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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Generation Bee
Douglas Coupland's Generation A sees a not-too-distant world of ours devoid of bees and therefore things like fruit and flowers. A strange drug called Solon is sweeping the planet, it's effects rendering the user carefree and unafraid of the future with a deep inner peace that stops them interacting with other humans and makes them seek solitude. Highly addictive, the...
Published on 17 Nov. 2009 by Sam Quixote

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but unambitious Coupland
Douglas Coupland seems to be the type of writer around whom cults aggregate. He attracts the kind of fan for whom a favourite writer can do no wrong. At his best, he is funny, intelligent and sharply observant, but uncritical praise does nobody any favours. At his worst, he falls easily into slack self-parody. 'Generation A' is not Coupland at his worst, but it's far from...
Published on 23 Nov. 2010 by Paul Bowes


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Generation Bee, 17 Nov. 2009
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Generation A (Hardcover)
Douglas Coupland's Generation A sees a not-too-distant world of ours devoid of bees and therefore things like fruit and flowers. A strange drug called Solon is sweeping the planet, it's effects rendering the user carefree and unafraid of the future with a deep inner peace that stops them interacting with other humans and makes them seek solitude. Highly addictive, the drug is wiping out human creativity as well as the bees.

Five people, seemingly random, across the planet are stung by bees. They are suddenly whisked away for testing and become instant global celebrities. Shortly after being released back into the world they are recaptured and taken to a remote island off the coast of Canada and made to tell stories, the idea being something in the telling of stories releases a protein into their blood and the mixture could become a cure for Solon.

Well, damn the negative reviews, because I loved it! Generation A mixes two of Coupland's strengths - his humour, like in Microserfs and jPod, and his humanity, like in Eleanor Rigby - together with his semi-realistic visions of futuristic society. The result is his best book to date.

If you've read Coupland before you'll know his love of employing gimmicks into his stories. The reams of numbers in jPod showing pi or the novel within a novel in The Gum Thief or the new dictionary slang of Generation X; in Generation A, the second half is taken up by short stories told by the characters. While this might irritate some readers (short stories are notoriously niche) let me tell you that the stories are brilliant. They not only fit into the themes of the book but are also great stories to be enjoyed for the sake of stories.

I won't go into too much analysis here but what I got from Coupland was his message of humans telling stories to humans is essentially what makes us human. While Solon (so alone?) is a futuristic drug that induces in the user the feeling of having read a thousand books in an hour, telling stories engages the teller and the listener in the present and keeps us together. The overall message is of stories and company and how this is the only antidote to the growing isolation of humans as a result of the tidal wave of technology.

Read without any subtext, the book is a joy for the reader and a masterclass in writing from Coupland. The swift pacing is kept up throughout and the world he portrays, while different, retains an eerie sense of familiarity.

Generation A is accessible for new readers and old and while Coupland has his ups and downs (to be expected from a writer whose approaches and ideas towards fiction changes from one book to the next) this is most certainly a brilliant novel and easily one of his best. Amazing stuff, highly recommended.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well, I loved it, 24 Sept. 2009
By 
Peter Lee (Manchester ,United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Generation A (Hardcover)
I've been a fan of Coupland's since "Girlfriend in a Coma" was published, and since then have read all of his work. Personally I've loved almost all of it since "Girlfriend...", although "JPod" and "The Gum Thief" were slight lapses, albeit still enjoyable, but his earlier output hasn't appealed to me quite as much. "Generation X", although lauded by many as his best book, has never really grabbed me on any of the three occasions I've read it, hoping to find that certain something I'd somehow missed.

"Generation A" is not a sequel to "Generation X", and it grips from the start. Imagine a future where bees are extinct, but somehow five people around the world (USA, Canada, France, Sri Lanka and New Zealand) are all suddenly stung. Helicopters or military transport planes land, figures in hazmat suits step out, and the five individuals are taken away, drugged and bound if they struggle. When they come to they find themselves in research facilities, furnishings stripped of all brand identities, and each day they have blood samples taken, a computer generated voice talking to them in an accent of their choice, asking them questions about themselves. They are eventually released, but are soon recalled to an island off the coast of Canada and instructed to tell each other stories...

I found the first half of the book utterly gripping, wondering who the people were, how and why they'd been stung by a seemingly extinct species, and why they had been rounded up. I was a little concerned at the start of the second half as I thought the individual stories (not reminiscences, but short pieces of fiction) would drag and become repetitive, but this was far from the truth - they were all hugely enjoyable and incredibly created. What was the purpose of this though? Ahhh - it all comes together beautifully in the end, and any hints in this review would ruin the surprises.

