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Volume 68, Issue 99, Wednesday, February 19, 2003 

Arts & Entertainment

Barry's 'Government', futuristic moral fable

Miriam Rouziek
The Daily Cougar

Jennifer Government is the latest novel from Max Barry, an Australian satirist and author of the novel Syrup. The novel is a sardonic take on "capitalizm" and the seemingly insatiable thirst for consumerism in the "Land of the Free Market."

Taking place sometime in the near future, the world of Jennifer Government is almost completely controlled by the U.S. Government, with only a few holdouts in China, Europe, Africa and (surprise, surprise) Cuba. 

This is a world completely run by corporations, where taxes have been abolished, employees take on the surnames of their employers (resulting in an endless stream of John Nikes and Mary ExxonMobils) and the government only pays to enforce crime, not punish it.

Jennifer Government is the title hero, a single FBI agent and mother with a barcode tattoo under her left eye, the last remaining vestige of her consumer background. She is a vigilante hero of sorts, prosecuting crime like a "consumer watchdog from hell."

In a consumerist world based on corporate dogma, where you can be sued for being the victim of a crime, Jennifer Government is an aggressive heroine.

Max Barry has expertly combined everything that makes the United States seem awful with everything that made Catch-22 a work of literary genius. Taking a rather sardonic viewpoint, Barry manages to create a social critique not seen since the likes of 1984 or Lord of the Flies. Unlike most satires, however, Barry allows the reader to conclude what he or she thinks is right, allowing for personal morality to override the authoris predetermined morality.

What the novel becomes is a sort of moral fable, a future the reader should try to avoid at all costs. Barry achieves this through a cynical view of capitalism, a biting wit and a sort of antithetical heroism that makes the reader wonder whom they should be rooting for in this crazy world.

All in all, itis a fantastic book, taking the reader for a strange, wild ride in a world where only those strange Europeans, who are rumored to blind people for no reason, stand in the way of complete corporate takeover.

Jennifer Government

Doubleday Publishers

The verdict: Two thumbs way up!
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