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.