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3.1 out of 5 stars
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3.1 out of 5 stars
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I'm invariably first in line for the latest Douglas Coupland, and bought this just before a trip last year to Chicago and New York - which, by a blinding coincidence, are the two cities featured on the departure board shown on its cover. However, this tale is more about the disorientating effects of travel than any specific places: five unconnected people are passing through an airport bar when they find themselves stranded by events that might presage the end of the world - or, at the very least, a cataclysmic change in the way it works.

As the action progresses, the point of view shifts between the characters, giving us plenty of time in their heads as they muse on time, religion, the afterlife and the pursuit of happiness (the book's subtitle is "What is to become of us"). This isn't the first time Coupland's considered these themes, and you feel like you already partially know these flawed, suffering characters (which include the runaway priest, the beautiful autistic, the recovering alcoholic and the lonely middle-aged woman) from his previous books. Indeed, some of the things they say have been explicitly recycled from elsewhere (e.g. "What if God exists, but doesn't like people very much?", which comes from Eleanor Rigby). It doesn't really matter though, since these are clearly big ideas that need revisiting (if not re-expressing), and there are a few aspects of this tale that are decidedly original.

One of these is the use of the eponymous character Player One, who appears to exist as a disembodied voice that describes the past and future experiences of the other characters in a way that's reminiscent of an author, or the player of a video game. Another is the genesis of the novel as a lecture series, with each chapter (which covers an hour in the story) being delivered by Coupland as a one hour lecture in a different Canadian city in October 2010. Although touches such as this could, like the glossary of neologisms at the end of the book (e.g. "Frankentime: What time feels like when you realize that most of your life is being spent working with and around a computer and the Internet"), perhaps be viewed as gimmicks by readers who find themselves out of sympathy with the author's intentions, the book retained my attention as I read it in a couple of sittings, but its ideas (for example: exactly what do *you* think will happen when the oil runs out?) and images have stayed with me since putting it down.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 21 October 2010
First of all, I love Douglas Coupland.
Well, I have finished "Player One" a few days ago and I was sad to admit to myself that it was not his best book. I mean, it's all repetitive: end of the world, is there God who still cares about us, we are all going to die anyway - his usual stuff sprinkled with the irony - and that's what I love about him, but come on! I read one review that said that he is finally at his best, at his "Generation X" best, and maybe that was my problem - I read "Generation X" and straight away I read "Player One" - maybe that's why it all felt like one long moan about consumerism and over-culture of the world we all live in, fateless creatures. And while it was something unheard of in the early nineties, well, now it's just kinda boring...
Once again, I love Mr Coupland and cannot wait for him to astonish me with his new books, like he did so many times before.
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on 16 October 2011
After reading only 8 pages of this book it began to become very obvious to me (as I assume it will to any Coupland fan) that there is a lot of content in this book which has been recycled from his previous novels.
For example: The 'rapture on a plane' section is paraphrased from The Gum Thief, and the yawning bird point is mentioned in that book too; Many, many ideas which were already used (more skilfully) in Eleanor Rigby (eg, Black stars during daylight, reaction to shopping for books about lonlieness, why money makes us feel good ... and so on). There are too many similarities to his previous novels, not only in terms of overarching themes (which is fair enough) but in smaller almost 'filler' sentences.

I really struggled trying to read this book without exclaiming in annoyance each time a recycled idea/sentence came round.

His previous novels thrown into a blender = a substantial amount of content from 'Player One'.

On a positive note the introduction of a character on the autistic spectrum was interesting, perhaps she is portrayed as too robotic though which didn't gel with the level of insight she seems to have about herself and others.

Overall, sadly not one of his best novels.
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on 4 September 2011
I've enjoyed all Coupland's novels before this one, which felt like no more than his early concept notes before fleshing out. Or a single chapter of a more substantial work pre-edit.

I didn't even notice I had finished it - there is an appendix of 20 pages or so that I expected to be more story.

A less well known writer would likely not have found a publisher for this one........
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on 8 May 2013
I can't believe Coupland had the nerve to release this as a new book, let alone charge money for it. It is absolutely riddled with passages lifted unchanged from about 7 of his previous novels, and not nearly enough new content or ideas to justify a story. Ending is too abrupt and a cop-out. This is the sound of a barrel being scraped dry.
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on 14 August 2011
I sometimes wonder if the press reviews come from people unfamiliar with Coupland's back catalogue. He is without doubt my favourite author, but the spark and sparkle of earlier books (Microserfs) started to fade with Jpod and Generation A and continues downhill significantly with Player One.

It's true to the Coupland formula, but the quirky observation of his writing feels forced now (a re-use of 'Jeopardy! categories'?). It feels like he wrote the appendix first and the book followed, the characters generally unlikeable and self absorbed, with no real moral tale discernable.

The man is undoubtedly a genius, but hopefully he can try something new next time instead of rehashing what was so great about earlier books. The world has caught up with Coupland and he needs somewhere new to go.
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on 20 February 2011
In true Coupland style this book brings together the banal ( an airport hotel bar) with the cataclysmic ( the end of civilisation). Into this mix are thrown some of Coupland's most interesting characters for years. A vicar on the run, a stunning, detached blonde, a middle-aged woman on an internet date and a reformed alcoholic bar tender. The novel is short on plot but the eclectic mix of people leads to though provoking muses on happiness, religion and fulfilment in the twenty first century. None of the characters feel real but in their own individual way they reflect the worries and concerns of all of us with an unnerving veracity.
As with most of Coupland's recent novels I'm left with mixed feelings. Is the lack of story a sign of unflinching genius or the sign of someone playing to their strengths? In the end I don't think it really matters - in a couple of hundred pages Coupland introduces more concepts than a lifetime of mainstream literature and delivers characters that you care for.
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on 2 January 2013
If enjoy Coupland's recurring themes of social awkwardness, isolation and dysfunction, then you'll love this. Unusually 'global' in theme, it has all his usual wryly observed commentary on modern life.
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on 22 April 2013
As ever, thought-provoking, destabilising, wicked prose and great characters. He never disappoints. Just a shame Amazon hand out rules about how many words you are required to write for a review. What's wrong with being concise...?
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on 8 November 2011
I was just about to purchase the book in a "A new Douglas Coupland book!" moment with excitement...only to realise that I have actually downloaded it on my kindle a couple of months ago....read it and totally forgot about it.

Coupland is a master of painting the psychological landscapes of characters faced with loss and the end of our civilization as we know it. However, this book looks more like a draft rather than a complete masterpiece (such as "Hey Nostradamus!" or "Girlfriend in a coma").

As I remember now...reading the book felt like watching episodes of Big Brother where the characters are stranded at an airport lobby because there is no petrol oil left on the planet. Of course the difference is that Coupland's characters always wear their existential issues on their sleeve and talk about them openly ...making them more humane than a lot of real people on TV. However, the book reads as a tv-series script rather than an oscar winning movie.
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