Dark Futures Book 17: Jennifer Government

Dark Futures is a 20-book exploration of the fears of our futures, an odd sub-genre of Science Fiction that draws in on the society of the time and projects it forward, into uncomfortable visions of the world to be. The idea is the same across many books, the results, very different.  This week we take a welcome turn for the lighter, with some fast-moving satire.

In the future, Government is over, and Corporations are all. In fact, your surname tells you which company you work for – move job, change your name. Lose your job, you have no surname. Everything is privatised; the police will only investigate what they are paid to by victims,and only generate a case file for you to send to a lawyer to prosecute. Schools are sponsored, armed forces are all mercenaries, its capitalism run amok. Sound horrific right?

Part of what is great about Max Barry’s Jennifer Government is also possibly it’s greatest weakness – it’s tone. This is a light, breezy romp of a book, it’s witty, and sharp, and makes good points on good targets; but at the same time it’s missing a sense of anger, or bite, that would give it the memorable drive that perhaps it deserves.

The best example I give relates to the books core trigger event. A young girl, queueing for trainers at a shop, is gunned down in the street. In this world, her parents need to mortgage their house to pay the police to investigate, and get a lawyer to prosecute, because thats the way it works. Thats horrific. Its also a side-side-side-plot. The main plot follows the eponymous Jennifer in her pursuit of corporate evil-doer John Nike (one of two John Nikes in the story, which no-one ever gets confused, which i quite liked) and the various conspiricies, sub-plots and secondary characters that spin around it.

Jennifer Government is not without it’s problems; some of the characters are underdeveloped or end up plot-cyphers, some sub-plots just don’t go anywhere, but I really enjoyed it. It’s a gentle satire on the commercialisation of our culture, possibly too gentle, but I think that may be a matter of taste. Its certainly a pleasant change of pace from all the death and despair of this years reading list!

Finally, the network Podcast “Scrolls” did one its always-interesting Book Groups on this very book. It’s worth a listen – even the author thought so! – and can be found here.

Next time:  Everything is Better with Zombies. Specifically, Max Brooks’ World War Z.

Feedback, corrections and other comments welcome either here or by email to grampus(at)dissectingworlds(dot)com or on twitter @thegrampus. Earlier Reviews in this series can be found using the tag “Dark Futures” or the column name “Tolkien Gestures”.

More from the world of Geek Syndicate

%d bloggers like this: