Max Barry

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Max Barry

Max Barry (born 18 March 1973) is an Australian novelist, short-story writer and essayist. His books include Syrup, Jennifer Government, and Company.


  • Apparently we’re now in a state where most ads are full of people looking at us in a way that would heat us up down to our toes if it happened in real life, and we don’t think anything of it.
    • October 16, 2005 weblog post[1]
  • When someone thinks, “I liked his last book, I’ll hope this new one is good” and shells out their hard-earned, I fervently want that person to be thrilled.
    • October 8, 2005 weblog post[2]
  • I think this is the first time I’ve altered a book based on what you guys told me. So it’s an occasion! Soon I’ll be putting up polls to choose between plots, and then it’s a short stop to accepting anonymous contributions and stapling them together while I sip margaritas on the deck of a Pacific cruise ship.
    • August 24, 2005 weblog post[3]
  • Someone from the Internet Writing Workshop sent me a link to the Gender Genie, where you paste in a section of text and it uses an algorithm to detect whether the author is male or female. Or, if you’re an author, you can tell whether you’re really nailing your opposite-sex characters. I mean, nailing their dialog.
    • August 8, 2005 weblog post[4]
  • Look, I understand that for a lot of people, the US is superior to their country of residence in myriad ways, but I'm Australian. We have it all: the weather, the beautiful cities, the brand of football that involves neither padding yourself up like Santa Claus nor standing in a line in front of goal and covering your testicles.
    • Great Writing interview[[5]]
  • When it's done with being graceful and poetic, language is meant to communicate, after all.
    • Great Writing interview
  • I feel comfortably qualified to talk about anything, but that's a personal problem and I'm dealing with it.
    • Great Writing interview
  • Corporations! It's like there are these gigantic monsters living among us, and we don't mind that they're monsters because when we look at them they smile and hand us cheeseburgers. That's nuts.
    • Great Writing interview

Jennifer Government (2003)[edit]

