people responsible, because the people responsible are us. All right?
“You want to know why Americans took over the world, Hack? Because they respect achievement. Before this was a USA country, our ideal was the working-class battler, for Christ’s sake. If Australians ruled the world, everyone would work one day a week and bitch about the pay.” He shook his head. “Then there’s the British, who thought there was something wrong with making money. No surprise they ended up kissing the colony’s ass. The Japanese, they think the pinnacle of achievement is a Government job. The Chinese are Communist, the Germans are Socialists, the Russians are broke…who does that leave?”
“America,” John said. “The United fucking States of America, the country founded on free-market capitalizm. I tell you, those Founding Fathers knew their shit.”
“You mean the one time you did something nice for no reason, the person died?”
He reddened. “Well, we still need that information. It may not seem important to you, but this is a serious suit.”
She couldn’t help it: she looked at his suit.
In order to pursue the perpetrators, we need funding, yes. The Government’s budget only extends to preventing crime, not punishing it. For a retributive investigation, we can only proceed if we can obtain funding.
Hack said. “See, there’s this body in my kitchen—”
“You’re meant to call first,” the agent said. “To set up an appointment. We can’t drop everything just because you walk in.”
He smiled. Trespass was an assault against property and therefore a crime, but fraud was fine: fraud was practically a constitutional right, like free speech.
February 25, 2021
Jennifer Government maths:

This is one of my favourite books EVER and I don't give a fishing damn if:

① Some people say it's overhyped and overrated.

② Some people say it's predictable.

③ Some people say it's pure, badly written crap.

④ Some people say all the characters in the story are stupid, flat and unlikeable.

And I certainly don't give a fishing damn about the book snobs who compare this book to the supposed greatness of novels written by Huxley, Orwell, Stephenson and the like. The reverse book snob in me happens to think all these authors are greatly overrrrrrrated. I'd rather reread The Duke and I than have to go through Snow Crash or Brave New World again. But hey, I'm clueless enough to think Jennifer Government is one of the coolest books ever, so what the shrimp do I know?

And the moral of this crappy non-review is: love this book, hate this book, judge this book, I don't give a fishing damn. It is and forever will be pure delicious awesomeness to me. Ha.

[Pre-review nonsense]

· Question: Is this still one of the coolest books I've ever read?
· Answer:

Crappy non-review to come. In 2025. Or whenever I don't find the time to write it.
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
795 reviews3,616 followers
October 11, 2019
A satire about neoliberalism leads to its ultimate goal that shows the immense flaws and unlogic of this fairy tale.

Imagine the opposite of a state dictatorship like communism or state communism with state-owned companies and directed market economy. Instead, companies own everything and the state belongs to them. One may ask, where there is a difference to our actual situation. Well, in this case, it is official and no farce is held all few years and called a democratic election.

In this gritty, sick world and setting many tropes and ideas to caricature privatization and globalization can be set in place. Instead of hitting on Milton Friedman, Friedrich von Hayek and their successors, one should spread novels like that, cause laughing about something has two great effects. Once it doesn´t make one angry or sad and secondly it´s the only appropriate reaction to this whole mambo jumbo, yada yada economic system.

Readers who liked the idea might like Richard Morgans' novel Market Forces, which deals with a similar scenery. And leftist non-fiction in general.
Profile Image for Rob.
Author 2 books377 followers
February 25, 2009
If asked to write the foreword to some 20th anniversary commemorative edition, I would say that Max Barry's Jennifer Government is like a bottle of Diet Neal Stephenson served with a twist of Christopher Moore (or perhaps a dash of Tom Robbins?) There is something uncannily similar between Snow Crash and Jennifer Government: in the comic book pacing; in the hyperbolic and impossible but chillingly familiar geo-political climate that he illustrates; in the characters that reek of auto-erotic caricature and yet are so well-drawn, so believable and sympathetic and damn plausible. You can see Y.T. dropping out of school because of girls like Haley McDonald's. You can see NRA franchises competing against La Cosa Nostra in the burbclaves. You can imagine Hiro Protagonist sub-contracted by Jennifer Government to fend off Violet ExxonMobil. You wonder how the milieus of these novels aren't linked.

But even if you haven't read Snow Crash , even if you aren't making those comparisons, you will find this one wholly enjoyable. It has an immediate start, thrusts you headlong into the story-already-in-progress but makes sure to catch you up just as quickly. And it never loses this momentum. The chapters coming at you fast (each about 3-5 pages) and are fairly dialogue-driven. Before you know it, you'll find you've burned through 100 pages. THIS IS NOT A BAD THING. The narrative draws you in, the prose gets out of the way, and the characters encourage you to get invested.

