Player One by Douglas Coupland

I loved Generation A so was excited about trying Douglas Coupland’s new book. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the same league, but it still had a lot to recommend itself.

Player One is set in an airport and tells the story of five people who become trapped in the cocktail lounge when high oil prices ground all planes and threaten to cause a global catastrophe.

The book started well. We were introduced to each of the characters and they were all entertaining individuals with unique personalities. I was especially pleased to see that one of the characters happened to have Aspergers and that her realistic presence helped the group on several occasions.

The plot was fast paced and readable and the writing was littered with thought-provoking remarks which added to my enjoyment of the book. 

“The thing about being poor is that it takes up all your time.”

Coincidences are, in fact, so rare that it’s almost as if the universe is engineered solely to keep them at bay.

Take my word for it, a day in which nothing bad happens is a miracle – it’s a day in which all the things that could have gone wrong failed to go wrong.

Unfortunately the frequency of this wisdom increased in the second half of the book until all plot became absorbed in an endless barrage of deep thoughts. I felt as though I was being ranted at and that the characters had been developed soley to deliver Coupland’s philosophical messages.

The story ended quite abruptly and I was frustrated by the lack of any real conclusions.

Newspapers have become quite excited by the dictionary-like appendix in which Coupland invents words to describe modern day situations. There was a lot of truth in these pages, but I thought the back of a novel was a strange place to put them – they deserve to be in a book of their own.

Androsolophila: The state of affairs in which a lonely man is romantically desirable while a lonely woman is not.

Overall, I recommend the first half of this book to anyone and the second half to those who love excesses of philosophy.

I read this with Judith from Leeswammes’ Blog. We had very a similar reaction to the book and I encourage you to read her Player One review.

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  1. Great review, Jackie. I totally agree. The first half is more interesting for the average person while the second half is full of philosophy. And don’t forget the religious musings (or should I say, ramblings), either!

    I didn’t mention the Asperger’s person but I agree that she fulfilled a good role and her “handicap” was more like an advantage in the story. Which is of course nice!

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, Yes. I should have mentioned the excessive religious bits too. I’m not a fan of religious debate at the best of times so when it appeared surrounded by excessive wisdom it was all too much for me :-(

      Thank you for sharing the reading experience with me!

  2. Melissa says:

    Hmm … stories with people who have Asperger’s are always of interest to me (my son has Asperger’s) but I think I would have a similar reaction as you did to this one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Melissa, I really appreciated the postive image of a person with Aspergers in this book. I have a son with Aspergers too so you might enjoy reading this book just for the ASD aspect.

  3. Brenna says:

    It’s too bad this didn’t work – it sounds like it has the potential to be a great book.

    1. Jackie says:

      Brenna, It is a shame as the blurb had all the elements I look for in a book :-(

  4. Steph says:

    I have a galley of this one that I will need to read at some point. My last Coupland was a huge disappointment, so I think I’ve learned my lesson in terms of not comparing everything to Generation A. This one still sound like it’s worth reading and like there are lots of enjoyable bits. I will try to get to it in 2011!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I’m sure you’ll enjoy some parts of this book. I look forward to reading what you make of it :-)

  5. Dorte H says:

    If it is possible to stop after the first half – and perhaps even feel you have had a better experience than if you read the whole – this book is hardly anything for me. I have used Coupland in my teaching now and then, but that makes sense as we usually have to use short cuts anyway.

    1. Jackie says:

      Dorte, This book is a very quick read and I think that stopping at the half way point would mean that it would be a fleeting experience. I’m sure you’ll find a lot to discuss in a teaching project and it would be a very interesting book to study. There is a lot of material to talk about certain aspects of our society (individuality, our reliance on oil, our moral code etc)

  6. Sandy says:

    See here it is again, a faltering second half. Honestly, I can only handle so many pearls of wisdom before I start to roll my eyes. Bravo to the author, though, for incorporating Asperger’s into the plot.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I couldn’t agree more :-)

  7. Jenny says:

    I love Douglas Coupland, but he can be uneven. I’ve loooooved some of his books and been totally unimpressed by others. Eleanor Rigby was good, if you’re looking for another?

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, Thanks for the recommendation. I own Generation X so will probably read that one next, but I’ll keep an eye out for Eleanor Rigby as a priority.

  8. Amy says:

    Interesting. I haven’t read anything by this author so maybe I’ll start with the other book first.

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, I started with Generation A and loved it, but I think there are a lot of other wonderful ones to try too :-)

  9. Jeanne says:

    I have to echo Jenny–Coupland is very uneven. This sounds to me like a good one to skip.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jeanne, This book was certainly uneven!! If you are a Coupland fan then there is a lot to enjoy in this one and it is a quick read, but you have to prepare yourself for idea overload ;-)

  10. Annabel says:

    I’m sure I’ll get this one as I get all Coupland’s books, but think I’ll wait for the paperback. (Will put on the wishlist so I don’t forget though!).

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, I look forward to finding out your thoughts as soon as you get around to reading it. :-)

  11. Alex says:

    Conclusions are overrated :)

    Was he the one who invented the expression ” Generation X”? He´s great at creating popular culture.

    1. Jackie says:

      Alex, I’m afraid I don’t know if he invented it, but he certainly seems to have nailed popular culture more than most other authors.

  12. Beth F says:

    Wondering if I should pass and save myself the second half frustration.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, Only you can decide that :-)

  13. elaine says:

    “The thing about being poor is that it takes up all your time”–is a well known saying, usually attributed to Willem de Kooning.

    1. Jackie says:

      Elaine, Thanks for letting me know – I hadn’t heard the saying before.

  14. Jen says:

    This is the first review I’ve read that has broken the book up into its two “parts.” I think that’s a really good way to put it. I have been planning on picking up Player One for a while now (mostly because it was part of the Massey Lecture Series, which I love) and also because I’ve had a good Copeland reading experience before. I am, however, not sure if the philosophy will put me off. I liked Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but it took me a long time to read…

    1. Jackie says:

      Je, I didn’t realise that this was part of the Massey Lecture Serires. I’m sure I’ve enjoyed that in the past, but am not a regular follower – I’ll have to look it up now that you’ve reminded me about it. I haven’t read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance so I’m afraid that I can’t tell you how they compare, but it sounds as though you have a reasonable tolerance for philosophy so you might enjoy this one more than I did.


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