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Jennifer Government is a novel written by Max Barry. Published in 2003, it is Barry's second novel, following 1999's Syrup. The novel is set in a dystopian alternate reality in which most nations (now controlled by the United Statesmarker) are dominated by for-profit corporate entities while the government's political power is extremely limited. Some readers consider it similar in satiric intent to George Orwell's 1984, but of a world with too little political power as opposed to too much. Consequently, some readers see the novel as a criticism of libertarianism. Many readers also see it as a criticism of globalization, although Barry claims he is not an anti-globalizationist.

The novel was titled Logoland for the German and Italian editions. The Brazilian edition was titled EU S/A, translated as Me, Inc. but, can be seen as an abbreviation of Estados Unidos Sociedade Anônima, which roughly translates to United States, Inc. in English.

Setting

The story takes place several years (what year exactly is never mentioned) after the United States has taken over the entire Western Hemispheremarker (except for Cubamarker), South Africa, the United Kingdommarker, Irelandmarker, Icelandmarker, Indiamarker, Japanmarker, Oceania, South Koreamarker, Taiwanmarker, Thailandmarker, Myanmarmarker, and (most recently) Australia. Russiamarker is said to be affiliated with the US, but not fully absorbed; whether or not Russia actually belongs to the US is not explained. With so much land under the US's control, international trade is no longer necessary, and thus the US cuts itself off from countries that it has not yet taken over. Amongst these other countries is the European Union, which is socialist. The language of all US lands is now "American", the language formerly known as English (only American English is spoken now; British English and the British accent no longer exist).

[[Image:Jennifer world map.PNG|thumb|275px|right|The world of Jennifer Government. Red countries are part of the US, blue ones are the affiliated countries, green ones are socialist countries and purple ones are fragmented markets.

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Either before or after this takeover, taxation is abolished, which eventually leads to the U.S. adopting what is referred to as "capitalizm" (similar to anarcho-capitalism with a few differences). In this new state, the Government is privatized, having to do work only within its budget. This makes the Government unable to write new laws or even hold elections, leaving it with its only job being the prevention of crime. Crimes can also be solved, but the Governments' budget only covers retaliatory investigations if the Government can be paid by the victim or the victim's family.

Outside of the Government there are two other military organizations of power: the Police and the NRAmarker. The Police has since become privatized, having been reduced to a combination of law enforcement and mercenary agencies, and is only involved when contracted by interested parties. Meanwhile, the NRA has become a complete mercenary-for-hire organization able to deploy a fully equipped military force.

Most large corporations are now allied into one of two massive customer loyalty programs, US Alliance and Team Advantage, fiercely in competition with each other. US Alliance members include Nikemarker, IBM, Pepsi, McDonald's, and the NRA. Team Advantage members include the Police, ExxonMobil, Burger King, and Apple Computermarker.

People take the surnames of the corporations they work for, and a person with two jobs hyphenates their name (e.g. Julia Nike-McDonalds). Charity workers can also use their charity's name in a hyphenated surname. Schools are now sponsored and controlled by corporations, such as McDonald's and Mattel. Though little is said of the education given at them, it is hinted that much of it is corporate propaganda. Children who attend school are given the corporate sponsor's name as a surname, but are parenthesized with their parents' employers in school directories, such as "Kate Mattel (Government)."

Other notable aspects of US society include pre-payment before ambulances can be dispatched, the abolition of welfare, total deregulation of weapons, legalized drugs sold in supermarkets, and privately owned roads with charged access.

Plot summary

Hack, a low level employee at Nikemarker, is contracted by one of his higher ups, John Nike Vice President of Gurilla Marketing for an ambitious marketing campaign. The company is planning to release the new Nike Mercurys -- which sell for thousands of dollars but cost pennies to manufacture -- and in order to drum up interest in the items,John Nike plans to increase street cred in the worst way possible: by having Hack kill people who try to buy them. Hack, bound by his contract but unable to contemplate murder on his own, subcontracts to the Police, now a mercenary organization, beginning a chain of business transactions which could land Nike in hot water should word of the plot leak.