Borderline 5 star review. There is a whimsy to this tale that draws on a lot of familiar dystopian capitalist tropes (e.g., the libertarian anarchy of free market capitalism run amok); it borders on cliche but doesn't quite cross the frontier into hackneyed territory. That it gets that close, that the prose taps its toes on cliche's fences is where we lose the fifth star in the rating. But that the narrative goes there so unabashedly, in all of its over-the-top banality -- *that* is a beautiful thing.
Profile Image for Eric.
52 reviews8 followers
August 11, 2008
I gave this book 2 stars, because I thought it was a good ride, but honestly it's only good at all if you can get past the fact that all of the characters are completely one-dimensional, poorly thought out, do things that are totally unrealistic, and have little to no motivation to do anything but do things that are completely bizarre. Seriously, Hack, the main character if there is one, is like Tess of the D'Urbervilles. He practically sleepwalks his way through the book and then when he grows a spine it's all pointless. The big secret of Jennifer Government's eye tattoo wasn't anything worthwhile either. There's so much pointlessness in this book, and so much out of the blue action that it makes you wonder how this book got any good reviews at all. If anyone in my book club actually reads this I'll be amazed, and I'd be totally up for discussing how bad it is with anyone who asks.
Profile Image for Stabitha.
63 reviews5 followers
March 25, 2011
In a word, Max Barry is overrated. He has no ear for dialogue and his characters are completely flat and forgettable. He has an annoying habit of making his female characters drop-dead gorgeous and going on at length about just how gorgeous they are. And exactly what they’re wearing. That being said, he’s got a good enough sense of pacing and enough satirical bite (though it never breaks the skin) to keep a person reading. I mean, there has to be some explanation for the fact that I read three of his books in two weeks. I find myself irritated with his mediocre writing and tired observations yet unable to put his books down until they’re done. Jennifer Government is set in a dystopian future in which the individual is so irrelevant that they take on the name of whatever corporation they work for. There are some truly funny moments but the book just feels like unfulfilled potential. I would say he's like the JJ Abrams of books: you kinda like the ideas but the execution blows.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,968 followers
June 28, 2020
Back a few years after the turn of the century, the world was brand crazy. More than that, it was murderously brand crazy. Remember the debacle around Nike? Murders in gangland over shoes? Or how about the whole stink surrounding the marketing departments who not only capitalized but doubled down on the policies that made this?


Well, this novel truly capitalizes on THAT. :)

And Max Barry takes it all to its natural conclusion. Governments are gutted, corporations rule everything. Do you want your loyalty rewards? How about unfettered capitalism without any restrictions whatsoever?

Please have your credit card handy if you want ambulance service. :)

Barry is one of my go-to guys now. Screamingly fast writing, razor-sharp commentary, and wonderful character-driven adventures that often pull some great bait-n-switches. Just who are we supposed to feel compassion for? Oh my... that IS horrible. :)

But just WHO is Jennifer Government? She's merely one in a fairly large cast of characters who must be defined by their job. I'd say the conceit is unrealistic but I recently had to change my name to Brad Writer. Branding is everything, you know.
Profile Image for Mike.
483 reviews375 followers
April 17, 2015
There is so much I want to say about this book. It is so jammed packed with interesting ideas and characters that there are a million places to start. Perhaps I’ll just get the crude and vulgar out of the way first.

The world of Jennifer Government reads like an Ayn Rand wet dream. Corporations have free reign in what is called the United States of America but actually comprises North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and the British isles (or, for you George Orwell fans out there, Oceania). The government makes Nozick’s Night-watchman state look like Soviet Russia and even most basic services are provided by companies.
The teacher jotted something in his folder. McDonald's sponsored schools were cheap like that: at Pepsi schools, everyone had notebook computers. Also their uniforms were much better.
But all is not happy go lucky in this Capitalist Paradise. Where the government does not have a monopoly on violence, those that deal in violence are attracted to the highest bidder. A corporate Cold War is on the verge of heating up, and in this case the customer isn't always right.
The battle lines have been drawn. Every Team Alliance company is in competition with every Team Advantage company. Every customer who flies T.A. airline will buy a computer from Compaq instead of IBM. Boeing is with us because otherwise United Airlines won't buy from it.
With this as the backdrop we are introduce to a wide cast of characters whose threads eventually get entangled with each other and much bigger events.

