Here is another guest post by Alan Judson. Due to a back injury, he was able to read this entire book in one day. Bad for him, good for my blog. Note: Alan wrote this intro, not Elisha.
- Those who like funny, post-apoctalyptic fiction
- Those looking for a quick read that might make them think about their souls and why they exist
- If you like Douglas Coupland’s flippant, yet deeply accurate portrayal of the current state of our culture
This book shares some of Coupland’s familiar pop-cultural references, wickedly smart, and punctuating almost every sentence: “If crows had longer lifespans and hands like Donald Duck, humans would have been obliterated eons ago.” Although a review in The Guardian (click here) may argue, gently, that it may be a bit too familiar to his past work, I would add that it is a huge improvement. The most similar book, Girlfriend in a Coma, went on way too long, and had an overtly preachy ending.
But what about this book? It was written to be read in five hours, for the prestigious Massey Lecture Series. Like a typical Coupland novel, it has characters that are punch lines in-and-of-themselves: There’s the pastor who lost his faith by seeing birds yawn, and then steals his churches’ renovation fund; The beautiful girl with no ability to recognize the major “human” emotions (laughter, joy, sadness) and spends her time raising mice and proving to her father that she’s human; the “cougar” who found a guy online and is meeting him at an airport cocktail lounge (the setting of the book); and so on.
The premise of the book is that several people are stuck inside a cocktail lounge when oil shoots up to $950/barrel, causing riots outside the airport. Chemical fallout clouds come rolling by, and there’s a sniper on the roof, trying to do “God’s work.” The airport is a perfect setting to ask about our modern identity because, as Coupland puts it:
Airport-induced Identity Dysphoria
Describes the extent to which modern travel strips the traveller of just enough sense of identity so as to create a need to purchase stickers and gift knick-knacks that bolster their sense of slightly eroded personhood: flags of the world, family crests.
They’re all searching for answers to the question of identity – is being an individual really a great thing? What does it mean? In the age of information overload, or we just filling our lives with second, not-as-real online lives?
The magic of this book is that it is fun to read, and it causes you to constantly ask “What makes up the human soul?”, Do I believe in life after death?”, and “Has modern times erased to idea that life is a story (and what should replace this idea?).” The situations are funny, ironic and twisted. The characters capture a sniper, who is hiding on the roof. One guys shoots off his toe out of frustration, in between the sniper’s rants about godless society, the girl with no personality cleans his wounds with vodka. The one beef I have with Coupland is that all his characters seem to be suspiciously as savvy as the narrator and voice of the novel. It’s like every character is Douglas Coupland in disguise.
On the other hand, maybe that’s what it means to have a good writing voice. Read this book. It’s funny and profound. If you want to read a bigger Coupland novel, look at Elisha’s recent review of Generation A.
Click on the title below to read other reviews of Douglas Coupland’s Player One: