Generation A – Douglas Coupland

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I knew that Steph loved Generation A, but I was completely unprepared for how much I’d enjoy it. I’ve had to prioritise this review so that it can appear on my best reads of 2009 list tomorrow – it is going to come surprisingly near the top!

Generation A is set in the near future, when bees have become extinct. People fondly remember honey, flowers and how much more beautiful the planet was back then, so everyone is surprised when five people across the globe are suddenly stung by bees. The victims are whisked away, quarantined and interrogated to try to determine why they have been stung. The answers are cleverer and more shockingly possible than I could ever imagine. This book shares a scary glimpse of the future which is closer to the truth than we dare to admit.

Douglas Coupland has achieved something which no author has managed before – to engage me in short stories. I have always found them disappointing in the past, but this book contained a series of short stories in the final chapters and each of them had me captivated. I have always heard that writing a good short story is the sign of a talented author, and this book has me convinced that this is true. Each one was impressive in its own right and some were so good that I made family members read them too. My favourite was the one in which beings from another planet eat humans:

One day the lieutenant made the observation that human beings who read large numbers of books tended to taste better than humans who didn’t. This intrigued the commander: “I’m listening, Lieutenant.” “Sir, when the humans read books, it gives them a sense of individuality, a sense of being unique – a sense that something about their existence is special or, as they like to say, ‘magical.’ Reading seems to generate microproteins in their bloodstreams, and those eons give them that extra juicy flavour.”

I was totally gripped by this book, unable to put it down once the setting had been established. The writing was impressive, managing to make me laugh out loud as often as I found myself thinking deeply about our society.

Highly recommended.

stars51

 

This is the first Douglas Coupland book that I’ve read, but I am going to ensure I get hold of some more of his books soon.

Have you read any of his books?

Which one is your favourite?


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36 Comments

  1. Simon S says:

    Wow this sounds like a truly impressive read indeed. I love the premise of the book, and they do say bee’s are dying out. This sounds fantastic, I wonder if I can find it tomorrow before my ban starts?? Ha, unlikely but there is always the library thankfully. Your enthusiasm is contagious.

    1. Jackie says:

      Simon, It often states on the news that bees are dying, but it is hard to imagine a life without them – we are so reliant on them now. This book is so thought-provoking and I’m sure that you’ll love it. I hope your library has a copy.

  2. So some book bloggers would be particularly tasty! Sounds like an interesting read.

    1. Jackie says:

      Christy, I think we’d have to stop blogging to avoid them tracing us! LOL!

  3. Karen says:

    I have seen this book around so often but I had no idea that this was what it was actually about. I’m not usually one for reading futuristic books but from the sounds of it I might enjoy this one??

    1. Jackie says:

      Karen, It isn’t really futuristic. There are a few predictions for what might change in the future, but as this book is set 10 – 20 years in the future not that much has changed. I think you’d love this one.

  4. I saw this in a shop today and now I am disappointed that I didn’t buy it! I should have based on Steph’s review.

    You have me intrigued and I am so pleased that you have found a writer that has been able to engage you in short stories.

    I read Generation X a few years ago but honestly remember little about it except that I enjoyed it.

    I found a couple of books late on this year that made it onto my best of list but I haven’t reviewed them yet – just given my endorsement with thoughts forthcoming!

    1. Jackie says:

      claire, I’m sorry to hear than Generation X didn’t leave a lasting impression on you. It is the only other Coupland that I own, so will probably be the one I read next. Perhaps you could get a copy from the library? I’m sure you’ll love it.

  5. Sandy says:

    You know I stand up and take notice when you rate something five stars! I have never heard of this book. I started having flashbacks to that movie the kids made me see, “Bee Movie”, where it shows what happens when bees aren’t allowed to do their jobs and the Jerry Seinfeld bee saves the world or something. Anyway, the bottom line is that if there is a short story about aliens eating bibliophiles first, I’m there.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I haven’t seen Bee Movie, but it is on the list as I’m sure my boys would love it. I am sure you’ll love this book, so I hope that you manage to get hold of a copy.

  6. Jenners says:

    I’m pretty sure I read one by him age ago — maybe Generation X? (Is that a theme with him.) I’m pretty sure I didn’t love it as I never sought out another book by him but that was a long time ago and maybe he’s gotten better as a writer. I’m intrigued by your description though!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, I think Generation X and Generation A are his only books about generations, but I’m not sure. It will be interesting to see how much I enjoy Generation X now. It is on the Canada Reads list, so someone must think it is excellent.

  7. She says:

    I like the idea behind this book, and I really like the excerpt you provided! I’ve only ever read Generation X by him and don’t remember particularly liking it, but I can’t remember why. Some of my friends really, really enjoyed it though!

    1. Jackie says:

      She, Sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy Generation X. I know you’d love this one though, so I hope you manage to get hold of a copy.

