REVIEW: BookPage

Gavin J. Grant
February 2003

Corporations and advertising take a body slam in Jennifer Government (Doubleday, 336 pages), the second novel from Australian author Max Barry. Set in the near future, this riotous parody follows the adventures of the eponymous hero, Jennifer Government, in a society in which last names are no longer familial. Instead, they are brand extensions: thus Jennifer's daughter, Kate Mattel, is named after her school. Jennifer works in Melbourne (now part of the USA) for the chronically underfunded government and is investigating who is behind a series of killings at Niketown shoe stores. What Jennifer doesn't know, and what we do, is that Nike workers arranged the killings as part of a marketing campaign. (It is slightly disappointing to discover later on that approval of the violent marketing campaign does not go all the way to the top--although it does stop the villains from being too cartoonish.)

Barry confidently cuts and switches between these and many other character threads, keeping readers on their toes. You can almost hear the movie adapters (George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh) thanking him for providing such strong visual scenes.

Jennifer Government presents a satirical and skewed pro-government look at a future where power has shifted from governments to businesses, and shows, without didacticism or preaching, the human costs of a system where everything--including murder--is for sale.

From the archives...

BookPage on Syrup: "The style and wit are layered flavors of Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Woody Allen. Best grab this book this summer and slam down a gulp or two of something fun, strong, and satisfying."