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Found 9 results

  1. Having read most of his recent books, I have gone back to some of Douglas Coupland's earlier works. Shampoo Planet covers familiar subjects - consumerism, complex family relationships and the future. There are some brilliant lines - let's just hope we accidentally build god - and the ending is a fantastic set piece combining the mundane and the bizarre, where the animal menagerie from the flat above gradually falls through a hole in the ceiling (made by the indoor carp pond).
  2. Player One involves four characters - Rick, Luke, Karen and Rachel. They are in an airport cocktail lounge when society implodes due to oil reserves running dry. Contact is lost with the outside world as technology fails and explosions, followed by chemical air pollution, and a sniper on the roof, keep them inside. The set up and format is quite similar to other Coupland stories - Generation X and Girl in a Coma, whereby we get the different characters' viewpoints and stories in their own little chapters, revolving around an apocalyptic situation. But the plot is always incidental to me. I never tire of Coupland's style and his philosophical quips on today's society. He always awakens different ways of seeing the world - Wouldn't it be great if stars turned black during the day - the sky covered with dots like pepper? As Coupland says - A good book or song kidnaps your interior voice and does all the driving. With the artist in charge, you're free for a while to leave your body and be someone else - for a few minutes, for a few hours, someone else gets to come in and hijack that part of your brain that's always thinking. I'm quite happy to let Coupland be in the driving seat, as he always takes me down interesting roads.
  3. For those who think bloggers write favourable reviews of books they receive free, here's yet another negative review of a freebie - the sixth freebie I've given a bad review to in the last year. Douglas Coupland's 2009 novel Generation A is a mix of futuristic sci fi thriller and ironic contemplation of the nightmarish potential of technology gone mad. It is set in the near future in a time of technological addiction - you tube, google world maps and constant internet contact with strangers are ubiquitous. Many of the population have resorted to an anxiety-assuaging drug called Solon, which allows them to live in the present and not worry about the future. There is a major global crop failure: modified corn grows abundantly and is responsible in the US for an even more serious obesity problem than exists currently, but fruit is scarce, fruit juice being largely synthetic, and real, crisp apples exist only as a product of boutique apple ranches where hand-pollination is carried out. Part of the reason for lack of natural pollination is that bees have become extinct - a pot of natural honey recently sold at auction for a small fortune. It is therefore global news when five individuals are stung by bees in different parts of the world within a few weeks of each other. Harj is a Sri Lankan man whose family was wiped out by the tsunami in 2004. He has worked his way up from janitor to telesales rep at an upmarket clothing factory in Trincomalee. In his spare time he playfully devised a spoof website which has captured the interest of a journalist across the world, but Harj is stung while on the phone to her. Zack is a corn farmer in Iowa whose late father led a life of drug-related crime and who has been taken under the wing of his lawyer uncle. Zack is stung while languishing nude in his harvester in the corn field he has fashioned into a set of male genitals. Samantha is a personal trainer in New Zealand given to hippy dippy pursuits such as making 'earth sandwiches': connecting with someone on the polar opposite side of the world via bread placed on the ground between them. Julien is a petulant French youth in Paris given to scornful judging of those around him. There is a biological reason for this - his frontal lobe is incompletely developed. His disdainful asides can be comical - early on, he is sitting listening to a group of shrieking old women complaining about having to shred their garbage to prevent fraud, and he sneers to himself 'Yes, the Romanians and the Russians and the Triads must be waiting on tippytoes to pounce on them: With Madame Duclos's electricity bill, we will bring Caisse d'Epargne to its knees! ' Diana is a dental hygienist in Ontario. Her membership of the local church is threatened by her uncontrollable lust for the married pastor. She also has Tourette's, which leads to outbursts of cursing. When each of these individuals is stung, they are whipped off by the authorities to isolation units where their blood is analysed frequently and they are interviewed by disembodied voices in order to try and find out what caused them to be chosen by the bees that stung them. After several weeks in these units, they are released transiently and then gathered together again for a form of group therapy which involves them telling stories to each other. Douglas Coupland is a writer who can create quirky, funny situations, and the novel's strongest parts involve the thought processes of these characters. Harj terms conventional American youth as 'Craigs', and