Max Barry, Author . Doubleday $21.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-50759-2

Free enterprise runs amok in Barry's satirical near-future nightmare: the American government has been privatized and now runs most of the world, including "the Australian Territories of the U.S.A.," where the book is set. American corporations sponsor everything from schools to their employees' identities, and literally go to war with one another. By taking a drink at the wrong water cooler, Hack Nike, a merchandising officer at the athletic shoe company whose name he bears, is coerced into a nefarious marketing plot to raise the demand for Nike's new $2,500 sneakers by shooting teenagers. Hank becomes responsible for the death of hapless teen Hayley McDonald's; he and two top Guerrilla Marketing executives, both named John Nike, are soon pursued by the ruthless Jennifer Government, a former advertising executive who is now a federal agent with a personal ax to grind—and preferably to sink into the cranium of her hated ex, one of the John Nikes. Barry tosses off his anticorporate zingers with relish; his sendup of "capitalizm"—a world where fraud is endemic and nearly everyone (except the French) is a cog in vast wealth-creation machines—has some ingenious touches. The one-joke shtick wears thin, however, and is simply overdone at times ("I'm getting rid of Government, the greatest impediment to business in history," says John. "Yes, some people die. But look at the gain!"). Barry's cartoonish characters and comic book chase scenes don't allow for much psychological subtlety or emotional resonance. Still, if it's no 1984, this breezy, stylish read will amuse the converted and get some provocative conversations going. (On sale Jan. 21)

Forecast:Doubleday promises a "guerrilla marketing" campaign, and the book's weird, eye-catching title should help grab readers' attention. Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney's Section 8 Films have optioned film rights, and foreign rights have been sold in Australia, Finland, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the U.K.

Reviewed on: 01/06/2003
Release date: 01/01/2003
Compact Disc - 978-0-7366-9231-1
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-385-50878-0
Paperback - 321 pages - 978-1-4000-3092-7
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 260 pages - 978-1-4000-7634-5
Compact Disc - 978-0-7393-0236-1
Prebound-Glued - 321 pages - 978-1-4177-4297-4
Downloadable Audio - 1 pages - 978-1-4159-5093-7
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-31416-9
Paperback - 335 pages - 978-0-349-11762-1
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