John Nike (because in this world you are your job, or at least your last name is your company) is what John Galt would be if Ayn Rand had a halfway decent editor. He condenses Jon Galt’s (in)famous ninety page radio speech into two paragraphs that absolutely represent the spirit of the age:
Look, I am not designing next year's ad campaign here. I'm getting rid of the Government, the greatest impediment to business in history. You don't do that without a downside. Yes, some people will die. But look at the gain! Run a cost-benefit analysis! Maybe some of you have forgotten what companies really do. So let me remind you: they make as much money as possible. If they don't investors go elsewhere. It's that simple. We're all cogs in wealth-creation machines. that's all.

I've given you a world without Government interference. There is now no advertising campaign, no intercompany deal, no promotion, no action you can't take. You want to pay kids to get the swoosh tattooed on their foreheads? Who's going to stop you? You want to make computers that need repair after three months? Who's going to stop you? You want to reward consumers who complain about your competitors in the media? You want to pay them for recruiting their little brothers and sisters to your brand of cigarettes? You want the NRA to help you eliminate your competition? Then do it. Just do it.
He is a ruthless, amoral, sanctimonious, asshole and thrives in the world corporations have constructed.
It's my job to increase sales. Is it my fault that [killing kids to create buzz] was the best way to do it? If Government had the muscle to enforce the law, it wouldn't have made economic sense, but they don't and it did. this is the world we live in. If you don't take advantage of the rules, you're a sucker.
If it doesn't have a dollar sign in front of it, isn’t connected to a board of directors, or doesn't wear a short skit, he isn’t interested. He is pure id in the empire of id.

Jennifer Government, the book’s namesake, is a bit rougher around the edges, hemmed in by Government limitations that prevent her from seeing justice done. In order to pursue a murder investigation she has to convince the victims' families to pony up money for a budget.
"The Government's budget only extends to preventing crime, not punishing it. For retributive investigation, we can only proceed if we can obtain funding."
She fit nicely into the loose cannon cop trope while still delivering both a softer side with her daughter, and a more interesting backstory than most who populate the trope.
In a way, Jennifer felt bad, busting into such a nice place in full riot gear and scaring the crap out of everybody. But in another, more accurate way, she enjoyed it a lot.
The world itself is quite dystopian. All the places in the USA are homogenized (be they LA, Australia, or England). The overwhelming cultural impulse is to do anything to get ahead, to get yours and to hell with other people. People have internalized this to the point where that commit immoral actions (child abduction, murder, assassinations, etc) or suffer psychological breakdowns when they finally burn out. It is a culture driven by consumerism and consumption at the cost of overseas workers, the environment, and our shared humanity.

Thankfully things like this:
The cheap roads were clogged, even at six-thirty, but he was only four blocks from a premium Bechtel freeway and that was eight lanes, two dollars a mile, and no speed limit.
Would never happen in America

Well, at least this would never happen:
Prison housing prices have really jumped lately. Some of these places, you do fifteen years' labor and come out owing them for food and board.
Not in the good ole US of A.

Well, at least emergency services will never devolve into this:
"Sir, I need to know if the victim is part of our register. If she's one of our clients, we'll be there within a few minutes. Otherwise I'm happy to recommend-"
"I need an ambulance. I'll pay for it, I don't care, just come!"
"Do you have a credit card, sir?"
"Yes! Send someone now!"
"As soon as I confirm your ability to pay, sir. This will only take a few seconds."
Yup, no way that happens here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

(Goddamnit world, this book was not supposed to be a how to guide!)

Anyway, doomsday prophesying aside, this was a very fast read. Chapters were just a few pages long and the action jumps among a wide cast of characters. The writing is sharp (see below for some of my favorite quotes) and Barry does a great job bringing this Calitalizm nightmare to life. I did think the ending was a bit lacking, much like Lexicon, but I greatly enjoyed this book in spite of this. If you like economic dystopias or just think the setting sounds fun then by all means check this out.

Also, if you are feeling ambitious, start and run your own nation at Nationstates, a site affiliated with this book.

