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What the critics say
"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 listeners say about Jennifer GovernmentAverage Customer Ratings
Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.
- Steven F Giovanni
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.
9 people found this helpful
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.
4 people found this helpful
- SFWA Reader
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 people found this helpful
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 people found this helpful
- Charles Elmore
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 person found this helpful
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 person found this helpful
- Craig Hansen
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 people found this helpful
- Julie W. Capell
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 people found this helpful
So much meh
I don't remember why I ever thought I'd be interested in this book, but it didn't deliver anything I could consider to be value.
It starts with the premise that government completely turns a blind eye to whatever companies want to do, mischaracterizes that as something libertarians or somebody near the right end of the political spectrum wants, and then builds a world around it only deep enough to tell a forgettable story.
The characters were flat, and the dialogue wasn't believable. The profanity was unnecessary and excessive, and seemed only to show when the author was trying to make a character unrelatable, which wasn't a problem because none of them would have been, even without the profanity and other verbal abuse.
I don't think this was Michael Kramer's best narration work, but he did an admirable job of trying to salvage the story.
An interesting look at consumerism
I’m a fan of Max Barry and have read most of his books, but Jennifer Government was my first and favorite. The premise of the book is very plausible, which makes the book almost frightening; one has to wonder what a company would do for a sale. Barry takes thing to the extreme on occasion which adds humor to the levity that most of this is really possible.
Michael Kramer’s reading did irritate on occasion, such as Jennifer’s daughter, but the rest is enjoyable.