Bubblegum pop-future comedy in which corporations go to war like feudal fiefdoms.
In a move guaranteed to provide the impetus for many a lawsuit, all Barry’s characters have forgone use of their surnames in the interest of renaming themselves after their place of work—so we have Jennifer Government, John Nike, Hack Nike, Buy Mitsui, and Billy NRA. Jennifer is a former top advertising exec with a barcode tattoo on her face who is now a loose-cannon federal agent and single mother, as deadly with a pistol as she once was with ad copy. The world situation: corporations are even more rapacious than today, and they fight one another along battle lines drawn up by two big consumer reward programs: US Alliance and Team Advantage. Governments themselves are a thing of the past, with the exception of the US one, which is now privatized and running other parts of the globe, including Australia, where the book is set. Coldhearted marketing whiz John Nike (one of two characters so named) has decided that Nike’s new sneakers would fly off the shelves all the faster if on the day they were delivered to Niketowns, several teenage customers got shot for them. It’s a manufactured street cred thing. Shooters are hired—many from the now-privatized and militia-like NRA—and, despite Jennifer’s best efforts, 14 teen shoppers get killed. The remainder of the story describes a rapidly escalating battle for supremacy between Jennifer’s government agents and the forces of Nike, who believe themselves to be invulnerable and don’t hesitate to use deadly force. At the same time, things are heating up between US Alliance and Team Advantage, with Burger Kings getting bombed, snipers going after rival chain stores, and riots erupting in the streets. Barry (Syrup, 1999) has a quick wit and a light touch, which helps the reader skate over some of the occasional patches of too-obvious satire and should translate easily (though more litigiously) to film.
It’s Catch-22 by way of The Matrix.