Now, without further ado, fun/horrifying quotes:
Companies were getting a lot tougher on labor contracts these days; Hack had heard stories. At Adidas, if you quit your job and your replacement wasn't as competent, they sued you for lost profits.
"I want to commandeer your vehicle for Government business. We pay three hundred dollars per hour of use, plus any necessary repairs. Also, you have the satisfaction of knowing you've helped prevent crimes in your community."
"Three hundred up front?"
Companies claimed to be highly responsive, but you only had to chase a screaming man through their offices to realize that wasn't true.
There was no place for irony in marketing: it made people want to look for deeper meaning. there was no place in marketing for that, either.
There are lots of other brilliant and funny lines as well, you should read it and see them for yourself!
Profile Image for Nastja .
225 reviews1,392 followers
January 7, 2021
В мире победившего чистогана, где никто не платит налогов, правительство приватизировано, а у людей вместо фамилий названия компаний, в которых они работают, один мужик решает, что для продвижения новых кроссовок им нужно убить человек десять подростков, и это еще не самое лучшее.
Макс Барри очень похож на завязавшего с буддизмом Пелевина, только этот не Олегович, а Легович, потому что даже сатиру на современное общество потребления он все равно складывает из проверенных годами сюжетных деталек и пиу-пиу.
Profile Image for Jamie.
Author 4 books164 followers
August 1, 2008
In some ways, Max Barry's Jennifer Government is like the inverse of Orwell's 1984. It's set in the near future where things have gone loopy, but instead of an out of control, totalitarian government oppressing everyone, it's uncontrollable megacorporations and hypercapitalism (or, one could argue, hyperlibertarianism) that's ruining everyone's day. Unfortunately, Jennifer Government is unlike 1984 in that it's not particularly well written.

The hook, like I said, is that Barry has created a near-future world where capitalism and its slothful cousin consumerism are the defining forces in the free world, to the point where the USA has taken over most of the planet, abolished taxes, moved nearly all traditionally governmental functions like education to the private sector, and yelled "Okay, let 'er rip!" It's the kind of place where McDonald's and Mattell run the grade schools, the police are mercenaries who dispense justice only after your credit card clears, and most of the world's ginormous corporations are banding together into ruthless syndicates centered around competing frequent buyer clubs. The consumer culture is so extreme that one's job is the most important thing in life, so that people do the very improbable thing of taking on their employer's name. So you got among the cast of characters John Nike (two of 'em, in fact), Billy NRA (uh, two of those, also), and one would assume Alice Freeonlinecreditreports.com (but just one of them).

By this you may surmise that the titular character, Jennifer Government, is one of the few people left in the employ of the dwindling public sector. She is, in fact, a law enforcement officer, and one of the last laws that remain in her world is a proscription against murder. So Jennifer gets involved when John Nike and his colleague the other John Nike launch a marketing campaign that involves assassinating 12 of the first youngsters to buy their new sneakers. You know, for the free hype and street cred.

The book jumps around between the points of view of several characters, including Jennifer Government, a suicidal stock broker, an anti-consumerism saboteur, a computer hacker with a screw loose, and the megalomaniacal marketing executive John Nike. But in general it's a tale of revenge and thrills. In fact, Jennifer Government is so obviously cast in the same mold as every rogue cop in every formulistic cop movie you've ever seen that I kept expecting her to fall to her knees, throw her head back, and howl "MEEENNNNDOOOOZZAAAAA!" And then she practically did just that.

The other main problem I had with this book was that the author's hand was WAY too visible in the plot, shoving things this way and that so that they went the way he wanted. There are a lot of threads and characters introduced, which in a way is great because it gives us more points of view into this potentially very interesting world that Barry has created. But what really kind of broke the magic for me was that unlikely coincidences started piling up and the characters started to do very improbable things so that those threads could be twisted together. There are cases of mistaken identity thanks to so many people having the same name but apparently no other way of establishing identity, chance meetings on airplanes and street corners, spontaneous and completely unexplainable romances, and overly convenient job assignments that bring characters together. It feels a lot less like the author is weaving various threads together and a lot more like he's yanking us around by the nose. In other words, it's not that the plot is so contrived, it's that the reader is so aware of it.

This is too bad, because the situation and world that Barry has created has a lot of potential. I wish he had expanded on the book a bit more and had the guts to slow things down a bit so that we got more vignettes and viewpoints about what it's like to live in a world where corporate executives can literally have you killed and get away with it, buying things is a way of life tantamount to religion, and class structures are defined less by race and wealth and more by which frequent buyer's club card you have in your wallet. The role of the media (tv, print, web) in this kind of world was also completely unexplored in the book. The author had some neat ideas going on here, but he seemed less intent on exploring them and more intent on railroading us through a predictable yet ham-fisted crime thriller. Still, it is fun and interesting enough in places that I can mildly recommend it as a kind of quick, entertaining read. It's kind of like a summer blockbuster action movie in book form.
Profile Image for Lizz.
220 reviews52 followers
November 28, 2021
I don’t write reviews.