Yes, it's true to say that most of the narrators "sound" the same as each other, but don't all of Coupland's characters all ultimately sound a little like Coupland? The reviewer who complained about the mentions of "Finnegans Wake" clearly didn't understand why this was mentioned (it is explained in the book), and as for the occasional bit of weird grammar, well, the book is supposed to be the sound of people talking, inventing stories on the spur of the moment, and not all of us speak perfectly all of the time.

"Eleanor Rigby" used to be my favourite Coupland novel, but I think this has trumped it. I loved it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but unambitious Coupland, 23 Nov. 2010
By 
Paul Bowes (Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Generation A (Paperback)
Douglas Coupland seems to be the type of writer around whom cults aggregate. He attracts the kind of fan for whom a favourite writer can do no wrong. At his best, he is funny, intelligent and sharply observant, but uncritical praise does nobody any favours. At his worst, he falls easily into slack self-parody. 'Generation A' is not Coupland at his worst, but it's far from his best.

The book isn't in any meaningful sense a successor to 'Generation X', except as it offers yet another group of young people who are forced to deal with a change in the Zeitgeist. It's set in the near future, and this is a future that offers no very radical departures from the present. The environmental problems have worsened - the bees, and some other insects, have vanished or are in terminal decline. The human addiction to virtual reality and electronic communication has become more deeply rooted. A variety of technological quick fixes - emigration to Mars, a drug that 'cures' the human inability to tolerate solitude - are on offer to address the evident growing disconnection between humanity and the real world.

What follows is part dystopian fantasy, part thriller. Five young people in different parts of the world are stung almost simultaneously by bees, and the race is on to discover whether this is the turning point in the world's decline, for better or worse.

Readers familiar with Coupland will find few surprises here: if you've enjoyed his recent books, particularly 'Girlfriend in a Coma', it's likely that you'll enjoy this too. For me, it falls well short of his best. Like too many of Coupland's novels, it begins well and then seems to lose energy around the halfway mark, before drawing to an untidy conclusion. It invites comparison at different points with Vonnegut, DeLillo, Houellebecq and Richard Powers, without ever doing enough to suggest that Coupland might be in the same league.

It's never less than readable, and sometimes amusing, though I suspect that the patience of other readers will be strained by the long section in which the five bee-stung protagonists are obliged to tell amateurish stories-within-the-story. Never has the veneer of Coupland's postmodernism seemed thinner or the literary nods - in this case to Boccaccio - more strained.

If you're completely new to Coupland, I'd suggest starting elsewhere. Try 'Life After God' and 'Eleanor Rigby' for the more serious stuff: 'Microserfs' and 'J-Pod' for the cultural satirist.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Generation A, 21 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Generation A (Paperback)
Generation X, a tale of youth in revolt against an increasingly consumerist society, was Douglas Coupland's hugely successful first novel and he has returned, with moderate success, to the same style of framed narrative for his most recent offering, Generation A. Generation X had such a massive cultural impact that its title became a much bandied about moniker for several generations but, just as society seemed to the central characters in the novel itself, the phrase "Generation X" quickly seemed false, predictable and unsatisfactory. In this spirit, during a commencement address he was giving at Syracuse University in 1994, Kurt Vonnegut commented: "Now you young twerps want a new name for your generation? Probably not, you just want jobs, right? Well, the media do us all tremendous favours when they call you Generation X, right? Two clicks from the end of the alphabet. I hereby declare you Generation A, as much at the beginning of a series of astonishing triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago". So it is almost with a sense of rebellion against Generation X that Coupland named Generation A.

Generation A is set in the not too distant future, approximately 2020 it seems, where things are pretty much the same as they are now save for the fact that bees are presumed to be extinct. While the major implication of such a rapid extinction may well seem clear, Coupland also focuses on the minor effects. When a group of meth addicts are encountered by one of the characters, it is remarked that they would once have been heroin addicts but of course "poppies require bees". Aside from the absence of bees, the secondary difference to contemporary society is that the majority of the world's population are addicted to Solon, a narcotic that "mimics the solitude one feels when reading a good book". Given the supposed downturn in the number of people who regularly read books, it's quite surprising that a drug with such an effect caught on really.

Coupland bases the narrative of Generation A around a group of five characters who each take turns to narrate the chapters. Zack Lammle is an Iowan farmer with ADD who enjoys driving a combine harvester while naked and carving phallic images into his fields so that they can be seen from space. He also offers a nice, pithy introduction to the other four main characters of Generation A: "Sam was a fox, Julian looked like a snotty arcade rat, Diana looked like a dental hygienist and Harj looked like a mild-mannered 9/11hijacker with a heart of gold". On first glance they may seem a rather disparate group but it quickly becomes clear that they are united by a love of storys, an in-depth knowledge of pop-culture and an overwhelming belief that life isn't treating them as well as it should. More importantly, all five of them have recently been stung by bees.

