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Utopia / Dystopia
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Cover of "Jennifer Government"
Table of Contents
US Alliance Members:
Team Advantage Members:
Attitudes Towards Book:
Jennifer Government was written by Max Barry (although he publishes his books as Maxx Barry), an Australian author with a sharp wit and cunning ideas about the future. He's a cynic, but his novels such as
command attention with hilarity alongside the grimmer visions of the world.
Barry's first novel was Syrup, a novel about a marketer for Coca-Cola, who has an idea for a product and must therefore climb up through the ranks of the corporation past backstabbers and so forth. The novel was also highly focused on the bad points of coporations and capitalism, but also in a very satirical way.
Published by publishing house
in January of 2003, the book was first released in Austrailia and the US, and then translated into other languages such as German, Italian, and Portugese. Although the book is set in the US and Austrailia, since it is about globalization and world economic affairs it has a lot of relevance to other countries as well. For example, the book was released in Brazil, which in
is a territory of the US.
there are a few key people. First, there is the title character, Jennifer Government. However, I would be more inclined to call another character the "main character" of the book, and that would be Hack Nike. Hack opens the novel, and you see (through a third-person point of view) him be coerced and tangled up very quickly in the illicit dealings of the company for which he works, Nike. The two men that trap Hack into this situation are John Nike and John Nike. Hack then has to kill teenagers who are wearing a particular line of shoes by Nike, so that when people see the street cred that they have they'll be more inclined to buy them for however much Nike wants to charge. This is an example of the terrible ways that corporations have gotten so far out of hand. Hack doesn't want to kill the kids, so he commissions the Police to do the killings for him. Jennifer Government is a woman who works for the Government, and although she can't get funding to track down who is killing these kids after the launch of these new shoes, she is determined to find out who is responsible. Jennifer has a daughter, Kate, and along the way a few other characters are introduced as well, such as Buy Mitsui and Billy NRA.
is set in a future overrun by capitalism. The theme behind
is unlike the standard dystopia because rather than warning against an totalitarian government or complete political control,
warns against the advent of commercialism
the government. Most dystopias feature a completely empowered government, but in
has lost so much control that it can barely function except as a corporate entity.
: Part of the United States
: "Affiliated countries"
: "Socialist countries"
: Fragmented markets
The world of
is broken up into four categories, determined by the capitalist economy (called "capitalizm"). First, there is the United States and it's absorbed countries, which include all of South America, Central America (except for Cuba), and Canada, as well as the southern tip of Africa, Australia, and India (along with many other smaller modern-day coutnries that become enveloped in the arms of the new U.S.). Russia is mentioned as an affiliated country, however there is never any clear explanation of whether it is owned or is voluntarily bound to the U.S. Either way, Russia is on the U.S.'s side. Europe is socialist, and therein Barry references many of the old anti-Communism ideas that abounded during the Cold War, although they are obviously not the focus of his dystopian warning... In fact, in a very modern way, it could almost be seen that they are idealized, although very remote and far-removed from the plot of the actual book.
The economy in
is called "capitalizm," and abolishes the government to allow corporations to fully rule themselves. Corporations have become mass-scaled, larger and more influential than ever before. The world is globalized, and the US dominates a huge portion of the globe.
The corporations now have full and total control over everything.
For example, in Jennifer Government, Nike is particular is shown to kill kids and teens who buy a particular brand of shoes to up the street cred of those shoes. Obviously in our world today it is unlikely to be tolerated, but as corporations gain more and more control, it's easy to see how that is a distressing but forseeable future.
There are two factions of corporations that have organized against one another in a huge corporate war. These two factions are called the "US Alliance" and "Team Advantage."
US Alliance Members:
Nike, IBM, Pepsi, McDonald's, the National Rifle Association
Team Advantage Members:
The Police, ExxonMobil, Burger King, Apple
The Government no longer has enough money to do anything, include pass laws or investigate crimes that they aren't paid to. They can barely prevent crimes, which is what the bulk of their efforts are spent doing, but still, they don't have effect much change on the situations. The Government is no longer to be associated with the Police, which are now a seperate and also capitalized entity. The Police are still partially involved in law-enforcement, although still generally only when reimbursed. The National Rifle Association of America is now a mercenary organization, which the Police are forced to keep in check by, themselves, becoming a mercenary entity.
