Generation A – Douglas Coupland

This was a book club book, although I have read quite a lot of Douglas Coupland in the past. Not for a few years though, so it was a good chance to get back into it.

It’s billed as a sequel to Generation X, but unless I’m mistaken, it doesn’t feature any of the same characters or really touch on many of the same themes, so I assume people are saying that because it features the word generation in the title. Man, sometimes people are stupid.

It starts off fairly slowly with a dude in a tractor drawing a dick in a field of corn while being watched over the internet by some other dude. Then he gets stung by a bee. Except bees are extinct. Ah, it’s a near-future science fiction thing! Then there are some other people. A stereotypical French kid, who rolls his eyes all the time and is wearing a string of onions. Or something. He’s just been kicked out of World of Warcraft. How far in the future is this now? There’s a Canadian girl and a New Zealand girl and a Sri Lanka dude. They also have things. And they are all stung by bees. They’re then taken to some isolation chambers, where they are repeatedly gassed and have blood samples taken and aren’t allowed any interaction with anything. This all takes a long time to work out. The start was fairly dull.

Then they get released and start meeting up and eventually they all get together and start telling each other stories, and that’s where it gets interesting. At first I thought their stories all started to sound like each other because my mind was wandering, but it turns out it’s a deliberate thing, and it’s to do with hive mind, and that previously although they’d all been networked, they’d also all been quite alone. It’s all linked to a new drug that lets people be completely separate from everyone else and time – like a good novel, but not. That killed the bees. Apparently. And it turns out that the guy who is getting them to tell each other stories invented the drug because he couldn’t stop gambling on very-near future events, and it was driving him mad. And they all have this drug in their blood naturally. Or something. And if they become a hive mind (do you get it?) then it will provide a cheap source of the drug forever. Also, they’ve been eating each others’ cloned brains. And the guy who is holding them hostage on a weird island wants to eat their brains too.

Wait… what? So anyway, that’s where it ends. It was interesting in parts, but it was boring to begin with and the end was far too strange. The idea about separateness and interconnectedness – true interaction, rather than internet-eraction, that’s clear and it is worth thinking about. But I’m not convinced this got it quite right.

See also:

The Decameron – apparently a set of stories told by a group of people. It’s a classic, people.

William Gibson – Pattern Recognition/Spook Country – same kind of near future, conspiracy feel, but much better done.

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