"Max Barry is an Australian, for which he apologizes."

Max Barry is an Australian who decided, a while ago, that he could write. He specializes in corporate marketing, and he taught the subject at two major Australian universities. In addition to teaching, Max worked at the Hewlett-Packard company in Australia. While working for HP, Max learned firsthand about companies and how they work, and so he put his knowledge to good use. Combining his understanding of marketing and business, and sarcastic wit, he wrote his first novel, Syrup, a book about large businesses (specifically Coca-Cola) and all the sleazy, backstabbing, vicious politics that are involved.

In Syrup, the main character, Scat, has an idea for this great new soda, Fukk, and so he pitches it to the Coke company, with the help of his taciturn roommate, Sneaky Pete. Unfortunately, his idea is stolen. I won't give anything else away, but the rest of the book is a fast-paced, last-minute rush to get to the top and stay there between Scat and his allies, and his enemies. It has supposedly become a cult hit.

Barry's second book, Jennifer Government, also deals with psychotic marketing, though it goes a bit farther in this one. In the near future, the world is run by America and its giant corporations, and everyone's last name is who they work for (examples: Hack Nike, Billy NRA, etc). In the beginning, Nike, as a marketing ploy, decides to sell a new line of sneaker for $2,500. The really strange part is, they decide to kill random buyers, to raise the street cred of the shoe. An employee, Hack Nike, is offered a contract in which he agrees to kill a certain number of buyers, which he signs without looking. Once he realizes what he has signed, he goes to the police, who assumes he wants to subcontract out. The police pass the job off to the NRA, and it goes on from there. Again, I don't want to go too very deep into the plot, but JG is more complicated than Syrup, and has been critically acclaimed, where Syrup has not. Also, Max has created an online game, NationStates, as a side project/tie-in with JG. In NationStates, players create their own (wait for it) nation-states that they can control by passing issues that relate to economy, civil and political rights, and things of that nature. Entertaining for a while, but after a month or two, it gets repetitive.

In short, Barry is an underrated satirist whose imagination and writing style fits perfectly with his subject matter. His fiction is slightly startling in the way that things like capitalist takeovers will probably happen soon. If only the takeover was that funny.


The back dustjacket flap of Jennifer Government.