Jennifer Government is Here to Help!In Max Barry's twisted, hilarious vision of the near future, the world is run by giant American corporations (except for a few deluded holdouts like the French); taxes are illegal; employees take the last names of the companies they work for; The Police and The NRA are publicly-traded security firms; the U.S. government may only investigate crimes if they can bill a citizen directly. It's a free market paradise!
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
Free enterprise runs amok in Barry's satirical near-future nightmare: the American government has been privatized and now runs most of the world, including "the Australian Territories of the U.S.A.," where the book is set. American corporations sponsor everything from schools to their employees' identities, and literally go to war with one another. By taking a drink at he wrong water cooler, Hack Nike, a merchandising officer at the athletic shoe company whose name he bears, is coerced into a nefarious marketing plot to raise the demand for Nike's new $2,500 sneakers by shooting teenagers. Hank becomes responsible for the death of hapless teen Hayley McDonald's; he and two top Guerrilla Marketing executives, both named John Nike, are soon pursued by the ruthless Jennifer Government, a former advertising executive who is now a federal agent with a personal ax to grind-and preferably to sink into the cranium of her hated ex, one of the John Nikes. Barry tosses off his anticorporate zingers with relish; his sendup of "capitalizm"-a world where fraud is endemic and nearly everyone (except the French) is a cog in vast wealth-creation machines-has some ingenious touches. The one-joke shtick wears thin, however, and is simply overdone at times ("I'm getting rid of Government, the greatest impediment to business in history," says John. "Yes, some people die. But look at the gain!"). Barry's cartoonish characters and comic book chase scenes don't allow for much psychological subtlety or emotional resonance. Still, if it's no 1984, this breezy, stylish read will amuse the converted and get some provocative conversations going. (On sale Jan. 21) Forecast: Doubleday promises a "guerrilla marketing" campaign, and the book's weird, eye-catching title should help grab readers' attention. Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney's Section 8 Films have optioned film rights, and foreign rights have been sold in Australia, Finland, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the U.K. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from Jennifer Government by Max Barry
Hack first heard about Jennifer Government at the watercooler. He was only there because the one on his floor was out; Legal was going to come down on Nature's Springs like a ton of shit, you could bet on that. 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.
"It's a calamity," a man at the watercooler said. "Four days away from launch and Jennifer Government's all over my ass."
"Jee-sus," his companion said. "That's gotta suck."
"It means we have to move fast." He looked at Hack, who was filling his cup. "Hi there."
Hack looked up. They were smiling at him as if he was an equal--but of course, Hack was on the wrong floor. They didn't know he was just a Merc Officer. "Hi."
"Haven't seen you around before," the calamity guy said. "You new?"
"No. I work in Merc."
"Oh." His nose wrinkled.
"Our cooler's out," Hack said. He turned away quickly.
"Hey, wait up," the suit said. "You ever do any marketing work?"
"Uh," he said, not sure if this was a joke. "No."
The suits looked at each other. The calamity guy shrugged. 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 Nike," Hack said, shaking.
"Hack, I'm empowered to make midrange labor-contracting decisions," Vice-President John said. "You interested in some work?"