this leads to some humorous moments: 'Do Craigs always put exclamation marks at the end of everything they say?' And 'Increasingly large numbers of increasingly drunk he-Craigs and she-Craigs came up to me and made buzzing noises and pretended to sting me.' His matter-of-fact descriptions are often charming - garden furniture is described as 'white plastic lawn furniture of a sort burped out by tsumanis', and his combination of fear and excitement at the (swiftly dissipated) chance to become 'carnal' with a she-Craig is endearingly related. Diana, too, is entertaining, her scathing commentary on her 'putting-out machine' sister and the pastor's possibly unfaithful wife, and her ferocious love of animals giving her some depth. But Generation A falls down in other areas. The plot fails to develop. The time the characters spend in the isolation unit is vaguely intriguing from a Willy Wonka point of view (and the five are dubbed 'The Wonka kids' by Julien, one of their number.) But the descriptions of the cubes of inspid jelly-like food, the lack of human contact in the units and the absence of branding only really whet the appetite for more meaty plot development, which doesn't come. The characters, too, are developed so far but no further so that some of them - for example, nudist, womanising Zack - remain stereotypes. There is a lot of extraneous detail about their relatives which doesn't come to anything, and the underlying condemnation of the technological world and its destructiveness remains superficial. And the stories the characters share - with punning titles like 'Superman and the Kryptonite Martinis' seem pointless. Generation A would have worked better as a short story. In its current form it can't decide whether to be a thriller or a sceptical analysis of our techno-loving society, and the screeds of non-essential information it throws up are as distracting as the techno society it condemns.
  4. Hello everyone. I have just recently joined this group and I found you when I was searching for book related sites online. Have enjoyed reading from some of the forums. I have just finished reading the book above and thoroughly enjoyed it. It has so many twists and turns it could have been at least three books. Not read anything before by this author. I liked the fact that it started with a 65 year old woman in an internet cafe which brought it right up to date. What a family - they never had a dull moment! Not sure what I will read next but will keep watching and getting ideas from you.
  5. Cathy Subscriber and Permanent Resident JPod Has anyone read this yet? It was reviewed on Newsnight review on Friday (run to the hills!!!). Lionel Shriver (who I'm not a fan of) said 'Its so pre-9/11'... which makes me defensive and want to go straight out and buy it! ------------------------------------------------------------------------ katrina Permanent Resident * Not read it or heard of it, who wrote it?? And why do some authors feel that everything has to reflect 9/11? It was a huge event and changed the world for sure but not everything has to refer to it ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Cathy Subscriber and Permanent Resident Its by Douglas Coupland. I'm a big fan though I haven't loved everything so I can't really defend it before I've read it. Yeah I thought that comment was really weird. Maybe after I get hold of it that will make more sense. I can't think what being 'so pre 9/11' even really means because we didn't know we were being pre-9/11 till it happened... ------------------------------------------------------------------------ angel Subscriber I haven't read it, but I remember it got a good review, when Douglas Coupland was interviewed on Radio 4 (I think it was Front Row June 1st). I took note because our youngest daughter and her boyfriend are big fans. What came strongly from the interview was that he writes for the present climate and that although he felt Generation X, depicting the 'whatever' geration - comfortable, Twenty-something sons and daughters of post-war parents - was apt when written, he would not write that now. He talked about how, as a writer, he used to spend hours in the reference section of his library, but that, now of course most people use google. He said 'Jpod' is about our present twenty-something googlers. I was intrigued by the pages of prime numbers where one has to find the one non-prime and other similar tests (I don't think this needs a spoiler as he talked openly about the puzzles). ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Cathy Subscriber and Permanent Resident That sounds really interesting, about what he's trying to capture. I'm not sure I can be bothered with puzzles though! I'm re-reading Generation X right now partly because of seeing this new book reviewed and partly because its one of my favourite books. I wonder why if he's addressing more up-to-date stuff Shriver found it dated? ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Mungus Subscriber The reviews I read seemed to describe it as an updated but very similar story to Generation X, which I haven't read and I think might now be dated. I don't think either reviewer was impressed - I read The Guardian and The Observer - and I haven't been inspired to add it to my mental TBR library list.
