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on 31 May 2004
This book is one of the funniest books I've read, to the point I was laughing so hard I was getting stared at on the bus. It shows what would happen if everything was privatised, and it is scary in how you can see it coming true. I must read for anybody. I first read it because I was tending to my country Cuddly Teddies on NationStates, and wanted to see how the book related to the game.
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This book's hero, Hack Nike, is assigned the job of killing 14 teenage Nike customers, in order to build up the rep and street cred of the latest Nike shoe. Heavy-handed? Yes. Bitterly funny? You bet. And sometimes I feel like Maxx Barry is going to knock off a few of his readers for the same reason, and I may be one of them. So I also can check off paranoia as a side effect of this book.

Some readers have complained about shallow character depth or the absence of character development. Some have had problems with the plot. (Really?). That's not the point. The point is to both mock and raise an alarm regarding stealth marketing and our post-capitalist age. Barry does that with style, wit, energy, and a sort of manic despair. Can't ask for more than that.

If this is what witty passive/aggressive slackerdom is going to look like, bring it on.
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on 10 January 2012
In `Jennifer Government', Max Barry paints a future where the politicians have little power and the corporate world holds all the power. Sounds pretty much like the current climate to me, but apparently this is meant to be science fiction! What would happen if companies such as Nike and McDonald's could do as they please? What would they do to drive their competitors out of business? All-out war is what Barry suggests.

`Government' is a great mix of satire and dark action novel. In the same vein as Gilliam's `Brazil' it paints a dank picture of the world's future. There is a real truth in how people willingly give up their personal freedoms at the succour of the commercial teat. What is less realistic is the actual depiction of an America that is entirely led by companies - the Executive at least have some small powers. However, Barry is not striving for realism, but a heightened look at what could happen, he takes a glib look at a possible outcome of today's `me' society. The 2011 London riots are a clear indication that people are not so much driven by social ills anymore, but by a greed for the latest trainers or smart price bag of Basmati rice.

With such an overblown concept Barry is able to populate the book with OTT characters. John Nike is a pantomime villain, Billy NRA is a complete klutz, even Jen Govt is borderline insane. The problem with all these larger than life characters is that there are nearly all unsympathetic. Jennifer is the defacto heroine of the book, but she is work obsessed and travels the globe leaving her daughter in a stranger's care. Having unbelievable and not particularly likable characters is not as huge an issue as the central concept of a consumer led world is big enough to take centre stage. `Jennifer Government' is a nice mix of thought provoking commentary and fun action thriller.
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on 9 August 2015
Jennifer Government is set in a worryingly-believable future where the world is run by corporations like Mattel and McDonalds and with public sector services like schools and the NHS increasingly being sponsored by private sector interests, this is a world that we could conceivably see.

Jennifer Government (people in this world take the name of their employer as their own last name, which kind of erodes your sense of them as individuals) has been called in to investigate a case where a low-ranking Nike employee has been conned into killing Nike-wearing teenagers to improve the street cred of the new Nike range that is due to come out soon.

Jennifer is a superb MC, complete with a bar code tattoo under her eye (the bit where we find out what item the bar code represents made me roar with laughter) and the action doesn't stop. The world-building was good - so good that I wished there had been more of it.

I read a bit of dystopian fiction and this seemed to me to be a particularly good example.

BTW - I'm not really sure how the author got away with suggesting things like corporate espionage and contract killing about companies like Nike. Obviously this is speculative fiction and is in no way meant to suggest that this is something they would *actually* do, but still.
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VINE VOICEon 1 December 2010
In the future the world has been taken over by the corporations. They own everyone's lives and you even have to take the company you work for as your surname. Chief of the corporate go-getters is John Nike whose idea for an advertising campaign requires the murder of 14 innocent teenagers. He could never have imagined how much trouble it was going to cause, with Jennifer Government on his trail it is personal. If only he could get rid of the Government.

