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Generation A [Hardcover]

Douglas Coupland
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 1 2009
“Now you young twerps want a new name for your generation? Probably not, you just want jobs, right? Well, the media do us all such tremendous favors when they call you Generation X, right? Two clicks from the very end of the alphabet. I hereby declare you Generation A, as much at the beginning of a series of astonishing triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago.”
— Kurt Vonnegut, Syracuse University commencement address May 8, 1994

A brilliant, timely and very Couplandesque novel about honey bees and the world we may soon live in. Once again, Douglas Coupland captures the spirit of a generation….

In the near future bees are extinct — until one autumn when five people are stung in different places around the world. This shared experience unites them in a way they never could have imagined.

Generation A mirrors 1991’s Generation X. It explores new ways of looking at the act of reading and storytelling in a digital world.

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Product Description

Quill & Quire

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.’
Esquire UK

‘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."

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Generation Joy Oct. 27 2009
I always await the publication of a new Douglas Coupland novel with something approaching the anticipation of Christmas morning. I need it now now now and I can't wait to open it and see what's inside.

Thankfully, Generation A by Douglas Coupland is the greatest of gifts and one of the best books I have read in a long time. It may even top my current Coupland favourite, JPod.

Generation A is set in a world that is incredibly familiar to our own. But clearly quite a few things have changed. There are drugs we can take to slow down our lives. Things like apples are incredibly hard to come by. And bees are extinct.

That is, until five people, in different corners of the world get stung by five separate bees. The Wonka Children, so they call themselves, struggle to live in a world after they have become celebrity/freaks where, because of a bee sting, they become famous.

If it sounds bizarre, that's because it is. And delightfully so.

The novel is told from the five points of view from the five sting victims. Don't worry, the chapters are told in delightfully short bursts (no chapter over ten pages here, folks) to fit into our high tech life-style. When you're on the run, your reading time is quick.

Coupland manages to cram some incredible things into those short chapters. After reading Generation A, I've been exposed to nakedness, religion, voyerism, different religious beliefs, call centres, references to the Simpsons (Mmmmm....honey), parody's of American culture, the point and purpose life, whether it is better to believe in a higher power versus not, the ideas and fundamentals of what makes people real.

I could go on.

It is a delightful mental marathon that makes me want to keep up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Generation is the best novel I've read all year Oct. 10 2009
With a diatribe against corn and an Earth sandwich within the first nine pages of this novel, I knew Coupland's latest would be worth buying. I live in the States, but decided to order from as *Generation A* came out in Canada a month and a half earlier. I have no regrets, this book is awesome!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By sean s. TOP 500 REVIEWER
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. Generation A by Douglas Coupland is such a book.

In a sense it is a sequel to Coupland's now classic Generation X, but a special sort of sequel, about New Beginnings rather than about a final conclusion. After all, "Generation X" ended up being used to label the post-boomer generation, leaving only two generations, Y and Z before... (religious fundamentalists can tell you the end of the story).

So Coupland has decided on a theme of Hope rather than despair, and with this choice he is aligned with an intense yearning of the Zeitgeist, reflected in the recent election of Obama, and the epic yet uncertain fight against global warming.

Generation A is set in the very near future, when bees have gone extinct. Or so everyone had thought, until five people are stung in different areas of the world. As a universally-recognized fertility symbol symptomatic of the health of the planet, these bee stings are the messenger of precarious hope.

However, "precarious" is the operative word:

"When I was growing up, Mother Nature was this reasonably hot woman who looked a lot like the actress Glenn Close wearing a pale blue nightie. When you weren't looking, she was dancing around the fields and the barns and the yard, patting the squirrels and French kissing butterflies. After the bees left and the plants started failing, it was like she'd returned from a Mossad boot camp with a shaved head, steel-trap abs and commando boots and man, was she pissed."

Coupland's five protagonists are engaging and diverse, inadvertent stars in a celebrity-obsessed world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Been There, Done That July 20 2013
By Stephen
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've been a fan of Coupland's work for a long time, but I really didn't enjoy this book at all. The book is full of the same character types, the same flippant pop-culture references, and the same technology-is-connecting-us-while-simultaneously-isolating-us themes we've seen many times before. The pace of the plot in this book is mind-numbingly slow as it's told from the perspective of its five protagonists in parallel. This feels more like what a computer would spit out if you trained it to create a Douglas Coupland novel by analyzing his other novels than it does an actual original work.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By J. Tobin Garrett TOP 1000 REVIEWER
One of the perks of working in a bookstore is advanced reading copies of books, and I jumped on the chance to read Coupland's new novel, Generation A.

Honestly, I have been disappointed with Coupland's work of the past few years, with the last book of his I really enjoyed being Hey, Nostradamus. But Generation A showcases Coupland's old tricks with a bit of new tricks, making this one of his most inventive novels in awhile; kind of ironic when you consider it's a rehash of themes from Generation X, his first novel.

Briefly, the book is about a slightly futuristic world with too much digital communication and no bees, where 5 people around the world are suddenly stung and brought together. The beginning of the book is really great, meeting the different characters and watching the chaos unfold after their stings. Then the book retreats into more bizarre territory, which I won't comment much on as it will ruin parts of the plot. Then it retreats into even more bizarre territory, which might alienate some readers depending on their ability to buy into the slightly offbeat world he creates.

Generation A is kind of like a cross between the "stories within stories" part of Generation X and the world-wide apocalyptic tone of Girlfriend in a Coma. Where the book falters is in Coupland's total inability for any kind of subtlety regarding theme, image and/or metaphor. All the characters talk openly and frankly about what the book is centrally about, which can be kind of annoying and almost preachy sounding. It's certainly not a new thing to a Coupland book to have the character's hyper-aware of their life's grander themes.
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