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Generation A, Douglas Coupland’s 11th novel, is a great bookend to Generation X, the novel that launched his career. The term “Generation A” was in fact coined by Kurt Vonnegut, but Coupland embraces it and makes it his own. The narrative is written from alternating first-person points of view, a tactic that harkens back to Generation X. The story takes place at a time in the near future when honeybees have become extinct. Five people (referred to in the novel as the “Wonka children”) are mysteriously stung. At the heart of the mystery is the controversial drug Solon, which allows its users to suppress anxiety by living exclusively in the present. Like detective fiction, the book uncovers the connections between the Wonka children and this dangerous drug, but it also plays with narrative conventions by illustrating the ways that people tell stories in our increasingly digital, ultra-high-speed world. If Generation X gave us “tales for an accelerated culture,” then Generation A is its natural extension, offering tales for the information overloaded. The bite-sized chapters and witty tone will appeal to those with perpetual attention defi cits, and bits of pop culture sprinkled liberally throughout will attract readers highly attuned to the current zeitgeist. Coupland clearly understands the minds of the current generation – young people who have never known a time without the Internet – and plays on their desire to jump continually from one subject to the next. To what end does this cultural ADD affect our lives and the ways we communicate with others? How can we silence the sounds of data that are constantly streaming into our heads? Are deeper human connections becoming more possible thanks to the Internet, or does the lack of face-time increase our alienation? Coupland explores these questions without resorting to obvious, cynical answers. He even manages to offer a hopeful ending, despite the odds.
‘With this exceptional sequel to Generation X, Douglas Coupland may be one of the smartest, wittiest writers around… He is a terrifically good writer…Generation A is set in the near future… Bees have become extinct, but then five people are stung…It is the attempt to get to the bottom of this mystery that brings the five together on an Alaskan island [actually BC island!] where they are made to tell stories to one another. Coupland weaves common elements across these tales and into the main narrative: large themes… comic themes… existential themes… There is a compelling plot… Coupland scatters his smartly satirical observations throughout…This is a clever, brilliant book — and it’s loads better than Generation X…funny and profound.’
‘Eighteen years on from Generation X, Coupland still satirises pop culture better than anyone. This globe-spanning tale, set in the near future, is masterfully told and often hilarious.’
I know I’m not alone in thinking that Douglas Coupland is one of our finest chroniclers of modern life…. He’s funny, though, and maybe that’ s his ‘problem.’ Memo to the Custodians of CanLit: Big Ideas can be delivered with humour and wit.”
— National Post
"Douglas Coupland is the greatest Canadian ironist of his time. . . . A far-fetched and enjoyable romp. . . . If he lives long enough, he could go through the alphabet of generations and entertain us thoroughly in the process. . . . A world without bees is hard to imagine. It's almost as hard to imagin[e] a Canada without Coupland."
— The Globe and Mail
"As you're revelling in Coupland's wit and political acumen, a knockout section offering a trenchant commentary on storytelling suddenly hits you: how the best tales work, what inspires us and how stories can change the world. Don't miss it."
So Douglas Coupland is always about shtick and by the end of the book, the shtick was wearing thin on me. Read morePublished 10 months ago by reluctantm
There are books of fiction that reveal greater truths than non-fiction, because the revelations it makes are still largely in our collective unconscious, waiting to surface. Read morePublished on Aug. 31 2009 by sean s.