It feels good to spread my reading over as many genres as I can and Max Barry’s “Jennifer Government” seems to defy genres altogether. It is set in what could be considered the not-to-distant future but it simply feels too relevant to modern day to brand it as science fiction, the best I can can feel comfortable with is that this novel is corporate/action fiction.
This is a world that not even George Orwell’s 1984 could stomach. A world where corporations are so powerful that people are primarily identified by the companies they work for, blessing us with characters such as Hack Nike, Kate Matel, Billy NRA and – the novel’s name sake – Jennifer Government. In capitalist extremes, Australia and England are owned by America, families of murdered children must fund the police to catch the criminals, inmates must pay room and board in prisons, conglomerates are at full-on war with each other and the police will happily take out hits on people for a standard fee. Which is where the story begins, with Hack Nike being contracted to kill anyone attempting to buy nike trainers in a bizarre (yet effective) publicity stunt. From then on the story cycles around Hack and all those who are pulled into the dark plans of the cooperation’s. Jennifer must catch those who put Hack up to the killings, Buy (a local stock broker) finds himself deeply affected by the shootings and Violet (Hack’s unemployed girlfriend) is determined to become a millionaire. It’s a rare thing to read a novel that so well juggles between different events and perspectives, especially when the events are occurring at the same time, but Max Barry pulls it off with amazing quality. The characters criss-cross over one another, touching each other’s lives in strange ways that are beautifully unpredictable.The last fifty or so pages fall distinctly into the category of unput down-able, with action and pacing that is impressively written.
What I love most about this novel is that it makes the business world explainable and accountable. All the events are darkly tinged with a frightening amount of credibility. Sure we know this isn’t happening now, but it could happen soon. This disturbing and yet entertaining novel made me think about how much I would hate this world Max Barry has created and is there any higher aim for a writer to achieve than affecting their reader in such a way?