Firm Warfare

Two good novels about very bad companies

On the 100th anniversary of the birth of Eric Blair, known to posterity as George Orwell, it seems appropriate to ask whether he got it wrong. In 1984 Orwell was worried about all-powerful governments, but these days multinational corporations are richer, scarier and more ruthless than many mere nation-states. Has Big Brother left public life for a more lucrative position in the private sector?

This question probably sounded more urgent before the advent of John Ashcroft and his charmingly Orwellian Total Information Awareness program, but it's still well worth asking. In Jennifer Government (Doubleday; 321 pages), Max Barry imagines a near...

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