After several children are murdered at various Nike chains on opening day, agent Jennifer Government takes it upon herself to track down the perpetrators, even if she can't get the funding for it. Along the way, readers are also introduced to Billy NRA, an athletic man who gets in over his head, and Buy Mitsui, a formerly French stockbroker. Also involved is Hack's unemployed girlfriend, Violet, who engineers a dangerous computer virus to sell to the highest bidder.

Characters

Jennifer Government:
The protagonist Jennifer Government works as a Field Agent for the Government in the Australian Territories. Concerning her job she is very ambitious, which means it is hard for her to fail; she also becomes very aggressive whenever the name of the antagonist (John Nike) is mentioned, but at the end she becomes a lot calmer, even when it comes to John. A remarkable trait of her character is her way of showing emotions, because she always tries to hide them from the society. The defining characteristic for her look is the barcode tattoo under her left eye, which is connected to her past.

Nine years ago Jennifer moved from Los Angeles to Melbourne with her eight-year-old daughter Kate, because Kate’s father (John Nike) did not want to bear the responsibility for a child. Jennifer is a lovely mother, but because of her job she makes a lot of empty promises to her daughter and eventually neglects her. After her move she could not start relationships with other men until she meets Buy Mitsui who makes a perfect nanny for Kate.

Hack Nike (later simply Hack):
Hack Nike works as a merchandising officer for Nike but is not satisfied with his job and wants to improve himself; unfortunately, he is clumsy and naive concerning his career and gets into trouble wherever he goes and by always trying his best, his clumsiness just causes more problems. Because of these traits, he signs a contract for John Nike's new marketing plan without reading it. Afterwords, finds out that he has to kill ten teenagers which unintentionally leads to a chain reaction of conflicts. Hack is dependent on his girlfriend Violet, who helps him in every situation. Nevertheless, he is very considerate and supports her with money. Following Violet’s, advice he goes to the Police where he signs a subcontract which says that they take over Hack’s job. He thinks that Violet killed one of the two John Nikes which is why he informs the Government. Feeling pushed around by Violet, Nike, and the Police, his shy, clumsy, helpless character undergoes a change. In the course of the novel, he finds a new girlfriend, who is Violet's sister Claire, a new home and other friends. Furthermore, he loses his job at Nike's. With his self-confidence increased, he founds an anti-corporate terrorist group in order to take revenge on Nike which includes weak attacks against US Alliance. All in all Hack is a character who the reader is able to empathize with.

John Nike:
John Nike is the antagonist of Jennifer Government, the novel’s main character. He is the Vice-President of marketing for Nike, so he constantly has to wear a suit. It is said that he has a good smile, which might help his abilities of dealing with people and getting out of problematic situations. He is very intelligent but is selfish, has cruel intentions, and behaves very aggressively if somebody or something is acting against his will. Furthermore, he always thinks about what is the best for him and his company, but he also has a penchent for giving into fear easily if something unexpected happens, or if Jennifer Government is involved. Believing that the large corporations should be the only power in the world, he seeks a bring this about. Most of other people hate him or do not like him, but they follow his orders nevertheless; meanwhile, some others like him and even see him as a role model. Also, he was in love with Jennifer Government once and has a daughter with her, but John is not the type of man who would be a good father.

Violet (later Violet ExxonMobil):
Violet is a young good-looking woman who produces software that is able to take a company-wide computer network down. Furthermore, she is very ambitious and therefore she works hard to finish her software in order to become independent by selling it to ExxonMobil. Although they appreciate her software and offer her a job, they take advantage of Violet in order to manipulate computer systems of target enterprises. In fact, they do not intend to pay her. While traveling with Nathaniel ExxonMobil, she neglects her boyfriend Hack Nike. During her absence, Hack and her sister Claire fall in love with each other, and Hack leaves Violet, causing Violet to feel mistreated by nearly everyone because she lost her boyfriend as well as the prospect of her money. She contacts Nike Vice President John Nike to help her to get her money. In the end she acts without conscience and is finally one of the losers in the novel.