It is a fast paced comedy that takes an ironic look at the world of marketing and consumerism as rival reward card syndicates are pitted against one another with the government sandwiched in the middle. Many of the characters are caricatures of people we know - stereotypes made real. Most of all it is fun, with a very black sense of humour. The weakest character is Violet who does not quite hold together as a character but maybe that is how it should be.
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on 19 January 2015
The dystopian novel should,I think, hopefully, make you think on the world around you, pass the test of "is this credible/possible and have a hero/ antihero on your journey through it.A lot to ask when your almost certainly compared to Orwell ,Huxley Attwood,Bradbury et al.
"Jennifer " has a splendid dystopian view ,the global brand is the new god alive with a class system based on you being literally a part of a brand
Where it falls down for me is the main characters portrayed here are straight out a script for a hollywood film, Jennifer is ex super brand woman,martial arts expert , sexy single mum,government agent,Buy is a fallen man looking for redemption,John Nike is super villian, far too many cliches here for me
Compare it as I did with the more believable and rounded characters of Orwells Smith and Attwoods Offred and I was left disappointed.
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on 3 June 2008
This book was recommended to me by a friend who is a Chuck Palahniuk fan, and there are some similarities in their styles. Over-the-top storylines, extreme characters, and ribaldry are what come to mind.

The story is a great near future science-fictional take on the old trope of International Megacorporations Running The World, but Barry does a great job of making it fun and intriguing, if not entirely credible. The point of "realism" should not be pressed too hard, however, as this is more a fable taken at roller-coaster speed and a cautionary tale than some sort of realistic exposition of What Might Happen If We Continue Like This.

I would definitely recommed this to anyone who likes a good read, a good laugh, some great ideas, and who views the modern corporate state (and in particular the offshoots of Madison Avenue) with a jaundiced eye.
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VINE VOICEon 3 January 2009
This book takes you into a future which is seemingly extrapolated from the course that the world has taken since the 1980's; into a place where seemingly everything is a commodity. Whilst recent events might be seen to avert any such future from occuring, it still fits as a view of the ultimate excesses of a capitalist system. Whether the reader hold the same view depends on the person.

The tale does jump around with seemingly unconnected characters, finding their stories firmly linked together by the end of the book. The pace is well done, and whilst it takes a little time to visualise the era in which it is set, it does happen.

If you like to challenge yourself and your world views then this is certainly a text that you should consider. If you just like a good futuristic story then Jennifer Government again serves well here.
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on 22 February 2003
Max Bertelsmann has written a compelling, inescapably absorbed satire of our present. As 1984 was about 1948, so this futuristic novel is really about our present - and our past. If patrons of the East India Companies, or medieval Japanese clans, or Highlands men and women, don't see something of themselves in this story, it's because they've been absorbed in the global economy like the rest of us. Corporate identity becomes personal identity, who you are is what you do is who you work for. Names and loyalties change with the tides of business. There is plenty of plot here, like a thriller with multiple protagonist, and there is a conscionably happy ending tying the threads together.
Jennifer Government (with her Malcom MacDowell tattoo under Nobuko Miyamoto eyes) is our chief heroine. Her present affiliation and surname is with the deregulated postThatcher postBush postCheney minimalist Government which barely provides emergency services - and those for fee paid. Alienated hack Hack Nike is losing his marketing job and his grip as devious superiors decide to war like medieval clansmen with suits & cellphones. Police subcontract business to NRA - who doubledeal as a private army for hire.
The human (thriller) element is played by the little people in this story and that would mean Kate, singlemom Jen's 8yearold lightoflife. As Kate connects with the humanity in unsuspecting stockbroker Buy Mitsui, he finds a reason to live beyond his (shucked off) corporate shell mind.
The only bookseller, publisher, or warehouse club discounter mentioned in the story is Barnes & Noble, presumably the Borg/Deathstar monglomerate of the future. (Bad luck, Jeff Bezos.) But Max can be proud of what he has acheived for his own corporate client, holder of 40% and counting of the USA market, Bertelsmann AG (aka Doubleday). Good show, Max Bertelsmann.
Soon doubtless to be leveraged into a major motion picture, BMI soundtrack download, action figures, and video games. Go Jen go!
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on 10 January 2015
This is from one of my favourite authors, though this copy was a gift for a relative. I've since purchased my own copy.

I don't want to reveal anything about the plot, but the basic idea depicts a world where the government don't really 'exist' as we know it, and almost everything is done in the Private Sector.

The author also created a long running online game that links to the book, I can't mention more about that here but there is a link to it in the book.
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