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Barry, Max

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1973-    ) Australian author whose first novel, Syrup (1999) as by Maxx Barry, edged toward the fantastic in its spoof treatment of the modern corporate world; his second, Jennifer Government (2003), gains in the force of its attack through full immersion in a Near Future environment in which governments have become enfeebled, and international corporations rule the roost. Echoes of The Space Merchants (July-August 1952 Galaxy as "Gravy Planet"; rev and cut 1953) by C M Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl are openly acknowledged in the text, whose savageries – corporations routinely commission spectacular killings to focus consumer attention on new products – reflect the half century since Kornbluth/Pohl's Satire. Surnames reflect the corporations and governments for which characters work, hence the eponymous Australian government agent, whose vengeance-fuelled attempts to pin down some particularly egregious corporate apparatchiks drives the frenetic plot.

Machine Man (2011) describes the self-creation of a Cyborg in terms of Satire; in Lexicon (2013) a complex double-plot structure gradually unveils the sinister growth of rhyming Memes (designed for advertising purposes) into genuine Basilisks, which kill those who repeat them. It may be the case that a sustained reiteration of these killer rhymes will result in the End of the World, a consummation devoutly pursued by a religious cult (see Religion), whose motives resemble those of the deadly cult in Tim Powers's near-contemporary Salvage and Demolition (2013).

Providence (2020), on the other hand, is Military SF set in an interstellar Space Opera venue, with homo sapiens beset by inimical Aliens and a Starship crew attempting to prevent a final defeat, though their reports back to social media on Earth are in fact scripted by the seemingly sentient (though unqualifiedly intelligent) AI-that commands the space dreadnought they occupy. Homo sapiens in this new world are supernumerary, though clearly full of vim and vigour. The 22 Murders of Madison May (2021) is set in an array of Parallel Worlds, in each one of which the eponymous victim is murdered by a world-shifting serial killer looking for the perfect Madison May. [JC]

Max Barry

born Melbourne, Australia: 18 March 1973


  • Syrup (New York: Viking, 1999) as by Maxx Barry [hb/]
  • Jennifer Government (New York: Doubleday, 2003) [hb/]
  • Company (New York: Doubleday, 2006) [hb/Michael Heiko]
  • Machine Man (New York: Vintage Books, 2011) [pb/Matt Roeser]
  • Lexicon (London: Hodder and Stoughton/Mulholland Books, 2013) [hb/]
  • Providence (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2020) [hb/Getty Images]
  • The 22 Murders of Madison May (Sydney, Australia: Hodder and Stoughton, 2021) [pb/]


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