Once word of this mass stinging gets out, all five stingees are quickly rounded up by government officials and placed in isolation centres where they are forbidden from accessing novels and popular branded items and are thoroughly medically examined. Despite extensive searching, scientists are unable to locate any hives in the areas surrounding the locations where the bee stings occurred. The five latent consumers are released but, having been offered no explanation for what happened to them, find themselves drawn together despite their cultural and social differences. Eventually they are relocated by the government once again and are settled on a remote Canadian archipelago where they pass the time by telling each other stories.

Generation A is a good novel but not a great one. Coupland seems to be repeating the plot devices and characterisations that brought him great success with Generation X but he doesn't seem to be building on them. There was a distinct sense that Generation A had been done before. Coupland has excellent ideas but they don't always translate into an excellent, cohesive plot; it can often seem that he sabotages his own storyline by throwing in an unnecessary quip or reference. Having said all that, while long-term fans may be disappointed, Coupland is a superbly poetic writer and Generation A is an enjoyable read that has moments of magic.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Channelling Palahniuk?, 5 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Generation A (Kindle Edition)
Whenever I pick up a book by Douglas Coupland, I suspend any expectation of a conventional plotline or narrative and brace myself for the quirky. In this sense, "Generation A" doesn't disappoint with its near futuristic setting and the premise that bee stings in a world where bees have become extinct become a sort of national and scientific phenomenon.

The 5 characters who are as disparate in terms of geographical background as they are in personality (though they are all twenty-somethings, and presumably the Generation A of their times) headline each chapter, and the first part of the novel opens promisingly enough, when their shared experience creates a kind of bond between them, even as they are prodded and pricked as individual scientific experiments by corporate scientists who try to establish a cause to this unlikely occurrence.

However, by the middle of the novel, one gets the idea that Coupland has written a whole bunch of (engaging enough) short stories which he felt he had to plug into the novel in a self-conscious attempt to "[explore] new ways of storytelling in a digital world" (as the inner flap of the book jacket boasts). He does explain the reason for these stories that the characters tell one another and tie up all the loose ends in a shocking way at the end of the novel, though by then I felt disengaged by the narrative. In some ways, I felt he was channelling Canadian contemporary Chuck Palahniuk's earlier novel "Haunted", where a group a characters are bundled into a secret writers' retreat, though that was a far more grisly work, and I would be loathe to suggest any plagiarism on Coupland's part, since the settings and storylines are vastly different.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Quirky, Funny, but Uncohesive, 15 May 2010
By 
Leyla Sanai "leyla" (glasgow) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Generation A (Paperback)
Douglas Coupland's 2009 novel Generation A is a mix of futuristic sci fi thriller and ironic contemplation of the nightmarish potential of technology gone mad. It is set in the near future in a time of technological addiction - you tube, google world maps and constant internet contact with strangers are ubiquitous. Many of the population have resorted to an anxiety-assuaging drug called Solon, which allows them to live in the present and not worry about the future. There is a major global crop failure: modified corn grows abundantly and is responsible in the US for an even more serious obesity problem than exists currently, but fruit is scarce, fruit juice being largely synthetic, and real, crisp apples exist only as a product of boutique apple ranches where hand-pollination is carried out. Part of the reason for lack of natural pollination is that bees have become extinct - a pot of natural honey recently sold at auction for a small fortune. It is therefore global news when five individuals are stung by bees in different parts of the world within a few weeks of each other.

Harj is a Sri Lankan man whose family was wiped out by the tsunami in 2004. He has worked his way up from janitor to telesales rep at an upmarket clothing factory in Trincomalee. In his spare time he playfully devised a spoof website which has captured the interest of a journalist across the world, but Harj is stung while on the phone to her.

Zack is a corn farmer in Iowa whose late father led a life of drug-related crime and who has been taken under the wing of his lawyer uncle. Zack is stung while languishing nude in his harvester in the corn field he has fashioned into a set of male genitals.

Samantha is a personal trainer in New Zealand given to hippy dippy pursuits such as making 'earth sandwiches': connecting with someone on the polar opposite side of the world via bread placed on the ground between them.

Julien is a petulant French youth in Paris given to scornful judging of those around him. There is a biological reason for this - his frontal lobe is incompletely developed. His disdainful asides can be comical - early on, he is sitting listening to a group of shrieking old women complaining about having to shred their garbage to prevent fraud, and he sneers to himself

'Yes, the Romanians and the Russians and the Triads must be waiting on tippytoes to pounce on them: With Madame Duclos's electricity bill, we will bring Caisse d'Epargne to its knees! '

Diana is a dental hygienist in Ontario. Her membership of the local church is threatened by her uncontrollable lust for the married pastor. She also has Tourette's, which leads to outbursts of cursing.

