Jennifer Government Review
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In Max Barry’s Jennifer Government, the world in the not-so-distant future is run by big corporations. Everything is privatized—all the way down to the schools, which are run by kid-friendly companies…like Mattel and McDonald’s. Taxes are now illegal—and even The Police need to get funding from victims before going after criminals. In this new world, people take on the name of the company they work for as their own last name. And a weak Government takes a back seat to the two major corporate loyalty programs: US Alliance, which boasts the greatest companies in the world (like Nike, McDonald’s, and IBM), and its competitor, Team Advantage.

Lowly Merchandising Officer Hack Nike is dragged into the corporate battle when he’s pressured into signing a new contract without reading it. After he signs, he discovers that he’s just agreed to kill teenagers who buy Nike’s new $2,500 sneakers—to stir up a media (and marketing) frenzy. A disgruntled stock trader, Buy Mitsui, is caught up in the shuffle. So is Billy NRA, an out-of-work factory worker who just wanted to go on a ski vacation in New Zealand—but, instead, he somehow ended up on a secret mission to take out a police officer who knows too much. And the whole incident has attracted the attention of Jennifer Government, an agent who’s determined to get to the bottom of the Nike Town shootings—because she’s pretty sure she knows who she’ll find there.

To put it simply, Jennifer Government is a creepy book. It’s creepy because you can easily see it happening. As corporations get bigger and more powerful—and as they join together in even more powerful alliances—it seems that Barry’s world of the future is entirely possible. And it doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to believe that companies would sink to such depths to make a buck (or, in this case, a few billion bucks).

At times, though, the story is difficult to follow. The characters aren’t all well-developed, which means that it’s sometimes hard to understand how and why they’re involved. But while the story isn’t always solid, the message is. And that’s what makes Jennifer Government an entertaining read.

In that way, Barry is a little bit like Orwell—only with a better sense of humor. Along with his haunting message, his wit shines through even the book’s somewhat sluggish moments, making Jennifer Government worth checking out. After you finish reading it, you’ll never look at sneakers and fast food the same way again.

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