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on October 25, 2010
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.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon October 7, 2010
It's hard to say why the apocalypse considered here is so frightening. Perhaps because it's only sketched in indistinct outlines; we never find out exactly what has gone wrong. In the meantime, the human thought life continues unabated; we have a set of 4 or 5 people here (depending on your perspective) whose lives & destinies aren't so much derailed by the disaster as highlighted and intensified. Coupland is a thinker who will probably not entirely please you no matter what your perspective. He freely considers God from all sorts of angles, never really discounting Him but obviously not entirely comfortable with believing or accepting a deity. The empiricists among us will be as displeased by his freely speculative ways as the religiously inclined. Perhaps if you're an amoeba you'll be unfazed; the rest of us are in for a bracing ride.
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on November 29, 2015
Player One: What Is to Become of Us by Douglas Coupland exceeded my expectations. Based on the cover, which is someone sticking up their hand on an airplane, I expected this book to be about people losing their sense of identity on an airplane and at an airport. Rather, this book was a story about what it means to be human with an apocalypse in the background.

The characters in this novel were drawn upon from the usual set of literary characters: the drunk, the lonely, and the confused. Because this book is part of the CBC Massey Lecture series, the 2010 lecture in this case, Coupland took the opportunity to have the characters muse on the meaning of life in conversation rather than to show his ideas through the characters’ actions. This probably worked well when it was delivered as a lecture and, to be honest it works well when reading this novel in book form.

The novel is relatively short, just over 200 pages, but comes with another 30-ish pages of made-up words that loosely apply to concepts discussed in the novel. This glossary is somewhat humorous, and I don’t regret reading it. Although this novel brings up concepts about humanity that might stick for a little while, I wouldn’t say this book is a modern-day classic, but if you happen upon it you wouldn’t regret reading it.

Compared to Coupland’s other works, I would say this book is more focused, probably due to the length-constraints of this being part of a lecture series. I would rank it the best of the few other Coupland books I have read, these being Jpod, The Gum Thief and Generation A. That said, I am encouraged to read more Coupland. You could do a lot worse when it comes to picking out a stimulating read that comments on our present age.
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on January 14, 2015
You never really know what you're going to get with a Douglas Coupland novel. Generally he floats between engaging, pastiche, unfocused, and down-right annoying. PlayerOne, for the most past, is a good read, provided that you ignore standard ideas of characterization and plot and story (strange since the concept of [i]story[/i] is central to almost all of Coupland's books).

There are two major issues however I have with this book. The first is how interchangeable and shallow all the characters are. There's only five characters and nothing really unique about any one. The reason for this is because the majority of their dialogue is along the lines of ``Well then Bob, let me expound on this philosophical idea in a way that no normal person would ever converse."

The second are passages that are taken verbatim from Coupland's earlier works. For example, I spotted sentences from Generation X, Polaroids from the Dead, Microserfs, and Life After God. A few years ago I read an interview where Coupland said that he's justified in returning to the same ideas he's already discussed. I do agree (somewhat) and I know that Player One comes from a lecture series, but I am ready for Coupland to have something new rather than the rehashing of stuff that I've been reading since I was fourteen years old.

The ideas that Coupland touches upon in this book do intertwine quite well. I enjoyed reading it. But I wonder if I'm getting near the end of my patience with Douglas Coupland.
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on May 5, 2012
Coupland's insights into the human psyche, religion, and societal structures are quite powerful. The points that the book raises are very thought provoking, and that being said, the book is not something to pick up if you're only looking for light reading. I would have to agree with other reviewers in saying that the characters are unrealistically well-spoken throughout the whole book, and Coupland's primary goal of presenting his provoking questions and insights are the main cause of this. As each of his characters are blatant mouthpieces, I found that this book became much more enjoyable when I considered it to be like an academic lecture or debate which was placed within a fictional context. I think readers would appreciate the work more if they took the fiction/story element as a creative way of presenting the information that would otherwise make an essay or lecture. The book also benefits from its short length, as this 'style' of writing may have been crippled had he let the characters and story go on any further than he did.

A good read, if you're looking for a piece of fiction to sit down and think about.
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on December 1, 2010
Once again, the comparison with Vonnegut holds very well. Coupland manages in his latest novel to comment on a wide range of topics, most of them long time favorites of his: Identity, time, religion, perception, society, humanity, technology, free will, death, etc. It almost seems like too much to chew at once, but Coupland is so perceptive, so precise in his understanding of where we are going as a species, that he pulls it off effortlessly. The book moves between philosophical commentary and a terrorizing premise, and both these forms blend together seamlessly.

If some of the characters' interior monologues seem a bit "overkilled" at times, it is perhaps the creative price to pay in order for Coupland's message to come across successfully. The message itself is not so easy to pinpoint. That's why the novel is so puzzling. Just like Vonnegut, Coupland's cynicism has to be taken with a grain of salt. It isn't hopeless apocalyptic pessimism so much as good old satire; it makes you smile, and it makes you think.

Personally, I found Player One a more entertaining read than Generation A. I appreciated the meta-narrative aspect of Generation A, but found the social commentary at the heart of Player One to be pitch perfect.
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on February 6, 2011
this is a fairly quick read that leaves you asking many questions....it has great in-depth character development within a backdrop that is never explained, which made it all the more intriguing. It is one of those books that make you stop every so often and think 'yeah, I been there'
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on April 9, 2016
I loved reading this and couldn't stop thinking about it afterwards. So many things happening yet very easy to follow. The characters grab your attention.
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on November 26, 2010
The review by "DeadTrees" below is bang-on. I ignored it and read the book anyways. The streaming babble of the characters become unbearable around page 50. The predictable, depressing and melancholy internal narratives all merge into what seems more like a smokescreen for an unimaginative backdrop. Save yourself the time and frustration. This book should be 80 pages long, if published at all.
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on May 17, 2011
Really, really poor cod-psychological effort. Every cardboard character is Coupland espousing his not-very-original philosophical take on what it means to be human in the post 9/11, Internet age. Right there, invoking 9/11 as some kind of earth-shattering change. Lazy, boring, and surprisingly poorly executed. Good on the Massey Lectures people for trying something new, but I expect they'll be back to using lecturers with something to say for future series.
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