Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Jennifer Government: the only Barcode to win this season?J-Gov

Max Barry's Jennifer Government takes the globalisation dread of Naomi Klein's No Logo and fictionalises it into a beautifully realised near future (or parallel present?) of full employment and nil taxation where the government is effectively neutered and citizens are happy to adopt their company's name as their surname. When the two John Nikes hit upon a maverick marketing idea which involves shooting teenagers to improve the street cred of a new brand of trainers it gives agent Jennifer Government (whose barcode tattoo betrays her past as a corporate whore) the opportunity to settle both personal and political scores.

I loved this book: it has some great ideas, funny jokes, wry observations and is effective as both a satire and as a thriller. It makes you think and makes you laugh, and most of all, makes you want to turn the page to find out what craziness is gonna happen next. And you've got to admire a book that dares to make the idea of taxation sexy. If there is a fault, the plot perhaps takes a few too many soap-opera convolutions: Barry keeps the cast of characters economically small but this leads to a few scarcely credible personality transformations for plot purposes (something not uncommon in a lot of modern fiction).

But really this is nitpicking. If there's a funnier, more relevant and more subversive book published this year I'll eat it.

Further reading: Max Barry's Jennifer Government site includes Chapter One in full; 'deleted scenes' from the novel (a first?); an opportunity to buy the book and news about Stephen Soderbergh/George Clooney's production company buying the film rights. Given the book's bold and blatant namechecking of world-famous companies indulging in fictionalised criminal behaviour, the film should keep Hollywood's lawyers busy for a lifetime.


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