Steve will have to remind me how he felt about Jennifer Government, because I LOVED it.
It certainly helped that I began the book with a great attitude about it, after having read the 'About the Author', which starts:
Max Barry is an Australian, for which he apologizes. He is the author of the cult hit Syrup, although he spelled his name "Maxx" for that novel, "because it seemed like a funny joke about marketing, and I failed to realize everyone would assume I was a pretentious asshole."
There was also Author's Note before the actual novel starts, in which he covers his butt from lawsuits. So the author himself seems like a good egg.
The story is set mostly in Australia in the not-so-distant future. Taxes have been abolished throughout a good half of the world. The Government exists, but in a crime-prevention capacity. If someone wants the Government to go after a murderer, thief, etc., that person has to fund the operation. People take the last names of the companies that they work for. Schools are run by companies like Mattel and McDonald's. No job, no last name, effectively not a real person in most people's eyes. After all, who's going to protect you if you don't have your employer to turn to?
Everything starts when Hack Nike, a lowly Merchandise Distribution Officer, (who I pictured as the main character in Office Space—the similarities become more apparent later on in the book) is approached by two guys, both named John Nike, and railroaded into signing a contract without reading it first.
"Now. What do you know about Nike Mercurys?"
Hack blinked. "They're our latest product. I haven't actually seen a pair, but...I heard they're great."
The Johns smiled. "We started selling Mercurys six months ago. You know how many pairs we've shifted since then?"
Hack shook his head. They cost thousands of dollars a pair, but that wouldn't stop people from buying them. They were the hottest sneakers in the world. "A million?"
"Two hundred million?"
"No. Two hundred pairs."
"John here," the other John said, pioneered the concept of marketing by refusing to sell any products. It drives the market insane."
"And now it's time to cash in. On Friday we're gonna dump four hundred thousand pairs on the market at two and a half grand each."
"Which, since they cost us—what was it?"
"Since they cost us eighty-five cents to manufacture, gives us a gross margin of around one million dollars." He looked at Vice-President John. "It's a brilliant campaign."
"It's really just common sense," John said. "But here's the thing, Hack: if people realize every mall in the country's got Mercurys, we'll lose all that prestige we've worked so hard to build. Am I right?"
"Yeah." Hack hoped he sounded confident. He didn't really understand marketing.
"So you know what we're going to do?"
He shook his head.
"We're going to shoot them, " Vice-President John said. "We're going to kill anyone who buys a pair."
Awesome. Awesome, awesome book. I loved it, I'm going to hunt down Syrup ASAP, and I'm going to hopehopehope that they make this one into a movie. Because it would be a kick-ass movie.