Jennifer Government – Max Barry

I’m a master of jokes no one laughs at. Here’s one: There’s no place like utopia.

For that matter, there are no places like dystopias either, despite how often they come up in fiction. And in fiction, they never seem like terribly realistic places.

Case in point is Max Barry’s Jennifer Government.

Jennifer Government takes place in a world where massive corporations have largely usurped government. By consequence, they have begun to run amok, and the reader is shown the society’s bizarre ‘borrow from John to pay Paul’ justice system, which feels more like a retribution system. The titular character belongs to what is left of the vestigial government (all the characters of the novel bear the last name of whomever they work for, an idea that didn’t really add much to the story except for a cheap and easy way of keeping up with whom belonged to what faction), and is determined to bring down a corporate executive who has recently plotted a massacre cum advertising event.

Reading this book was enjoyable in a ‘close one eye and don’t think too deeply’ kind of way that is needed to process some fiction, more often than not in the paraliterature genres. If you think about the implications of what is going on you quickly realize that the economics of that is going on just doesn’t pan out. The author, knowingly or not, begins the novel with the strange libertarian concept that a government is a tangible entity that can be removed, as opposed to the idea that a government is any governing body, which the corporations in this book kind of seem to be. But you can crank up your suspension of disbelief, because the story is compelling enough for you to want to see what happens in this world or capitalism gone cancerous. The story is ultimately that of a coup, and so it follows that it would have enough intrigue to keep you going.

There were one or two parts of the book that felt dated in a strange way, largely from the story not having any information technology. For such a modern book, the internet and mobile technology seems eerily absent from it. In fact, it might be because this book is otherwise so similar to our world that the absence is so strongly felt. The whole thing reminds me of the classic science-fiction novel The Space Merchants, a novel that muses a little more about the world it gives you and somehow seems to be more realistic in terms of showing a hyper-capitalistic society, despite it being significantly older and less informed.

Jennifer Government

And just because…

By Frederik Pohl, C. M. Kornbluth: The Space Merchants

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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