Coupland examines our fragility through the insecurities and foibles of individuals and sets Player One against a chilling apocalyptic backdrop. The book provides two avenues that run in parallel and crisscross over a very short and frightening period of time. But what makes it so readable are the characters. Though largely implausible and far too articulate, Coupland provides us with engaging personalities that we cannot help but connect with.
These include Karen, the single mom from Winnipeg, who flies across the country to eradicate loneliness, "Karen feels as if her life is a real story, not just a string of events entered into a daybook - false linearity imposed on chaos as we humans try to make sense of our iffy situation here on earth." And her observation that. "A man walks into a bookstore and looks up books on loneliness, and every woman in the store hits on him. A woman looks for books on loneliness, and the store clears out" is an insight both humorous and sad.
Luke, the disgraced pastor, "has decided that, although he is a failure, failure is authentic, and because it's authentic, it's real and genuine". Luke also believes that the Seven Deadly Sins need to be updated to perhaps include: " the willingness to tolerate information overload; the neglect of the maintenance of democracy; the deliberate ignorance of history; the equating of shopping with creativity; the rejection of reflective thinking; the belief that spectacle is reality; vicariously living though celebrities." This is Coupland at his best when he beats up pop culture and its `dumbing down' of society.
And then there is Rachel, though plagued by a laundry list of autistic and other challenges, she portrays a humanity that is clinically inviting. Her bewilderment in a world of "neurotypicals" is not unlike anyone's discomfort except she has been duly labeled.
Coupland throws these and other characters together into a terrifying scenario over a period of five hours. In that time they are forced to survive, adapt, reveal their inner fears, question engrained beliefs, and rely on each broken and searching self for answers. They each bring their own "iffy situations" to one very large one and the results are fascinating.