: Much like a cross between anarchy and capitalism, this is the form of economy that the U.S. and it's territories function under. The corporations are left to run themselves and the country, and nothing is illegal any longer.
2002 was the year that the
stock market crashed
and the Internet-business boom lost a lot of money. From the year's high on January 1st, 2002 until the low in the fall, the difference was around -27 or -28%. This caused a lot of alarm about what would happen to the economy and our society.
Attitudes Towards Book:
Most sources agreed that although the plot is fast and sloppy and a bit oddly constructed, the idea of the novel is a very good one. The ending left a lot open to speculation and bore a lot of the brunt of the criticism. However, the society and idea for the future that Barry's novel presented garnered wide acclaim. There were many mentions of how perfectly the novel articulated an idea of the future that is completely feasible, in contrast to some dystopias that are warnings against slightly more unlikely events and occurences. The idea that taxation will be abolished and another
is an online game that was created to promote Max Barry's
and allows users to create a new government and economy. Daily, a new issue is sent to nations for them to decide a stance upon (or dismiss the issue if they want). I created "
The Fiefdom of Lortopora
" and responded to a brief survey, which categorized my country as "superb" with regards to Civil Rights and Political Freedoms, but "basket-case" as far as the economy goes. I have chosen my government's stance on one issue, which was whether or not democracy should involve compulsory or voluntary voting. I can interact with other nations, forming alleigances and getting support from older and better established nations. This isn't quite a game since there isn't a goal that one is set out to achieve, but more of a way to see how socities and nations can work together. The site is really interesting and allows for a lot of personal exploration of important issues (you're sent one to choose a stance on once a day) and see how your political views fare alongside others.
Although I didn't find Jennifer Government to be the best-written book I've ever read, and I wasn't crazy about the plot, I think it raised a lot of really good points about our society. Although most utopias and dystopias we read are based upon governmental tyranny and total control and opression by the government, Barry's novel seemed to be more focused on a very imminent and realistic future for our society today. I was entranced by the world that Barry presented, and although extraordinarily underwhelmed by the plot I'm very glad I read this book. Some of the scenes were wrenching and completely accurate to human nature. I think that Barry did a remarkable job of warning us of the future through satire and a completely dystopian and yet completely feasible future world, but perhaps a less than superb job of writing a good story.
Anderson, Porter. “Review: ‘Jennifer’ Ungoverned.” Rev. of Jennifer Government, by Max Barry. CNN. 9 June 2003. 10 Mar. 2009 <
Grossman, Lev. “Firm Warfare.” Rev. of Jennifer Government, by Max Barry. Time Magazine 10 Feb. 2003. 10 Mar. 2009 <
Hopper, Jim. Rev. of Jennifer Government, by Max Barry. MaxBarry.com. 12 Jan. 2003. San Diego Union-Tribune. 10 Mar. 2009 <
Kemp, Courtenay A. Rev. of Jennifer Government, by Max Barry. MaxBarry.com. 30 Jan. 2003. TimeOut New York. 10 Mar. 2009 <
Lalumière, Claude. Rev. of Jennifer Government, by Max Barry. Infinity Plus. 22 Feb. 2003. 10 Mar. 2009 <
Mead, Emily. “Jennifer Government.” Rev. of Jennifer Government, by Max Barry. Entertainment Weekly 7 Feb. 2003. 10 Mar. 2009 <
Rev. of Jennifer Government, by Max Barry. MaxBarry.com. Kirkus Reviews. 10 Mar. 2009 <
Thomas, Nicholas. “’Jennifer’ Satirizes Our Consumerism.” Rev. of Jennifer Government, by Max Barry. USA Today 29 Jan. 2003. 10 Mar. 2009 <
Walker, Rob. “’Jennifer Government’: Guerrilla Marketing.” Rev. of Jennifer Government, by Max Barry. New York Times 16 Feb. 2003. 10 Mar. 2009 <
Ziebell, John. “Books: Corporate Utopia.” Rev. of Jennifer Government, by Max Barry. Las Vegas Mercury 12 June 2003. 10 Mar. 2009 <
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