When I finished reading Max Barry’s 2013 novelLexicon I went to Barry’s site to learn more about him. From what I can tell Barry seems to have a thing for writing and satirizing the culture of corporate America and marketing. I had mixed feelings about the female characters in Lexicon, so the synopsis and title to Jennifer Government caught my eye.
Jennifer Government is set in a surreal low key society where everything has been privatized. The Government, PACS and even
the Police are all private independent companies along with some of your well-known favorites including Mattel, Nike and Pepsi. Corporations rule all and your employer is everything. . . even your last name. In a world now dominated by the free market anything can be bought and everything has a price, including murder.
When John Nike, an overly ambitious Nike executive, creates a killer (literally) marketing campaign to make Nike shoes seem more valuable, he and numerous other characters get caught up in a twisty plot that spans halfway across the globe.
Leading the way to bring the murders and those involved to justice is the cop with an axe to grind Jennifer Government. A government agent who will quite literally stop at nothing to see Nike bought to justice. Despite the somewhat out of the box “you never know what’s behind the door Kafka-esque set up”, the world in the book is actually quite funny in how unbelievable it is. Every page characters find themselves in slightly outlandish situations.
The titular Jennifer Government (though I suspect in a book where characters take the name of their employer Jennifer Government was the preferred title than John Nike or Buy Mitsui or Billy NRA) is your typical rebel cop character who I see as filling a satire of this archetype.
For example, her opening scene has her chasing down a bad guy, jumping off a third floor in a mall and landing on a car. A few scenes later she driving a car with her knees and firing a gun out of the window (with a broken arm) She’s a fun archetype but I think she has an interesting back story. While I found her “motive” a little weak she was still a fun character to read about.
Barry seems to have this thing for characters who sort of amble around and find themselves in crazy over the top situations.
Unfortunately, like in Lexicon Barry just doesn’t develop character relationships in a way that makes a reader invested. A lot of it is glossed over for the next over the top moment.
With its over the top attitude and unbelievable plot turns this book was a lot of fun, it was one of those stories where I had no idea what to expect next, I just kept wondering HOW Berry came up with this idea