  8. Kathleen says:

    This sounds like such an interesting premise for a book! I’m glad you enjoyed it and I would certainly consider adding it to my own list for 2010 based on your review. I’m glad to know I would taste better from all the books! ha!

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, This book is so original – I love the thought of being juicier too! I hope you decide to add it to your reading list in 2010.

  9. raidergirl3 says:

    Oh, I’m so glad you liked Coupland! I have this on request at the library (in lieu of reading Generation X for the Canada Reads) and now I can’t wait. Gen X is nothing like this book you’ve reviewed. There are plenty of other Coupland books to try, he writes so well.

    And for the other readers that have read Generation X and were not impressed, please try another Coupland! There are lots – Hey Nostradamus!, The Gum Thief, Eleanor Rigby, and All Families are Psychotic are the ones I’ve read and really liked. I hope to read a few more of his this year – Girlfriend in a Coma, Microserfs, Miss Wyoming, JPod, and now I can’t wait!

    1. Jackie says:

      raidergirl3, It is great to hear that you enjoyed so many of his other books! I’m looking out for them all now, so hopefully will be able to find a few more soon. I hope you enjoy Generation A as much as I did.

  10. mee says:

    I’ve heard of Generation X, but not Generation A. Wonder if there’s any relation? The premise sounds great. The bees intrigued me.

    1. Jackie says:

      mee, Generation X is about people born in the early 1980s, while generation A is about those born now – I think!

  11. Teddy says:

    Jackie, can you believe I live in Canada and have never read any Coupland ? Maybe this would be a good book for me to start with.

    1. Jackie says:

      Teddy, Shocking! LOL! I think this would be a great book to start with. I haven’t read any others and loved this one, so in my very limited experience of his books I think this is a great place to start.

  12. Annabel says:

    Sounds like I’ll like this one – but I’ll wait for the paperback.

    I loved Microserfs when I read it years ago, and I enjoyed (but wasn’t overwhelmed by) The Gum Thief last year, I have also read Generation X but can only remember it was about slackers with MacJobs. I have most of his others in my TBR pile too!

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, I’ll ensure I keep a close eye out for Microserfs then. It sounds as though Generation X isn’t his most loved book, so I’ll lower my expectations before reading that one.

  13. Elie says:

    I’ve read two of Douglas Coupland’s books, JPod and The Gum Thief. I loved JPod, its an amazing book; The Gum Thief not so much.
    This one is going in my TBR pile :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Elie, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! I hope that you enjoy Generation A!

  14. Meghan says:

    You make me glad I have this on my TBR pile! I’m really looking forward to it now and I was vaguely indifferent before.

    1. Jackie says:

      Meghan, I won this book in a competition, so was vaguely indifferent too. I don’t think I’d ever have picked it up if it hadn’t been in my house already. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  15. Jenny says:

    I have three or four Coupland books lying around my bedroom waiting to be read – I loved his Eleanor Rigby a LOT, as well as the other few books of his I read, and I’ve been trying to ration them out to myself. Might be time for another…

  16. Steph says:

    Yay! So glad to you loved this one! It really was breathtaking, wasn’t it? And you’re exactly right about Coupland making short stories palatable to us non-short story readers!

    Like you I’m definitely going to be checking out other Coupland in the future – I have copies of Microserfs and All Families Are Psychotic. I know I’ll be making room for at least one of those in 2010!

    And because it can’t be said enough: so SO glad you loved this one!

  17. Michelle says:

    I read this last month and liked it but found the transition from the first half to the second half to be a bit too quickly done. Of the Coupland novels I’ve read, I really enjoyed. The others, I’ve started and weren’t able to finish. However the Coupland books I couldn’t finish, my husband raved about. I really enjoyed Hey Nostradamus, Eleanor Rigby and Miss Wyoming. My husband really loved Microserfs, All Families are Pyschotic and Girlfriend in a Coma. Neither of us have read JPod or The Gum Thief. Or any others, I don’t think.

  18. What an inspired and inspiring review: I just bought this one a few weeks ago but it’s already slipped down the pile although I am planning a re-read of Generation X with Canada Reads in mind. You’re encouraging me to be anti-alphabetical and have GenX followed by GenA!

  19. Interesting to read your thoughts, Jackie. I’m actually a lot like you in that I haven’t really got on with short stories particularly well. I did, though, enjoy them here, even if I think they ended up distracting from the overal thrust of the plot, meaning the novel became something quite different to what I was expecting. Always enjoy your reviews!

    1. Jackie says:

      Matthew, It is interesting to discover that I remember nothing about this book 5 years on. Even reading the review failed to jog my memory :-( Thanks for the kind words about my reviews though.

      1. It is always bit distressing when that happens isn’t it? The downside of reading so many books, I think :) I frequently have complete mind blanks (and not just related to books!)

        1. Jackie says:

          Matthew, Don’t worry – I think everyone has mind blanks occasionally! Hope you remember more about this book than I do :-)

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