Max Barry's second novel, JENNIFER GOVERNMENT, is a wild ride through the near future, when American consumerism and culture have consolidated much of the world under a single government. People name themselves after the company they work for, and the unemployed are easily identifiable by their lack of surnames. The novel opens with a bang when a lowly merchandiser, Hack Nike, gets off the elevator on the wrong floor and meets two men, both named John Nike, at the water cooler. Hack is offered a guerilla marketing position and eagerly signs his contract before he realizes he has agreed to assassinate ten people as a way of boosting Nike's profits. Meanwhile, a savvy and ambitious government agent, Jennifer Government gets wind of the plans. To reveal more of what happens would be to ruin Max Barry's rambunctious plot, which bends and folds and ties itself in knots as the action heats up, involving the CEO's of other American corporations, the NRA, a disillusioned stockbroker, and a computer hacker named Violet ExxonMobil. Although not as hilarious as Barry's first novel SYRUP, Barry's instinct for the absurd remains intact as he serves up his zany vision of a world run amuck. The pacing is flawless, never letting up, always leaping ahead with new surprises, although near the end these constant turns of plot left me confused about where a particular character was, what he knew, who he knew and how. Except during one heavy-handed scene near the end, Barry breezes his readers through the insanity of his futuristic world with skill and confidence. Max Barry fans won't want to miss this novel. This is an entertaining satire best read in a few sittings. You won't find any deep insights here, but you will certainly get a few laughs and a sharp-eyed look at America's consumerism.
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