Generation A by Douglas Coupland
|Generation A by Douglas Coupland|
|Genre: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: There were parts that made me smile, ideas that made me stop, and think, and turn them over in my mind. But also there were places where the writing felt a bit forced, a bit old somehow, and that maybe he was trying a bit too hard. I really, really wanted to love this book, but I don't think it's one of his best.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: September 2009|
|Publisher: William Heinemann|
I think with Douglas Coupland you either love him or hate him. So I suppose I should probably say straight off that he's one of my favourite writers. I've read all his fiction, and I just about peed my pants with excitement at getting to review this latest offering, Generation A. Those in the know will see that he is jumping off from his earlier novel, Generation X, that dealt with three disillusioned twenty-somethings who seem to have opted out of life, working 'Mcjobs' in the Californian desert and telling each other stories to pass the time. Here, with this new generation, there's storytelling again, this time amongst five characters, all from different places in the world, and different ages, who are brought together through one singular event in each of their lives - they are each stung by a bee.
The reason this is of any significance is that Coupland's book is set in a future where all the bees have disappeared, although no-one is quite sure why, and so their reappearance to sting these five individuals is of enormous interest. Our five main characters, after being stung, are quickly whisked away from their normal day to day lives and held in total isolation, no human contact, no books, no TV, no music, nothing to help them relax or think or feel. They are regularly drugged to sleep to undergo blood tests, and the only contact they do have is the bizarre questioning of a neutral computerised voice that tailors itself to their requirements, sounding like Courtney Cox Arquette for one, Morgan Freeman for another. They are released back only briefly into the 'normal' world when they are suddenly taken away again, this time as a group, to an isolated island in Canada where they end up telling each other stories that reflect on their lives and, ultimately, lead them to discover the truth about the disappearance of the bees and the part they have all played.
There are the usual social references and commentaries that one expects from Coupland, covering social networking, blogging and vlogging, corporate culture, corporate branding, modern life, relationships...and the storytelling in the last half of the book feels a lot like Generation X, unreal and cartoon-ish. He's still funny, writes great social commentary and has such a wild imagination that you wonder where on earth he's pulling these ideas from. Those stories at the end of the book are like a collection of short stories in themselves, and there were moments when I wondered where he was going with it and what it had to do with the story as a whole. Actually they do have a point, as you'll see if you read the book.
So anyway, I think it had its moments. There were parts that made me smile, ideas that made me stop, and think, and turn them over in my mind. But also there were places where the writing felt a bit forced, a bit old somehow, and that maybe he was trying a bit too hard. I really, really wanted to love this book, but I don't think it's one of his best. I did prefer it to J-Pod, his previous book, but it wasn't as good as my personal favourite, All Families are Psychotic. I think I'm hoping for something fresh. With J-Pod it felt like Coupland was revisiting Microserfs, only not doing it as well, and here he's coming back to Generation X, only this time I don't think it's iconic. I'm hoping he'll find his magic again soon, and the next one will blow my mind. If you're a Coupland fan, then really, you have to read it. If you're not then I'd still recommend it, but you might want to borrow it rather than buy.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
Another of Coupland's novels you might like to try is Hey! Nostradamus.
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