The planet is run by huge multinational corporations; the government has been marginalized to such an extent that it is unable to quell the war stirring between rival corporate loyalty programs; and elementary schools are sponsored by the likes of Mattel and McDonalds.
It's a world in which capitalism has taken the next frighteningly logical step, where men actually do live and die by the almighty dollar, and where employees take as their surname the name of the corporation by whom they are employed. And Hack Nike, Merchandise Distribution Officer eager to make that vertical move into marketing, suddenly finds himself in a crossfire between his employer, the NRA, and the Government.
Max Barry's vision of the near-future strikes disturbingly close to home in Jennifer Government, the Australian satirist's second novel, a fast-paced narrative of our consumer culture gone terribly wrong.
The story's players are distilled down to archetypes:
John Nike is a self-absorbed marketing suit bent on global domination; Violet Exxon-Mobile is an intelligent geek paranoiac trying to rise above her current economic status; and Billy NRA is a likable yet not so bright Texas sharpshooter who just wants to go skiing.
While perhaps one dimensional, these characters get the job done for Barry who moves them and us effortlessly through the main attraction: the free market multinational nightmare the world has become.
Without being a protest book, Jennifer Government manages to hold a mirror to the system and satirically reflect the nasties lurking therein. Max Barry has given us a briskly sardonic view of capitalism's possible future. Once you pick up Jennifer Government, you won't put it down.
And I guarantee you'll never look at your Nikes the same again.