Fiction 07 Jan 2005 22:57

Jennifer Government

coverJennifer Government
Max Barry

Set in the near future, this book is about a world where corporations rule and the government has little or no influence in anything. Everything has been privatised (including the police), taxes no longer exist and the only service still being provided by the government for free is crime prevention. And I mean prevention; if a crime does happen, the victim or his/her family needs to pay for the investigation and eventual prosecution of the accused.

In this world, corporations are so important in peoples’ lives that everyone assumes the name of their employers (or, for kids, of their schools). So, some of the characters are John Nike, Bill NRA (yes, that NRA), Kate Mattel and Hayley MacDonald’s. The title character, Jennifer, is a government agent investigating a possible crime (hence her last name). Much of the action happens right here in Melbourne, in what is then the Australian Territories of the USA (talk about a free-trade agreement going overboard).

The plot of the book has to do with an “unconventional” marketing action taken by Nike, and the way the consequences of it spiral out of control, pushed forward by a sociopathic marketing director operating under a set of rules apparently approved by everyone. The book is a comedy, but it is a fair (if somewhat exaggerated) display of “wild capitalism” at its worst.

Personally, I am all for capitalism and free market, but I do think one can go too far, and this books shows one of the ways for it to happen. It may be a little too exaggerated to be called a cautionary tale, but it’s a good read nonetheless.

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