  6. Bill is wise, Bill is kind, Bill is benevolent. Bill, be my friend... please! The premise of Microserfs is that if you work in a large corporation like Microsoft, you can work as hard as you can, you can put as much effort in than is humanly possible but you'll never be a rich and powerful as Bill (Gates). Dan is a small cog in the Microsoft machine, he tests computer code looking for bugs, he's reasonably paid and likes his job because it's all he has. He's surrounded by people exactly like himself. They all proudly proclaim themselves to be geeks. They are well educated and their whole life is work. Large corporations like Microsoft collect all of these twenty-something people together, put them in a stifling atmosphere and let them fade away into their work. The geeks know people have lives, but can never figure out exactly what that means. Some people try to fake having a life, like buying golf clubs or a kayak, but never use them. For me Microserfs was ultimately about how people feel lost in the modern world, as though they have been cast adrift. Then they have the choice of drifting along, going with the flow, wondering if there is more. Or grasping and clutching at thin air in the off chance that there is something better to be had. I read this after JPod, another Coupland book that was billed as an updated version of Microserfs, the parallels are clear and I definitely related to JPod a lot more. Microserfs had dated a bit, but the humanity remains at it's core as does it's sarcastic humour, which really appeals to me. Overall I found this book to be quite uplifting. Like most of the characters in this book, I'm early to mid-twenties, searching for a way to break the Work/sleep rhythm that seems to override my life. Uncertainty is everywhere and answers are elusive. The strength of this book is that almost everybody has felt this detachment in their own lives, no matter how dated the setting is Microserfs will uplift anyone who feels lost, searching for a life... whatever that is.
  7. This book is about friendship and that rare occasion when you become friends with someone you never really noticed before, by complete accident. Bethany is a stroppy goth. Roger is a forty-something alcoholic, no-hoper. One day Bethany discovers a diary/novel in the canteen where they both work (A Staples, a large office supplies superstore). At first she is outraged about the things he has written about her, but then she begins to reply. Their story is told through correspondence, while Rogers book is also included in excerpts as he uses Bethany as a sounding board for it. I really enjoyed this one, Coupland's characterisation is always top notch. He creates people that are damaged but you're still able to relate to them. It was refreshing to read a Coupland book featuring written correspondences. He's known for his more technically based stories, but I just found something fulfilling it the format (format is a crap word, but I can't think of a better one). Overall, Coupland does what he does best, tells a story about universal apathy but manages to show you hope in the little details. I love getting to know his characters, and have missed a few after finishing a book. This title didn't have such a strong impact on me but was very enjoyable.
  8. WOW! I could just leave it at that instead of blathering on because it sums things up nicely. Firstly this is a different Douglas Coupland novel. It isn't "technology based" like his better known books (at least to me) such as Microserfs and most recently JPod. This is a study of loneliness, and what makes life worth living for someone who feels that everything has passed them by. The story is told through Liz, a chubby, red-haired, self proclaimed spinster. She stumbles through her life resentful of it's emptiness, until one day the phone rings and events collide to introduce her to the grown-up son she's never met. Douglas Coupland has created a character in Liz that I wish I could befriend. She is part of a Couplandish dysfunctional family. Written with charm, warmth and biting cynicism. The story unfolds gently, the reader discovers the characters while the characters discover one another. I've said it here before, Coupland is still the only author to make me laugh and cry within the same sentence. The story isn't laden with morality, isn't loaded with lessons it's a story about people. One of the defining things about Coupland's writing, for me, is that he's brave enough to let you draw your own conclusions from what he writes. It's not all neatly tied up, you might not get the whole story but you get to experience a small part of, what seems to me, a vivid depiction of life and the beauty that is there if you're prepared to look. This book feels so personal because it tackles a universal theme. Everyone has experienced loneliness in their life-time. Everyone can relate to Liz. You might find yourself pitying her, you might like to wish her happiness, she and her family might really annoy you in parts but Coupland lets you understand his characters so well. This is probably the most accessible Coupland book I've read so far, it's appeal is wider than his other titles. I've loved them all apart from - Life after God - it was too experimental in it's format, for me, but I still enjoyed his voice which soaks into every letter of his books, a voice which I'm increasingly growing to love.
  9. Having come back to this book that I haven't read in ages , its interesting to realise the thing I thought was just the coolest when I was about 17 is maybe not as cool any more! (oh so true for lots of things!) I like the 'vibe' of the book, I generally sympathise with the feelings it encapsulates and the desire to just chuck it all in and run away to the desert (or camping near Loch Lomond or wherever...) and not to be a blind consumer. But coming back to it, the stories they tell to each other seem a bit cheesy. Having said that, I'm not reading 'Life after God' by the same author, its very similar (the same sort of idea, but plus relationship and child, so far) but I much prefer Generation X. I suppose I'm not in generation X anyway, I don't know what we are now...what do you reckon? Post generation X...
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