Billy Bechtel (later Billy NRA):
Billy Bechtel is an employee of Bechtel military industries in Abilene, Texas in America. He works as a construction worker and his job is to check steel plates for tanks.One day he gets fired because of cost pressures. Instead of searching a new employment he decides to go skiing; he travels to New Zealand to ski, but he realizes that the Southern Hemisphere has backward seasons. Consequently, there is no snow.To relax he visits a NRA shooting range and gets hired by the NRA because of his good shooting. He joins a boot camp to get trained in military tactics. During a training he has a conflict with a NRA colleague, runs away, getting mixed up with a professional NRA killer named Bill NRA.Bill and some NRA troopers convince Billy to go with them to Australia in order to murder a police officer, named Pearson. Billy does not want to kill a human being, and runs away again but gets caught and arrested by Jennifer Government, who wants him to spy on the NRA.On his way back to the camp he meets the real Bill NRA and they find out that he is a spy.To save his life he agrees to work as a sniper for General Li, a NRA General, who gives Billy the order to execute the Government President; he fails and is caught by Jennifer and Calvin Government once again.The three travel to L.A. where Billy helps Jennifer and falls in love with a coupon girl working for Burger King. They decide to go skiing.

Buy Mitsui:
Buy Mitsui is one of the more important characters. He is presented as a stockbroker who has doubts about his job and his life. In the past he lived in France, so he is the only European influence in the novel. Buy is very focused on his job and his mood depends on his success (though success makes him happy at least for a short time), but because he cannot deal with pressure very well, he is depressed and gets overstressed easily. Because of this, he sometimes does morally incorrect things, but does not feel comfortable with it. However, after he makes a big deal he is very high-spirited, which leads him to give 5000$ to Hayley McDonald's, a girl he has never met before. But soon he regrets his generosity for he witnesses Hayley being shot. He cannot bear the girl's death, blaming himself for it, and is rendered unable to work because of guilt.Buy attempts to commit suicide but he is unable to use the gun so he calls Jennifer Government. Immediately after his call Jennifer visits him and they start an affair. From there on his life changes rapidly. After knowing each other for only two days Jennifer asks him to take care of her daughter Kate because she has to leave the country for government reasons. At first Buy is afraid of this challenge but soon he likes it. Not long after accepting his task, the relationship between Buy and Kate becomes more intimate and he behaves like a father towards her. However, Buy becomes accidentally involved in the conflict between Jennifer Government and John Nike which greatly upsets him.

Adaptations

To help promote the novel, Barry created a spin-off browser-based game entitled Jennifer Government: NationStates, in which players can operate their own countries by making decisions that have an impact on the economy, society and culture of their people. The game is very loosely based on the novel, containing none of the storyline - the player makes choices which are inspired by the setting of the Jennifer Government novel. There are no graphics in the game outside of national flags (both real world and user-generated).

In 2001, the film rights were optioned to Section 8, a production company owned by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney. In 2005, Louis Mellis and Dave Scinto, writers of Sexy Beast, were chosen by Clooney and Soderbergh to write the screenplay. Alias TV star Jennifer Garner expressed interest in playing the titular character in the movie or even television adaptation, although Barry himself has said his primary choice for the role would be Nicole Kidman.

In 2006 Max Barry reported in his blog that because of the closure of Section 8 the film rights to Jennifer Government had been returned to him, though he remained hopeful that Clooney's next studio project Smoke House Productions would look into optioning the rights again. The future of the film adaptation is unknown, though the Internet Movie Database reports a 2012 release date for the film.

Editions

  • ISBN 0-385-50759-3 (hardcover, 2003)
  • ISBN 1-4000-3092-7 (paperback, 2004)
  • ISBN 1-4000-7634-X (e-book, 2004)


Footnotes

  1. As all non-charity organizations in the book have been privatized, the government and all former government controlled organizations' names are now capitalized as for-profit corporations' names are.
  2. Barry, Max. He has created a game based on the novel: NationStates. " On Capitalism and Corporatism". MaxBarry.com. January 20, 2005.
  3. Barry, Max. " Jen in Brazil". MaxBarry.com. June 7, 2005.
  4. Interview with Max Barry by Dennis Widmyer at The Cult - ChuckPalahniuk.net


References

In addition, the following version of the novel was used as a reference for this article:
  • Barry, Max. Jennifer Government. New York: Vintage, 2004. ISBN 1-4000-3092-7


External links




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