When each of these individuals is stung, they are whipped off by the authorities to isolation units where their blood is analysed frequently and they are interviewed by disembodied voices in order to try and find out what caused them to be chosen by the bees that stung them. After several weeks in these units, they are released transiently and then gathered together again for a form of group therapy which involves them telling stories to each other.

Douglas Coupland is a writer who can create quirky, funny situations, and the novel's strongest parts involve the thought processes of these characters. Harj terms conventional American youth as 'Craigs', and this leads to some humorous moments:

'Do Craigs always put exclamation marks at the end of everything they say?'

And

'Increasingly large numbers of increasingly drunk he-Craigs and she-Craigs came up to me and made buzzing noises and pretended to sting me.'

His matter-of-fact descriptions are often charming - garden furniture is described as 'white plastic lawn furniture of a sort burped out by tsumanis', and his combination of fear and excitement at the (swiftly dissipated) chance to become 'carnal' with a she-Craig is endearingly related.

Diana, too, is entertaining, her scathing commentary on her 'putting-out machine' sister and the pastor's possibly unfaithful wife, and her ferocious love of animals giving her some depth.

But Generation A falls down in other areas. The plot fails to develop. The time the characters spend in the isolation unit is vaguely intriguing from a Willy Wonka point of view (and the five are dubbed 'The Wonka kids' by Julien, one of their number.) But the descriptions of the cubes of inspid jelly-like food, the lack of human contact in the units and the absence of branding only really whet the appetite for more meaty plot development, which doesn't come. The characters, too, are developed so far but no further so that some of them - for example, nudist, womanising Zack - remain stereotypes. There is a lot of extraneous detail about their relatives which doesn't come to anything, and the underlying condemnation of the technological world and its destructiveness remains superficial. And the stories the characters share - with punning titles like 'Superman and the Kryptonite Martinis' seem pointless.

Generation A would have worked better as a short story. In its current form it can't decide whether to be a thriller or a sceptical analysis of our techno-loving society, and the screeds of non-essential information it throws up are as distracting as the techno society it condemns.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastically imaginative - I loved it!, 15 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Generation A (Hardcover)
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Coupland for a while..., 11 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: Generation A (Paperback)
This is an excellent read, which challenges the reader to assess themselves as they go.

I read this over a two day period and loved his use of multiple first person viewpoints, which gave depth to the characters, and also forced you to piece together the context around the characters. At no point though was this a "tough" read.

It's tough to comment without spoilers, so best I can say is that ultimately this is a positive book, a great read and one I'd read again.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not one of his best, 2 Nov. 2010
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This review is from: Generation A (Paperback)
...which is a real shame, as Douglas Coupland is a great writer, with an unerring ability to wittily and succinctly precis the current human condition. This book had a promising start, but I think Coupland couldn't figure out how to end the story. By using the device of having the five central characters tell stories at the end, I think he was buying himself time to figure out the conclusion of the book- which was lazy and disappinting. He mentions James Joyce as being unreadable bilge that gets the Emperors New Clothes treatment from credulous readers. I couldn't help thinking that the reviews of Generation A, so proudly printed on the book's cover were a perfect example of the same. Microserfs and JPod were much tighter and funnier- and both more satisfying than this, as they were proper (very wittily barbed) stories.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another Coupland classic, 6 Jun. 2010
By 
Mr. G. Carroll (LDN | HKG | SZX) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Generation A (Hardcover)
Douglas Coupland is unique in modern authors for his combination of being able to write with a sense of keen observation and a unique knack of getting under the skin of the zeitgeist. Generation A continues these traits for the late noughties.

Coupland skillfully pulls together a multi-threaded story that pulls together globalisation, environmental angst, economic decline, end times, murder, drug abuse, changing media consumption and corporate corruption in a tight plot. Coupland drives the story on through five narrators and still manages to provide each one of them with a well-rounded character profile. I particularly like the way Coupland manages to understand and articulate how his characters use and related to technology.

Whilst the book is less literal than Generation X or Microserfs it is still a work of its time. One gets the sense that Coupland writes in a semi-reverential way of his previous works. Even the title of this book Generation A - whilst taken as a quote from a speech by Kurt Vonnegut at Syracuse University in 1994. The style of the novel is an obvious reference to Generation X, and like that book the real focus is on angst as a major force in modern life.
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Generation A
Generation A by Douglas Coupland (Paperback - 2 Sept. 2010)
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