Oo pow pow! Snappy delivery, action-packed. Yet also, many great characters and time for them to develop. I would enjoy finding out how the story continues. Yeah I’m sappy, so I was happy that characters found love (and themselves) in the midst of all this corporate malfeasance, business war and left-hand shakes.

Barry’s story goes down like a cold beer on a hot afternoon. Satisfying to be sure. Worst part is that it went by too fast - I couldn’t put it down. Honestly, there are a few silly things that the reader has to overlook (Jennifer leaving Katie with By), but the story is so much fun it’s not hard to ignore those small awkward points.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,889 reviews428 followers
May 5, 2020
'Jennifer Government' by Max Berry is pure rock-'n'-roll satire turned up to ten. In the fictional world of the novel, American corporations run the world. But if you think that means we have the peace of pushing around grocery carts and walking around stores looking for the best sales and visiting strip malls on the way home to pick up a hot dog, think again. Corporations have always been murderously competitive. Think Jack in the Box vs. McDonald's. Think Nike vs. Adidas. Think of corporate marketing ideas such as the Nike President hiring the NRA to shoot up kids at a mall in order to increase the street cred of a new Nike shoe to increase sales. After fourteen kids are shot dead, sales increase 1000 percent. Give that merchandising executive a raise!

Jennifer Government, a government police agent, works for the rump power that remains of the United States government. Hack Nike works for Nike. Buy Mitsui works for Mitsui. Billy NRA works for the NRA. The last name of people is always that of whom they work for. If people don't have a job with a company, they have no last name at all. Taxes are illegal. If the government does any work, like fight a fire or investigate a crime, they charge upfront before showing up. Only the European Union still has governments in control of individual countries, taxes and businesses. American corporations are in charge of the rest of the world and they always get paid for their services or there is no service.

John Nike has a plan. He wants to rid the world of what remains of the government. He also wants to get rid of the competitor merchandising group called the Team Advantage, an aligned co-operative group of corporations. Nike belongs to the US Alliance, which competes with the corporations of Team Advantage. The US Alliance is not aware of John Nike's assassination plot. But as John knows, all an executive needs to do is take charge, assign people to tasks. People are sheep. John Nike is a psychopath. He is confident of his schemes. One of those schemes is killing the teens who line up to be first to buy the new line of Nike shoes. He assigned the murder of the mall kids to an employee, Hack Nike.

It is surprising to most people how orders from an executive are often obeyed, gentle reader, no matter how insane the command, as is demonstrated in the book and in the real world, despite an employee's qualms or morals. Promise of a raise and job promotion, threat of a job loss - that is all it ever takes.

Jennifer Government knows John Nike very well. She is not aware of his machinations regarding increasing the popularity of Nike's new $2500 shoes, but she is aware of his cold ambitious nature. She is busy tracking down the killer of the kids at the mall unaware of John Nike's involvement. The trail leads her into a maze of corporate ambitions and business alliances, all of whom have their own agendas and none know of the others' plots.

The book is absurdist satire. Coincidences and close calls and near misses and misunderstandings ensnare all of the characters into grievious difficulties. The plot reminds me a bit of what author Elmore Leonard does in injecting fun into his novels, but Barry goes in harder and deeper into the land of the absurb, creating more intensity into the politics of the story rather than invest much more than what is necessary for characterization. It's a romp through an alternate world (well, maybe an alternate world) where capitalism rules!
Profile Image for Olethros.
2,617 reviews429 followers
December 28, 2018
-¿Le gusta el liberalismo? Pues tome liberalismo, pero luego no se queje (aunque será “libre” de hacerlo, claro).-

Género. Novela.

Lo que nos cuenta. El libro Jennifer Gobierno (publicación original: Jennifer Government, 2003) nos lleva a un futuro no muy lejano en el que los Estados Unidos de América han absorbido todo el continente, parte del norte de Europa, algunos países del sur de Asia y Oceanía, mientras Rusia y otros países son afiliados, llevando a todos esos lugares su régimen sociopolítico, el Capitalizmo, en el que las ventas, el dinero, los ingresos y los negocios son lo más importante, por encima de las personas, la dignidad y el sentido común. Cuando unos ejecutivos de la filial de Nike en los Territorios Australianos comienzan una campaña de marketing basada en la manipulación de valor y los asesinatos, las vidas de distintos personajes se cruzarán.

