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Jennifer Government

REVIEW: The Irish Examiner

Afric Hamilton
16th August, 2003

Welcome to Max Barry's hilarious-scary black humour portrayal of the imminent future: American has amalgamated with Australia, the government and police are publicly-traded firms who invoice individual citizens, and giant corporations control the world.

One indication of the magnitude of their power is the fact that all employees are named after the company they work for. In this new-age marketing paradise, no-holds-barred tactics are all the rage. So when Hack Nike, a lowly merchandising officer, meets John Nike and John Nike, executive and chief executive, at the water cooler, and is offered the opportunity to move up into marketing, he is so overcome with gratitude that he signs his contract without reading the small print. Thus he is unwittingly recruited to murder the first 10 teenagers to buy Nike's new $2,500 Mercury trainers, a marketing ploy designed to establish street cred for the latest Nike merchandise. Horrified, our hero goes to the police to explain his dilemma. The police, mistaking his intentions, instead sub-contract the assassinations to the National Rifle Association. Teenagers begin to die: enter Jennifer Government, a zealous government agent.

Hard-core and highly motivated, she will stop at almost nothing to get to the bottom of the killings. Other characters enter the foray: Billy NRA, a none-too-bright would-be tourist who accidentally finds himself playing a key role as a sniper; Buy Mitsui, a soft-hearted, suicidal stockbroker; Violet who specialises in developing computer viruses to manipulate major companies into giving her big pay-off.

Continents are now so commercially standardised, they are virtually indistinguishable. The world mind-set is indoctrinated by advertising and consumer frenzy, and fed by credit card wars.

Strong on dialogue, paced like a runaway thriller, and with endearingly eccentric or deliciously black characters, Jennifer Government is Max Barry's considerably lighter version of 1984. A riveting page turner and irresistible smile inducer.

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