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Jennifer Government

Max Barry

Average Review Rating Average Rating 7/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Abacus

Published : 2003

Copyright : Max Barry 2003

ISBN-10 : PB 0-349-11598-2
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-349-11598-6

Publisher's Write-Up

In the future, the world will be run by giant American corporations. Everybody will be so happy, tax-free and rich that they will change their name to that of their company. It will be a free market paradise! Which is where Hack Nike comes in.

Hack is a lowly Merchandising Officer with negative career equity. In the future, this is not a good thing.

So when John Nike and John Nike offer Hack Nike a job marketing a new line of really, really expensive trainers he is understandably thrilled. He is less thrilled when he discovers his duties include shooting teenagers in order to establish 'street cred' for the shoes.

Stricken by a deeply unprofitable morality, Hack goes to the police who, happily, offer to shoot the teenagers for him, for a reasonable price.

Unhappily for Hack, his actions have caught the attention of Jennifer Government - a tough-talking agent with a barcode under her eye and not one pair of really, really, expensive trainers. Jennifer's determined to nail Hack Nike, Hack's boss, John Nike and John Nike's boss, John (Nike).

Jennifer's about to start a closing down sale of the violent sort - and everything must go.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Chrissi (300803) Rating (7/10)

Review by Chrissi
Rating 7/10
The Premise of the book is that big business has replaced the governing aspect of government and now the only laws that companies have to abide by are those to protect the free market economy. The nature of business in the future is such that people no longer have individual surnames but take on the names of their employers, hence Hack Nike and Jennifer Government.

Hack Nike is a low employee on the great totem pole that is Nike and when he is asked by John Nike to kill a few teenagers to increase the desirability of their new trainers he feels that he must accept this task in order to advance his career. Hack takes his plight to the police, thinking that killing people must be wrong, but instead of arresting John Nike for the plot, he explains that Hack has three options, he can perform the killings and the police will try to catch him, he can renege and be subject to penalty clauses in the contract for the killings or he can subcontract the killings to the police who would then assume full responsibility.

Hack Nike is a nice enough bloke but he lacks any dynamic traits that will help him to get along in an increasingly cutthroat society. His girlfriend is a computer programmer who has been working on a piece of software that she can use to get a position with a company to improve her lot in life but when it finally happens, she pretty much just dumps Hack, leaving him trying to figure out what happened.

Jennifer is an enigmatic lady, with her barcode tattoo, partially covered by sunglasses, we do not find out what it means until very near the end of the book, although there are hints when she meets a man with whom she used to work on a visit to Los Angeles. Jennifer is at the Mall when the first advertising campaign killing takes place, waiting for the killers, but she is hurt in their escape and she feels let down by the government because the people killed in this stunt all have low-incomes and therefore are not worth a budget allocation. Jennifer feels strongly that this is wrong and wants to catch the people responsible.

This is a cleverly written book about the nature of large corporate businesses and how they are carving larger and larger inroads into our consciousness. The author takes the brave step of using the large businesses of today, Nike, Mercedes, Mattel and McDonalds and using them to represent the future, in a world where the value of human beings is in how much they can consume.

Speaking of human beings, the characterisations in the story are particularly good. There is a burnt out stock market man, ruthless corporate sharks and those that try to make their way as best they can. Not being in business myself, I can only relate to those stereotypes on a superficial level, but in spite of not knowing a shark, I was able to picture him quite well, a feat achieved by the characterisations as written by the author.

The author has taken the logic of his story to its faultless and indeed absurd conclusion. The narrative is clever and the satire is both well constructed and well aimed. It makes you think about the state of big business that we currently tolerate and the lengths that they will go to, to access our lives and convince us that we should be buying their brand. Perhaps I don’t have the correct sense of humour chip; there were instances where I could see the humour in some of the situations but others did not strike me as being particularly funny and you might find it much funnier than I did, in which case I may just be wired wrong…

This book is worth reading for two simple reasons, it will make you think about global consumerisation, and you have to find out what her tattoo means.

Unfortunately I do have to disagree with the blurb on the rear of the cover, “the best novel in the world ever”, and I think that there are many who would dispute that statement with me. It is a not a particularly lightweight book, there are enough surnames changes as people change jobs to ensure that you have to keep a reasonably close eye on things, but if you are looking for something which is just that bit different and will make you think about things, then Jennifer Government will certainly make you do that. Whether you can be convinced to trade the Mercedes for public transport and your Nikes for recycled tyre-tread sandals is up to you…
Chrissi (30th August 2003)

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