Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Book review: "Generation A"

Coupland, Douglas. Generation A. New York, NY: Scribner, 2009.

This near-future novel brings together five people who, after all the bees have disappeared, are stung by bees. Coupland's concerns about the environment and the age of information and the Internet arise again here in this diverting novel. Although the characters are a tad shallow, the situations he puts them in are alternately amusing and thought-provoking. One character drives a combine naked and lets another guy look at him; a woman in New Zealand tries to make an "Earth sandwich" with a girl in Spain; yet a third is a survivor of the Indian Sea tsunami who ends up selling clothing in a call center; etc. So they're not so much characters as situations, but Coupland's ability to conjure bizarre and alienating circumstances, then show how we can unite even in the face of environmental disaster and existential isolation, keep the novel engrossing. At one point, the characters gather "Decameron"-style to tell stories; one of the stories, about a man who attempts to preserve language but gets left behind in the Rapture -- annoyed me no end. Why is it wrong to defend language against the grunts of texting? I was offended.

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