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Summary

The irreverent author of the cult classic Syrup hits his target in this satire on the wages of big capital. In Max Barry's hilarious vision of the near future, the world is run by giant American corporations, and employees take the last names of the companies they work for; The Police and The NRA are publicly traded security firms, and the U.S. government may only investigate crimes if they can bill a citizen directly. When lowly Merchandising Officer Hack Nike unwittingly signs a contract that involves shooting teenagers to build up street credibility for Nike's new line of $2,500 sneakers, he goes to The Police, only to be pursued by Jennifer Government, a tough-talking agent with a bar-code tattoo under her eye, the consumer watchdog from hell.
©2003 Max Barry (P)2003 Books on Tape, Inc.

Critic reviews

"Wicked and wonderful....[It] does just about everything right. Fast-moving, funny, and involving." ( The Washington Post Book World)
"Funny and clever....A kind of ad-world version of Dr. Strangelove. [Barry] unleashes enough wit and surprise to make his story a total blast." ( The New York Times Book Review)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Tom
  • West Wickham, United Kingdom
  • 23-12-08

a quirky read

This book is certainly different. The essence of the story is well set out in the blurb above so I wont repeat it. Suffice it to say that the book is part-satire, part thriller and part romance. It is at its strongest when satirising the whole concept of marketing - for example, the marketing strategy for the new brand of Nike trainers is, well, different (I would spoil the story if I spelt it out) and the notion is developed and put across with great verve and savage humour.

If I had a criticism it is that the pace is a little uneven; the switch between styles - thriller, satire, romance - is not always successful. The author can't seem to strike a consistent balance between treating his characters as real people and as pawns in the satire. But that said, the narrative bowls along at a good pace and it is never dull - the narration is very good too; the story and characters are put across very well, and his handling of some of the more bizarre scenes is laugh out loud funny.

Overall, if you are looking for something a little different from the normal sort of audiobook thriller, "Jennifer Government" should be on your short list. I certainly enjoyed it, and anyone who works in marketing would I am sure enjoy the joke too.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Steven
  • Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom
  • 05-03-06

Great Read for Slightly Off the Wall Life

It is a great book. The book is about capitalism gone mad. Where people names are based on who they work for. And anything can be bought; or can it? This is where Jennifer comes in. She is a law enforcement person who thinks things should be done for the good of the people, not just for capital gain. Does she win out?

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting ideas, mediocre storytelling

Great ideas, taking corporate capitalism to it's absurd conclusion, but poorly told by and large.

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    5 out of 5 stars

Should be much more famous!!

A really great book!!

I do not know why Jennifer Government is not more famous.

It should be a TV film or series.

It should be as well know as Handmaids tale or Brave new world or 1984.

Its funny and particularly today with the ongoing rise of multi-nationals and Britain thinking of leaving the EU its seems shockingly modern. I first read this book in 2006 and came back to reread it recently and its just great. This goes on my books everyone should read list ... So go read it :)

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Innovative, different and thought-provoking

What did you like most about Jennifer Government?

This tale is a logic-stretching view of a future where corporations vie with countries to run the world - a plausible premise writ large which may make you see the future direction of big business differently

What was one of the most memorable moments of Jennifer Government?

The action at the mall - various times. Sneaker marketing!

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Jennifer catching up with John...

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No - I listen to these audiobooks on my 90 minute commute. Makes the drive more bearable

Any additional comments?

I'm a big fan of Max Barry - I recommend you try Company too. It will make you think twice about things going on in the office!

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Steven F Giovanni
  • 11-01-10

Fun Allegory

Perhaps Max Barry might thinks that he has written a brilliant social commentary disguised as a crummy adventure story. It is actually the reverse -- a brilliant action adventure story masquerading as a clumsy social protest.

The overall theme of the book is anti-capitalism. As a theme, I could take it or leave it. Max, however, doesn't execute this theme well. He relies exclusively on hyperbole to criticize. He offers no alternatives. All of the corporations are villain entities. Max seems to have a particular hate-on for the NRA because those characters are consistently both violent and incompetent.

The title character is a very static character, well developed, and fun. Jennifer Government is an investigator who is trying to expose a conspiracy to kill innocents. Her big plot twist is a little predictable, but I still enjoyed how Max brought drove me to that twist in the road. Although a loner by nature, she succeeds in the end only by accepting help from others.

The other lead, Hack Nike, is too dynamic. I don't mind that he experiences character growth, but his change is too sudden. His personality changes to the point of being unrecognizable, seemingly within two short scenes. Had he followed the Hero's Journey formula, I could have shrugged it off, but that simply isn't happening here.

The most fun part for me was the allegoric style. It is an allegory, and almost a classical allegory like Everyman. Characters have metaphoric names like John Nike, Billy NRA, and the Pepsi Kid. My favorite character is the Pepsi Kid, an overly excitable young executive whose name no one can remember.

The adventure takes a varied cast of characters around the globe and through four countries. The climatic action could have been over the proverbial top, but Max writes it with excellent balance of detail and pacing.

Micheal Kramer's reading is great, curiously with an American accent for a Australian cast.

Although problematic, I overall greatly enjoyed it.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • SFWA Reader
  • 10-08-04

Well done but just a bit preachy--

A really good, fun story with real connection to our "real" world. Well narrated but there were points were the political satire/sarcasm became preachy -- not enough to really harm the story -- but it was distracting and thereby detracted from an excellent read-

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Norman
  • Norman
  • 08-04-06

Not quite snow crash but good.

