Coupland’s newest offering falls short
Written by: Douglas Coupland
Released on: Sept. 1, 2009
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 1.5 out of 4 stars
Perhaps one of the most famous Canadian authors of all time, it seems that Douglas Coupland has come full circle. The result is that the post-modern author’s latest offering, Generation A, is ultimately hard to finish.
When Coupland published his breakthrough novel Generation X almost 20 years ago, his concepts and definitions of life were fresh and amusing. Even though his plotlines and characters have remained very similar over the years, it seems that Coupland has finally exhausted the literary magic he created with books like Girlfriend in a Coma, Microserfs and JPod.
Generation A is set in the near future on earth where human meddling and technology has completely taken over; one thing Coupland still manages to do well is prophesize about our self-destruction.
In this story the entire population has become addicted to a drug known as Solon that detaches people from their families and sense of belonging.
People spend their time glued to their PDAs and watching YouTube videos to remind them of a happier past.
Another irregularity in this future is that bees and other insects have ceased to exist for reasons unknown until the very end of the novel.
Thus, it is a world where fruit and honey are rare and scarcely remembered.
Then, bees sting five individuals in Iowa, North Bay, France, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
These five characters are the narrators of the book; Coupland gives them each a turn to tell the story.
After they are stung, each of them is snatched up by helicopters and people in hazmat suits; they are then drugged and imprisoned in a solitary room for a month’s time.
Eventually the characters return to their normal lives, except that they are now celebrities.
They struggle with their newfound fame and attention until a man named Serge shows up and transports them all to an isolated community in northern British Columbia.
It is here that they are forced to tell stories to one another.
This is undoubtedly the recurring theme in Coupland’s works – especially in Generation X. He focuses on the notion that people tell stories to give their life meaning.
Except this story doesn’t seem to have much meaning.
Many of the thoughts and ideas seem to be copied and pasted from his earlier works.
The characters are unoriginal and so bitter that it was hard to turn the pages. It doesn’t make the reader want to champion their cause when the characters didn’t even have one.
Coupland’s skill when it comes to social satire is second to none. The same goes for his ability to capture the mood of the information age perfectly.
However, the Vancouver native sorely needs to conjure up some fresh new plots to avoid alienating his devout fan base.
Given Coupland’s previous solid run of excellent fictional works throughout his career, it seems only natural that the author would produce at least one “stinker”.