is a 2003 science fiction novel by Australian author Max Barry. Set in a dystopian alternate reality in which a United States-dominated global government is controlled by corporate entities, it focuses on the people working to maintain the capitalist system of the society. When Merchandising Officer Hack Nike, a low-ranking member of the sneaker corporation, is forced into committing a terrible crime to build awareness for a new brand, he attracts the attention of Jennifer Government, a legendary corporate watchdog working for what remains of the federal government. However, her interests may not entirely agree with those of the government she works for anymore. Exploring themes of capitalism, globalization, and the intersection of government and corporate interests, Jennifer Government
received overwhelming critical acclaim for its unique world and relevant satire, and the film rights were optioned by Section 8, although a film was not made before the studio was closed. A spin-off browser-based video game titled Jennifer Government: NationStates
was released to supplement the game’s story.Jennifer Government
takes place over several years in the future, although the exact year is never specified. The United States has taken over the majority of the world, with both American continents, Russia, Great Britain, India, and Australia aligned in a powerful trade bloc against a socialist trade bloc run by the European Union and China. Taxation has been abolished and government is privatized, with its only function being the prevention of crime. Criminals are only pursued if the victim or the victim's family pays for an investigation. The police are privatized, and the NRA has taken over the military’s role as a private military force. Major corporations are divided into two massive customer loyalty programs, divided between US Alliance and Team Advantage. People take the surname of the company they work for, or hyphenate if they work for two. People’s lives are completely dominated by corporate interests, with everything—including emergency medical care—being determined by profit.
Hack Nike, a low-level Nike employee, is contacted by Vice President of Guerrilla Marketing John Nike for a new marketing campaign. The Nike Mercurys, high-end sneakers, are about to go on sale, and John wants to increase “street cred” for the sneakers by having Hack kill people who try to buy them. Hack is bound by his contract to obey, but he can’t bring himself to commit murder personally. He subcontracts to the police, a mercenary organization that will murder for the right price, and begins a series of business transactions that could cause Nike serious legal trouble if it gets out. When several children are murdered at Nike stores on opening day, agent Jennifer Government is determined to track down the culprit. The higher-ups will only let her investigate if she can get funding. Also pulled into the plot are Hack’s girlfriend, Violet, an unemployed hacker who has designed a powerful computer virus; Buy Mitsui, a former French stockbroker; and Billy NRA, an athletic man who finds himself in over his head in his work for the NRA.
Billy NRA is caught up in the NRA’s operations, including murder, and is at one point ordered to try to assassinate the President of the United States, although he fails. However, he is consistently conflicted and winds up helping the government. Buy Mitsui comes into the story after a successful trade that’s left him flush with money. Looking to share the wealth, he gives a girl some money, only to find out soon afterwards that she has been killed while trying to buy Nike Mercurys. He’s horrified and feels responsible for the girl’s death. His life starts to go downhill until Jennifer Government contacts him seeking his help. The two become closer: they begin dating, and he gets to know her daughter.
Violet winds up selling her virus software to ExxonMobil, and becomes a power broker in the company. They take her all over the world to sabotage their competition—but after they get ahold of the virus, they cut her out and refuse to pay her. At the same time, her sudden disappearance when the company has sent her abroad leads Hack to seek out her sister, Claire. The two become close, and this enrages Violet. She’s contacted by John Nike, who plans to use the angry young woman to his advantage. He turns her against the government and sends her to kidnap Kate, Jennifer’s daughter. John Nike intends to use this to blackmail the government. Finding this out, Hack is disgusted and turns away from Nike. He and Jennifer are able to foil Violet, rescue Kate, and reveal John Nike’s role in the plot, bringing him to justice.
Max Barry is an Australian satiric novelist and blogger. The author of five novels, five short stories, and four essays, he is best known for Jennifer Government
and the spin-off game NationStates
, which became a very popular online nation simulator game. Three of his novels have had movie rights optioned by major studios.