Monday, March 03, 2008

Book Review: Jennifer Government

This is why Amazon will never replace bookstores and why NetFlix will never replace the video store. There's just too much good stuff that you'll never know about unless you're walking the aisles. That's how I discovered "Good Omens" (now sitting next to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) which led me to the rest of Neil Gaiman's and Terry Pratchett's work. And now I stumbled into "Jennifer Government" by Max Barry.

"Jennifer Government" tells of the world as Ron Paul would have it. No, really. Research was done by surfing libertarian websites. The United States is a free market utopia. Your last name is determined by what company you work for or what school you attend. The schools are run by corporations that require certain levels of merchandising from the students. The government doesn't have the authority to collect taxes. Their only remaining task is to prosecute criminals and they need funding from the wronged to prosecute. The US also now runs all of North and South America and has just purchased Australia.

The book opens with Hack Nike looking for a water cooler with some water. He gets talked into signing a contract without reading it. The contract drags him into Nike's latest marketing campaign. They've built a world of hype around their latest shoes. Only 200 have been released so far so their price is $2,500 a pair. They've been spreading word that the local store will have a shipment of 5 on a particular day. Which local store? All of them. And much more than 5. Hack's job is to shoot between 5 and 10 of the people buying shoes to make it look like the demand is enough that people are killing for them. This will drive up sales even more. He just has to make sure to shoot some of the poorer people so their parents can't afford to prosecute.

Hack subcontracts to the police who subcontract to the NRA. The NRA is now the biggest baddest group of mercenaries you've ever heard of. They're an Army for hire.

Jennifer Government has a history with John Nike, the mind behind this marketing campaign. She is also investigating the Nike shootings.

This is just the start of the story. Some books you have trouble telling the characters apart, but not with this one. This one has a healthy cast of characters who all come into contact with each other to form a chaotic network of relations. The story escalates from a comedic marketing campaign to an all out war between two massive corporate partnership that climaxes in an exchange of heavy artillery between a McDonalds and a Burger King complete with missile launchers and truck mounted chain guns.

There's no message to this book. No more than what you give it. It's just a good corporate comedy.

But don't take my word for it. If you see this book in the bookstore pick it up and read the first two pages. If you're not sold by then just put it down. I'm pretty sure that you'll want a copy.

The movie is due out in 2010.

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