Genre challenge 2 : Dystopia (Jennifer Government)

Book Genre ChallengeTo start, an announcement: I’ve found myself a job! And it’s in London! And it’s even further from home than the last place I worked so I’m going to be spending even longer on the tube!! My reading should pick up again around the beginning of March and I can’t tell you how excited I am!

And now to business. Month 2 of the genre challenge centres on dystopian fiction which is something I’ve always enjoyed reading so I was looking forward to it much more than last month. The only problem was, what to choose?

Then my housemate solved the problem for me. She’s moving out next week (sob) so she was trying to reduce the number of books she had to pack which resulted in a nice little windfall for me 🙂 Among the new volumes I picked up was a book called Jennifer Government by Max Barry. She found it when we visited a book swap at Morden tube station a while back and I was secretly gutted that she spied it before I did.

But seeing as she’s one of those strange people who never seems to actually finish a book, she was happy for me to read it and return it to her once she’d moved. That didn’t quite work out though because I got a bit too in to it and finished reading it the next day. It’s currently sitting on top of her packed boxes looking forlorn.

Jennifer GovernmentSo you’ve probably gathered that I enjoyed Jennifer Government and it’s probably not worth me telling you how fast-paced it is, how the twists and turns of the many subplots keep you gripped and how intriguing it is that all the disparate characters keep coming across each other accidentally. So I won’t.

The story (in a nutshell) is set in a future where people are defined by their careers. So much so that they take the name of their employer as a surname, Jenifer Government for example works for the government and you also have names such as Hack Nike and Hayley McDonald’s.

It features as a starting point a ruthless marketing campaign by Nike in which they decide for some reason (I’m not quite clear on what) that the best way to sell their new brand of footwear is to kill people who are buying it. Like I say the premise is confusing but it serves as commentary on the self-serving nature of some of the big corporations and a (hopefully) extreme example of what could happen in a world of unchecked capitalism.

The fallout of this marketing campaign is huge, as you might expect, and features personal repercussions, a global chase scene and a technological showdown of the highest degree. If I’m honest the plot is slightly ludicrous but it kept me turning the page. It had a very strong female character at its core which is always nice to see although some of her decisions were highly questionable and one of the other characters was someone I came to really care about but several of the others were somewhat forgettable. Actually looking back from a distance of a couple of weeks I’m struggling to see what it is that had me hooked on this book, all I can tell you is that I was.

So having begun as a rave review this is actually finishing with a bit of a lukewarm shrug of the shoulders. I like it but whether it works as a social commentary, like some of the best dystopian fiction does, I don’t really know and whether you should read it or not I couldn’t really say. Hmmmm.



11 responses to “Genre challenge 2 : Dystopia (Jennifer Government)

  1. Many congratulations! I love reading your reviews and can’t wait 🙂

  2. Oooh I really like the sound of this one. The surname thing is a cool idea and killing off people to make them buy a shoe? What an intriguing concept! There have been so many cases over the years where the death of someone has catapulted that person or something relating to that person into the limelight (e.g. their writing) so if that’s the line of thinking in the book, it makes sense to me.

    Might have to keep an eye out for this one, thanks for the tip and great review. 🙂 Sounds like an interesting read, even if it left you lukewarm!

    • I thought the surname thing was cool as well, it had a lot of neat ideas like that, another one is that most of the world was American territories and everyone was very suspicious of anywhere different.

      That was kind of the thing they were going for with the marketing ploy, they thought that by killing people off it would give them extra street cred so more people would buy them!

      I think the problem was that it started out really strong and then tailed off but by the time it did I was completely hooked. I hope you enjoy it if you find a copy 🙂

  3. I love that you see spending more time on the tube as a positive! Non readers just wouldn’t understand! I read Company by Max Barry and had a similar reaction.
    For dystopian fiction it’s hard to beat JG Ballard…

    • I know, I’ve had to explain why the tube is great more times than I can remember!

      This was my first of his books, it’s interesting that you had a similar experience, I wouldn’t pass on reading any of his others because there were some really clever ideas but I’m not going to go out of my way to find them.

      I don’t know JG Ballard, I will have to look out for him!

  4. That sounds amazing! I must check it out!!

  5. I saw your site and thought I could suggest a dystopian fiction ebook I just finished co-authoring. It’s called The OBSTACLE, and is available on Amazon Kindle and Paperback will follow soon. Be sure to read the sample (longer excerpt is on Amazon – 17,000+ words).

    I hope you enjoy it! Thanks!

    – Chris

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