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Profile Image for Brent.
348 reviews144 followers
June 23, 2018
An enjoyable satire on the concept of unfettered capitalism.

This story delivers a lot of interesting ideas: America as a franchise, the NRA as a mercenary army, corporations ruling the world, government as a vestigial organ. Unfortunately, the reader tends to be so far ahead of the characters in understanding the mystery that it is hard to be patient with them and really empathize.

Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 2 books3,300 followers
July 10, 2010
Aw, this was kind of disappointing on the second read. I remembered it being really clever and fast-paced and fun, and it was fast-paced and a little bit clever, but also much cornier and flatter than I remembered. The characters were very one-dimensional, and the plot was fairly original but totally predictable. Honestly (and I feel like this is a terribly back-handed compliment), I think this would be a great action movie.
Profile Image for Kevin Kelsey.
405 reviews2,198 followers
November 27, 2016
It isn't fantastic writing, but it's so much fun it makes up for it. A little dated now, but it's biting satire of the late 90s/early 00s brand obsessed America.
Profile Image for Philip.
1,388 reviews72 followers
November 3, 2022
What a pleasant surprise! This had been on my "to borrow" list from the library for so long that I forgot how I'd heard of it in the first place. But then saw it for a buck at our monster used bookstore, and being unable to pass up such a bargain, figured I'd finally give it a go. And it turned out to be a real page-turner - knocked it off in two days because I just couldn't put it down.

Story takes place in either a near-term future or alternate now (they reference pay phones and VCRs, so not really sure), where surnames are based on your company/organization (Billy NRA, several John Nike's and the titular Jennifer G), and government has abrogated most of its power to various corporations, who then go to war backing different "customer loyalty programs." Not exactly humorous, but certainly a wry sort of parable on rampant consumerism and capitalism - yet still an exciting action story, almost in the vein of Elmore Leonard. (Barry also gives a nice - and surprisingly relevant - shout-out to Frederick Pohl's 1952 The Space Merchants.)

Probably should give it 4 stars, but adding one just because it was so unexpectedly entertaining. Doesn't look like it's in the works, but would definitely enjoy a sequel! In the meantime, though, our library has a number of other Barry books - so will definitely give a few of those a try.

DESIGN NOTE: Also love the cover, with its subtle nod to the "Clockwork Orange" movie poster, (or at least that's how I interpreted it).
Profile Image for Jensownzoo.
320 reviews27 followers
February 16, 2009
You know how it seems like certain American corporations have wormed their way into practically every market overseas (McDonalds, Pepsi, Coke, etc.)? This novel takes it to the extreme as it supposes what would happen if corporations and capitalism took over the world and government was minimized into an underfunded major crime (e.g. murder) prevention body. There are no longer family surnames...you take the name of the company that you work for like Bob Nike or Cathy McDonalds. You have to give the hospital your credit card # before they will send an ambulance, so on and so forth. Okay, that's the slightly disturbing part (could it really happen? You betcha.). The actual *story* is not the least bit speculative but certainly was a good read because in this world, people behave like people...they're greedy and manipulative and bumbling idiots and maternal and caring and all the other things that people are known for being.
Profile Image for Chris.
743 reviews99 followers
January 3, 2023
Jennifer Government is a novel that tries to have its cake and eat it. On the one hand it is an obvious satire on corporate power and greed and the inability of states to control these wayward creatures, on the other the story highlights individuals who by either opposing or aspiring to be major players in this selfish corporatism quite frequently espouse the self-same macho values that got corporatism where it is. While castigating the whole set-up Max Barry also revels in the rogue survivalist attitudes and actions that many of the characters display. Is it irony, or is he hedging his bets?

The action is set sometime in the future, the action shifting from Australia to West Coast America, with a foray to London. First published in 2002, a little over a decade on the book is showing its age, with references to technologies such as VCRs which are near obsolete. The stories of half a dozen or so individuals, all of whom have their greater or lesser parts to play in the final denouement, become enmeshed during the course of the tale. The problem is that most of them have characters that are either unattractive or inadequate or both, so much so that we care little about them except that they might mercifully precipitate a final resolution. There are also manifold plot absurdities, such as key power players relying on weak individuals to accomplish their dirty deeds with little or frequently no fall-back or back-up, not to mention security forces who fail to follow basic military good practice. Quite clearly a full plot synopsis would be pointless.

