REVIEW: The Big Issue (UK)

Lorna Russell
9th June, 2003

Future Shock

The world's a scary place and it's going to get worse. That's the theory behind these two dystopian novels - although their visions of the future are very different. In Jennifer Government, Max Barry depicts a world where capitalism has gone even madder. All schools are sponsored by Mattel or McDonald's, and the pupils take the company name. Their parents take the name of their employer. So Kate Mattel is the daughter of Jennifer Government and John Nike. Unfortunately, her parents are somewhat estranged - in fact they're trying to kill each other.

Nike is part of the war between two big 'reward card' schemes. There's barely a company in the world that isn't part of one of the schemes and the fight for everyone's dollar is getting very dirty. Nike's latest marketing ploy is to kill 10 trendy kids who have bought their Mercury trainers. That way, it will look like the shoes are in such demand that people are killing each other to get them.

The only non-commercial organisation left is the Government - now reduced to a law-enforcing agency that's so strapped for cash it only investigates crimes if the victim pays. This is a fast-paced and funny debut, but it's also scarily plausible. Next time you're in Sainsbury's and you're asked if you have a Nectar card, it will send shivers down your spine.