Not since Snow Crash has there been such an engaging Outta Whack Near Future World. When everyman Hack Nike Blunders into a plot by the two John Nikes to boost the sales by Killing Consumers. Hack Struggles with not only The Two John's but, his ambitous Girlfriend, and the Book's namesake who is running from her own past finds a deep rooted personal reason to at first bust Hack and then Bring down the John, but not without personal cost. a good listen and the Narrator does an adequate job of invoking the
emotions and inflections of each individual character(though he tries too hard for the female voices) but well worth the value.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • John
  • 14-05-07

Enjoyed it

I found this book very entertaining. It was fast-paced enough that it wasn't overly marred by being somewhat predictable. I didn't really find the book terribly funny, perhaps for the same reason I don't find Dilbert all that funny: it hits a little too close to home. A number of reviewers have compared the book unfavorably to Stephenson's Snow Crash, but I don't see them as being all that similar. Jennifer Govt is much more focused on the "capitalism gone overboard" concept, which was just one of many ideas touched on in Snow Crash (which, while fun, was not terribly focused). Also, I have to disagree with the reviwers complaining about the narration, which I I thought was good. All in all, I wouldn't classify Jennifer Govt as great art, but it was a fun read that I'd recommend.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Charles
  • 01-04-16

A Great Premise that Loses its Direction

Jennifer Government has a great premise that gets lost along the way, devolving into a mostly disappointing cops-and-robbers fantasy.

Max Barry is a gifted and highly imaginative writer, no doubt about it, and, I thoroughly enjoyed a more recent novel of his, "Machine Man," about a man who replaces his own limbs with supercharged prosthetics, but this novel, "Jennifer Government," although it comes highly recommended (and even spawned interest from Hollywood) unfortunately left me disappointed and shaking my head at a missed opportunity.

Don't get me wrong: the premise is great. Set in a dystopian world where corporations rule practically every aspect of one's life, where even one's surname reflects employment rather than heritage, "Jennifer Government" stimulates the imagination. Yet it squanders this initial effect, in my opinion, quickly becoming lost in good-guys-vs-bad-guys, slapstick comedy, and oddball characters. The result is disorienting. What started out as P.K. Dick becomes something akin to a Carl Hiassen novel.

Fortunately Max Barry does give us a few glimpses into his strange capitalistic vision---consumers lumber about so extremely jaded that they are unable to distinguish terrorist attacks from new ad campaigns. And sad sack employees are so desperate to stay employed (since unemployment is tantamount to losing one's identity), that they are willing to murder if necessary. When these all-too-brief moments appear in the novel, they are indeed fascinating, so much so that one has to wonder what this novel might have been like had it gone in another direction.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Joshua
  • 29-09-15

I blame myself, sort of...

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Angry teenagers who don't want to read YA books. People who think we need smaller government. People who think we need bigger government.

What could Max Barry have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Develop the characters beyond one dimension. Develop the world beyond the main conceit. Stop being so damn preachy, especially because I felt like both the protagonist and the antagonist were author proxies - so, a very confusing message.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

I'm torn here because I really can't decide if my dislike for the characters made me dislike the narration. Michael Kramer provided an adequate performance, though his "Australian" accent annoyed me no end.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Boredom and disappointment. I read a review or two that made Jennifer Government sound like a spiritual successor to Snowcrash. I never expected it to be as good, but I didn't expect how little I got.

Any additional comments?

I did finish the book, and in a fairly short amount of time. The pacing is fast, and the chapters are short. After each chapter I thought to myself, "Well, self, the next chapter might be good..." Yeah, I'm not always the sharpest knife in the block.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Craig Hansen
  • 06-10-04

Not bad...

Jennifer Government was an entertaining listen, though a bit predictable at times. The slant contributed to the predictibility; corporations bad, NRA bad, etc... Not that there's anything terrible about that, but it'd be more interesting to see an unexpected target as "the villain" in a satire like this for a change. But within the scope of what it tries to be, Jennifer Government is fun... but not as funny as I had hoped.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Julie W. Capell
  • 24-04-16

Fun story, great narration

This spot-on social satire had me laughing out loud as it skewered unfettered capitalism to the stock exchange room floor and left it cringing there in its own pool of what’s-in-it-for-me red ink.

It is a world in which kids in school write reports lauding the privatized system of America, which has “all the best companies” and denigrating the socialist system still hanging on in Europe. Fortunate citizens of the group of countries that now comprise “America” have jobs with big global corporations like Walmart, and take their employer’s names as their own surnames. If you work for Walmart, your kids go to Walmart schools and shop at Walmart, of course. Jobs are strictly contracted and if you fail to perform, you lose not only your job, but also your last name and quickly become a social pariah. The titular character, Jennifer, is one of the few who still believe in and work for the federal government, characterized as “cheap suits, dour expressions, always asking for money.”

Brief one-liners explain some of the many ways in which capitalism has ‘improved” day-to-day life, such as when a character needs to get somewhere quickly, he simply pays more to drive in corporate-owned fast lanes on the expressway. At one point another character is reminded that being convicted of a crime will not only land him in prison, but he will also have to pay back the cost of his imprisonment, a financial penalty that can take decades to pay off.

Highly recommended for anyone who likes a little—okay, a lot of—social commentary with their scifi.

[I listened to this as an audio book performed by Michael Kramer, who did a fantastic job of putting just the right amount of irony into his voice and catching all the humor inherent in the novel. I enjoyed Kramer’s narration so much that I immediately sought out other works narrated by him, which led me to Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, which I also enjoyed immensely.]

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Alexander
  • 05-12-17

Crazy story with amazing narration

The narration was great and definitely added a flair to the story that was very much appreciated. The various voices the narrator gave each character helped with keeping track of the many characters in the story. Highly recommended.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Adam D. Miller
  • 07-05-17

timeless story told in a fresh style

Engaging characters in a fast-paced narrative. Clever interwoven stories that resolved spectacularly. Storyline gives us an entertaining yet all too believable perspective on what societies would be like in a global marketplace run by America.