The major villain gets their come-uppance at the end, but it is done in so unsatisfying a way that it feels that the author had either got as bored as potential readers or was leaving the way open for a sequel. For the sake of the reading public I sincerely hope it’s not the latter reason. Jennifer Government is a lacklustre dystopian novel, one to neither keep nor pass on to a friend; in fact, just pass on it.
Profile Image for Amy.
Author 2 books152 followers
January 28, 2009
I was currently reading another book, but stupidly left the iy in the car. It was rainy out, and I was in my jammies. Having no desire to get wet, I pulled Jennifer Government, by Max Barry, off the shelf.

I started reading.

About the author...interesting. Dedication- ok. Two quotes by Thomas Jefferson- nice touch. Then an author's note:

"There are a lot of real company names and trademarks in this book, most in situations you are unlikely to see on the covers of any annual reports. That's because this is a novel, and the things that happen in
it aren't true. This may seem obvious enough to you, but some people (whom we shall call "lawyers") get very uptight when you describe large corporations masterminding murders. So let's be clear: this is a work of fiction. The actions depicted are not real nor based on real events. Any resemblance to actual people is coincidental. And the use of real company and product names is for literary effect only and definitely without permission."

So tell me...why did I suddenly think of chit-chat?

Anyhow, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Reminded me of Douglas Adams, in some ways, and Adams remains one of my favorite authors, so that's a good thing.

Clever, scary in that it actually isn't all that implausible, funny....one thing is for certain. I shall never look at corporate loyalty programs the same, ever again.
Profile Image for Eh?Eh!.
367 reviews4 followers
November 24, 2008
entertaining. female heroine who kicks a**. frightening future possiblity. your last name is determined by your corporate affiliation. everything is commercialized, even emergency services. if you can't pay you won't be aided...health 'care' is already there in America.

amoral corporate marketing executives concoct a new advertising campaign - create hype by murdering the initial buyers of their new shoe line. other executives, disconnected from real appreciation for human life, see it as "proactive" and tap them to head the takeover of a commerical adversary which turns into war. underfunded government agents work until their funding runs out except Jennifer who has a personal interest in defeating one particular marketing executive. the NRA, buyer incentive programs, entrepreneurship - it's all pretty scary.

call me socialist...but some things shouldn't be privatized. 'spreading of the wealth' is great if only it was used to ensure equal access to health&justice, not abused like the current system does now.
Profile Image for Donmakles.
98 reviews7 followers
November 20, 2020
Even though the author and I have different views about economics or the free market, this is one of my favourite books ever. People just need to read it and stop politicising everything.

I don't want to post any spoilers, but my favourite part was the battle between McDonald's and Burger King.

Profile Image for Badseedgirl.
1,258 reviews62 followers
February 21, 2016
I’ll have to be honest with you, I really am not sure if this novel was set in some kind of futuristic, dystopian society, or if it was set in an alternate reality of our current society. At first I thought it might be futuristic, but in one scene two people are fighting “Black Friday” style for a VCR on sale. Now this book was written in 2002 and so VCR would have still been a viable medium at that point, so this has me leaning towards alternate reality.

Not that it matters in the slightest when the novel was set, but that was just one of many things that bugged me about this book. The plot was good, and the set-up was filled with potential. A society so controlled by corporations, that a people no longer have surnames, but instead take on the last name of the company or school they attend, thus the name of the novel is the name of the main character, Jennifer Government. The most glaring problem with this book, was that there was not much “there” there. Once I got past the shock of the corporations basically running the world, I realized that the characters are very flat and kind of one dimensional. They also make was appear to be very dumb choices, but are required to make these decisions to move the characters into a position to fit where the plot was going. The most glaring example to me was Jennifer Government herself. She apparently loves her daughter, but choses to leave her with a man she had a one-night stand with while she goes overseas in search of the “Bad Guy” John Nike. Now The man she left her child with turned out to be a good and decent man, but she did not know that!

And yet, I still found myself wanting to know how the book was going to end, Max Barry, you must be some kind of evil genius, or the lack of sleep from all the hours I have been working are seriously making me loopy in a bibliophilic way.

