Thursday, December 31, 2009

Book Review: Generation A by Douglas Coupland

Here’s a funny thing about Douglas Coupland: he’s one of my favorite authors because I adore his writing style, but I’ve never considered a novel of his worthy of a five star rating. They always make me laugh and ponder life’s big questions, but they also end up missing something that would solidify them as all-around satisfying reads.

Coupland excels at creating memorably quirky outlines of characters, but he seldom manages to dig deep enough to make us really believe that they are flesh and blood or to get us to really care about them*. In GENERATION A, he introduces 5 20-somethings from around the globe who are all stung by bees, years after bees were thought to be extinct. However, with the exception of Harj, an amusingly clever call center employee from Sri Lanka (and my favorite character by far), all of them speak in a near identical “Coupland” voice: witty, emotionally distant, and very self-aware.

Coupland is also known for his outlandish plots, liberal use of pop-culture references, and willingness to experiment with structure. This one strikes me as a mix of GIRLFRIEND IN A COMA (for the post-apocalyptic elements) and GENERATION X (for the inclusion of a bunch of loosely related short stories a la The Decameron in the second half). It comes together (sort of) in the end, and we learn how these seemingly random individuals are related and what it means for the future of the human race.

Ultimately, I enjoyed reading it - though once again, I didn’t love it. I’m still waiting on that elusive perfect Coupland novel…

GENERATION A is available in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

*I most cared about Susan Colgate in MISS WYOMING and Cheryl, Jason and Heather in HEY NOSTRADAMUS! which is why those two are probably my favorite of Coupland's works.

15 comments:

Nymeth said...

He's one of my favourites too, but I know what you mean about him being a wee bit unsatisfying sometimes. Still, there's so much to love. I'm looking forward to this.

Mishel said...

I've never heard of him, and although the blurb itself didn't really grab my attention, you're description of the novel did. I'll definitely have to check out some of his novels.

Dannie said...

*Douglas Couplan fangirl*

Darren @ Bart's Bookshelf said...

I read my first Coupland this year (Hey Nostradamus!) and would be reading Girlfriend in a Coma this Christmas break, if I hadn't left it in my desk at work...

Doh! :)

Literary Feline said...

I haven't tried this author before, but I do know what you mean about having a favorite author and never rating one of their books 5 stars. That seems especially true for me and crime fiction. I sometimes wonder if I'm a closet snob. I love the genre but those types of books so rarely have all of the elements I look for in a 5 Star book.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I've only ever read All Families are Psychotic and Hey, Nostradamus! The latter was definitely my favorite out of the two though. I thought this one sounded good though.

Lauren

Charley said...

I'm not sure that I'll read this one, but the premise is interesting.

Zibilee said...

I have heard great things about this book, but after reading your review, I am not sure if it would be for me. I will probably still read it, but maybe I will have to adjust my expectations a little. Great review, and I'm sorry the book wasn't a perfect read for you.

Zibilee said...

I have heard great things about this book, but after reading your review, I am not sure if it would be for me. I will probably still read it, but maybe I will have to adjust my expectations a little. Great review, and I'm sorry the book wasn't a perfect read for you.

Zibilee said...

I have heard great things about this book, but after reading your review, I am not sure if it would be for me. I will probably still read it, but maybe I will have to adjust my expectations a little. Great review, and I'm sorry the book wasn't a perfect read for you.

bermudaonion said...

Where have I been? I've never even heard of Douglas Coupland. You made me curious about his work, though.

Lenore said...

Ana - A LOT to love, indeed!

Mishel - You should!

Darren - The first half of GIRLFRIEND IN A COMA was perfect Coupland for me...but then it collapsed in the second half. Too bad.

Lit Feline - I hear you!

Staci said...

I have to admit that I haven't read any of his books, heck, I didn't even know who he was until reading your post. Maybe one of these days he'll write that 5 star book for you!!

Jeanne said...

The last Coupland I read--The Gum Thief--made me think he'd lost his touch. But maybe I'll have to read this one after all.

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

I'm really looking forward to this book. I understand what you mean about there being something missing, but that also adds an appeal for me - it reminds me of real life where most stories/anecdotes aren't completely whole in feeling.