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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Generation Joy,
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. It is such an intelligent piece of writing and it reads like Dan Brown on crack. I mean that in a very good way. Think of Hunter S Thompson mixed with Oscar Wilde, Margaret Atwood, Carol Shelds and Jack Kerouack.
It is an incredibly environmental book, but it is also a very intense look at our culture and our dependence on media and media devices. It is about our dependence on a lot of things. It is wonderfully funny and humorous and at the same time rather grim and mysterious.
In short, it is a joy.
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,
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fiction that reveals greater truths than non-fiction,
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. What they have in common is their youth, and the opportunity their common experience has given them to think about life.
There is Zack from rural Iowa, a corn farmer who makes extra cash doing Web porn from his tractor. There is Samantha from New Zealand, who meets virtual friends to make "earth sandwiches". There is Julien, a student at the Sorbonne, who is enraged when his avatar from the World of Warcraft disappears suddenly, after 114 consecutive days of marathon sessions.
There is Diana from North Bay, Ontario, a fundamentalist Christian with Tourette's syndrome ("F-cks-it-p-ss-c-unt"). And there is Harj, who works in customer service for Abercrombie & Fitch's Midwest United State division - from a call center in Sri Lanka.
Despite its very current references, Generation A is, like Coupland's Generation X, a timeless work, in the sense that its themes are existential.
The five young adults are characterized by anomie, and above all, by an unconscious or even conscious desire to escape Life: into imaginary realities of webcams, Facebook "friends" on the opposite ends of the earth, videogames, imaginary kingdoms of God, or in the case of Harj, imaginary kingdoms of Abercrombie & Fitch-wearing New Englanders.
The natural world, the physical world, just isn't good enough. In the words of Julien, "All I wanted was to be back in World of Warcraft, not on this wretched planet with its trees and old crones and cause and effect."
As in his previous novels, Coupland is an astute observer, presenting our world as it is: without meaning other than that which we give it. Whereas our ancestors created myths to compensate for a life that was too short, we create distractions to take our minds off a life that is too long. One day without checking our e-mail is a boring eternity. And one of the things that most unnerves the five protagonists is that the rooms they are put in for observation contain furniture with no logos!
Is Nature good enough? Or is self-anesthesia through World of Warcraft or pharmaceuticals better? You'll have to read Generation A to find out!
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If Coupland was a brand, this book would be the logo,
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.
The themes in this novel being that we need stories to tie us together as people, make us feel alive and connect us to the world around us, and that digital communication is a low-calorie version of this, causing us to virtually starve ourselves.
So it's good, but not great. Original and inventive, yet returns to older territory for Coupland that's been trodden before. I enjoyed it, but I'm still waiting for Coupland to grow beyond what he's already shown us he can do.
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Generation A by Douglas Coupland (Paperback - Jun 8 2010)
CDN$ 15.28 CDN$ 14.57