I’m going to give this one 2.5 stars, and don’t ask me why because I’m not sure I would be able to justify one that high.
Profile Image for Erin.
262 reviews28 followers
January 26, 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.
Profile Image for Diego González.
194 reviews89 followers
September 5, 2015
En un mundo donde Australia es parte de EE.UU., las escuelas están patrocinadas por marcas de juguetes y la gente usa como apellido la empresa para la que trabaja un pringao con una cantidad de luces no excesivamente elevada se ve envuelto en una trama en la que los asesinatos son acciones de marketing y el gobierno sólo los investiga si la familia del finado paga la investigación. Parodia del anarcocapitalismo en la misma línea que Mercaderes del Espacio (a la que se cita expresamente), Leyes de Mercado y otras por el estilo. Imprescindible si te pone palote el No Logo de Naomi Klein. Entretenidísima en cualquier caso. Trepidante, apocalíptica, diría Pedro Piqueras.

Tiene fallos: no hay ningún personaje llamado "Mick Viuda de Ramírez e Hijos S.L." o algo parecido. O "Nigel Mecanizados Paco y Ángel" o "Deborah Whiskería Flower's". Por poner algún ejemplo. Eso le habría dado un toque costumbrista. Pero qué se le va a hacer.

Otro fallo obvio: todos los personajes relacionados con una empresa, todos sin excepción son egoístas que anteponen la cuenta de resultados a la salud pública o cualquier otra consideración. Todos los personajes gubernamentales, todos sin excepción, son entes puros de luz mágica y arcoiris brotando de las fosas nasales, preocupados únicamente por el bien común y la justicia como ideal platónico.
Profile Image for Charlie.
376 reviews15 followers
February 18, 2017
There is a lot I liked about Jennifer Government. Thematically a few things hit really close to home right now. The merging of private industry with government functions, the availability of lifesaving services (such as EMS and police) to only the wealthy, and schools being for-profit run by corporations all come to mind. It was an easy read, a bit too popcorn for my tastes (or my tastes at this moment). I would probably read more Max Barry.
Profile Image for Mitchell Friedman.
4,572 reviews171 followers
October 11, 2019
A simple lightweight read. Near future corporate dominated world but basically an almost slapstick bit of silliness with all the characters intertwined and yet it kind of works. But definitely not high art.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,630 reviews329 followers
June 21, 2017
Pretty neat near-future satire by a young Australian; marketed as 'straight' fiction, but really satirical SF. Clever and well-done, though Barry gets a bit carried away at times. Recommended for frivolous relaxation.
Profile Image for Jordi Balcells.
Author 19 books108 followers
March 28, 2021
Si a Snow Crash o a Moxyland le añades la tontería de Bill, héroe galáctico, te podría salir algo así. Solo que peor. El planteamiento, capitalismo desatadísimo con un sector público pervertido y casi inexistente, al principio me hizo gracia por lo punki-chungo que parecía todo, pero pronto me aburrí y solo me quedó un pasapáginas (teóricamente, porque no me funcionó como tal) muy flojo. Una prosa simple como pocas y unos personajes de encefalograma plano, en su mayoría.

¿Clásico o polvoriento? Es un libro escrito en 2003 que prácticamente podría haber salido en 1993: si bien hay móviles (tontos, claro) por doquier y no falta el correo electrónico, el mundo que imagina parece más salido de una proyección de finales de los 80 o principios de los 90 que del siglo XXI. ¿Y por qué? El panorama empresarial mundial actual, y el tipo de economía en el que vivimos, difiere mucho del de 2003: ahora la megacorporación malvada no sería Nike, Exxonmobil o McDonald's, sino Apple (o Google, no sea que se me enfaden los manzanitas), Amazon o Disney. Curiosamente, Apple sí sale, pero la tratan como apestada de la informática, que es lo que era en su día. Este baile de nombres de “empresas malvadas�� no es baladí: ahora estamos en una economía del conocimiento y la cruenta batalla se libraría por datos de los usuarios, no por unas zapatillas molonas.

Aparte de haber envejecido mal, probablemente se centre demasiado en la cultura estadounidense. Aquí, EE. UU. ha conquistado gran parte del mundo gracias a su dominio económico, incluida Australia, y es en ese megapaís hipercapitalista donde ocurre toda la acción. Para un lector europeo, todo suena a una gran farsa, a una peli de Michael Bay donde la NRA juega el papel que le correspondería al ejército en nuestro mundo. En Europa, vemos a la NRA como algo muy lejano, que solo relacionamos con Charlton Heston y de la que solo nos acordamos, como mucho, cuando hay alguna masacre con armas automáticas en un instituto, un centro comercial o una universidad de los EE. UU. Todo muy exótico, lejano y ajeno.

En resumen: polvoriento.
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