All page numbers are from the hardcover first edition published by Doubleday ISBN 0-385-50759-3, 1st printing
Nominated for the 2004 John W. Campbell Memorial Award
All italics as in the book
  • "John here," the other John said, "pioneered the concept of marketing by refusing to sell any products. It drives the market insane."
    • Chapter 1, “Nike” (p. 4)
  • "I remember when you could always rely on those little street kids to pop a few people for the latest Nikes," Vice-President John said. "Now people get mugged for Reeboks, for Adidas — for generics, for Christ's sake."
    "The ghettos have no fashion sense anymore," the other John said. "I swear, they'll wear anything."
    • Chapter 1, “Nike” (p. 5)
  • What’s not fair is that our society rewards selfishness. That’s not fair.
    • Chapter 5, “Wal-Mart” (p. 18)
  • The T-shirt was black with a big NRA logo on the chest: an AK-47 crossed with a burly arm. Underneath, it said: FREEDOM IS AN ASSAULT RIFLE. That was kind of catchy, Billy thought. The NRA was getting hip.
    • Chapter 19, “Billy” (p. 66)
  • The compound was like a mutant Boy Scout camp: all green tents and vehicles and barrels, smack in the middle of nowhere. He saw a troop of soldiers drilling in a field. They reminded him of high school football players with guns. Then a tank rolled past.
    “Shit! What’s that?”
    “That is an Abrams M1A battle tank, sir!”
    Billy looked around with new respect. Now he understood why the NRA membership fees were so high.
    • Chapter 19, “Billy” (p. 66)
  • She was surprised by Dallas’s ugliness. Even with the sun rising behind it, the city looked as if it had been built to withstand bombardment. She’d never seen so much concrete in one place.
    “What do you think?” Rendell said in the cab. “Nice, huh?”
    “Where are the trees?”
    “There are some parks.” He craned his neck. “I think you can see one…” A heavy truck roared alongside them. The cab darkened like it was descending into the earth. Violet put her fingers in her ears. “Past that traffic accident.”
    • Chapter 27, “Dislocation” (p. 97)
  • It was turning into a sly, anti–free market statement, and irony irritated him. There was no place for irony in marketing: it made people want to look for deeper meaning. There was no place in marketing for that, either.
    • Chapter 34, “Competition” (p. 116)
  • The easier your job, the more you got paid. John had suspected this for many years, but here was the proof: pulling down five hundred bucks an hour to sit in the afternoon sun on top of an L.A. office tower. He was wearing a suit and shades, reclining on a deck chair while a light breeze blew in from the bay. John thought he might have found the perfect job.
    • Chapter 40, “Acculturation” (p. 138)
  • "Hey, I saw this old British movie, all the people spoke so different, you could hardly understand them. But everyone here speaks American as good as you and me. What's with that?"
    • Chapter 40, “Acculturation” (p. 144)
  • “We’ll refer the incident to the Government, and they will—”
    “The Government? The enemy kicks you in the balls and you want to fill out a complaint form? You think the Government’s even on our side?”
    • Chapter 45, “Execution” (p. 165)
  • John said, "You know what makes a successful executive?"
"Dude, I am a successful executive."
"Decisiveness," he said. The doors slid open. A man in a briefcase was standing there; he raised his eyebrows. John pointed the gun at the man's leg and squeezed the trigger. It was louder than he'd expected.
"Holy shit!" the kid said.
"Also implementation skills," John said, and left the elevator.
  • Chapter 45, “Execution” (p. 168)
  • Some people would break the rules to get things done and some wouldn't; it was simple as that. John didn't have much use for the latter.
    • Chapter 51, “US Alliance” (p. 190)
  • "By this action, the Government has proved that so long as it exists, none of us are truly free. Government and freedom are mutually exclusive. So if we value freedom, there's only one conclusion. It's time to get rid of this leftover relic we call Government."
    • Chapter 53, “NRA/Ground” (p. 202)
  • The room was dead quiet. “Yes, some people died. But let’s not pretend these are the first people to die in the interests of commerce. Let’s not pretend there’s a company in this room that hasn’t had to under the profit above human life at some point. We make cars we know some people will die in. We make medicine that carries a chance of a fatal reaction. We make guns. I mean, you want to expel someone here for murder, let’s star with the Philip Morris Liaison. We have all, at some time, put a price tag on a human life and decided we can afford it. No one in this room has the right to sit here and pretend my actions came out of the blue.”
    He took a risk and paused for effect. If the IBM Liaison was going to preach at him, now was his once. But he didn’t. He just sat there. Pussy, John thought.
    “Look, I am not designing next year’s ad campaign here. I’m getting rid of the Government, the greatest impediment to business in history. You don’t do that without a downside. Yes, some people will die. But look at the gain! Run a cost-benefit analysis! Maybe some of you have forgotten what companies really do. So let me remind you: they make as much money as possible. If they don’t, investors go elsewhere. It’s that simple. We’re all cogs in wealth-creation machines. That’s all.
    “I’ve given you a world without Government interference. There is now no advertising campaign, no intercompany deal, no promotion, no action you can’t take. You want to pay kids to get the swoosh tattooed on their foreheads? Who’s going to stop you? You want to make computers that need repair after three months? Who’s going to stop you? You want to reward consumers who complain about your competitors in the media? You want to pay them for recruiting their little brothers and sisters to your brand of cigarettes? You want the NRA to help you eliminate your competition? Then do it. Just do it.”
    Their faces; ah, their faces. They hadn’t seen this coming at all, John realized. He was opening the door to a brave new commercial world and they were transfixed by the pure, golden light of profit spilling from it.
    “I’m a businessman. That’s all. I just want to do business.”
    • Chapter 58, “John” (pp. 221-222)
  • “Tough day?” General Li said.
    John sighed. “Just a couple of Liaisons making trouble. Things were much simpler when I didn’t have to listen to other people, Li. Democracy is a pain in the ass.”
    Li sat. “In the military, we have always had a healthy disrespect for democracy.”
    “I can see why,” John said. “All right. Now let’s talk about tanks.”
    • Chapter 63, “John” (pp. 238-239)
  • Hack was asleep when the phone rang. It was amazing how much more sleep he got now that he was unemployed. He was starting to feel bad for all the people who had to drag themselves into their drone factories by nine. They didn’t know what they are missing.
    • Chapter 67, “Hack” (p. 255)
  • It was amazing, he thought, how everyone bitched about corporations but no one was willing to risk pissing them off. Hack was disappointed at the level of motivation among this society’s counterculture.
    • Chapter 67, “Hack” (p. 256)

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