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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 9 January 2015
I wish she has stayed in a coma.
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on 20 October 2003
I've never read Douglas Copeland before and I found that this was an amazing book. It has the kind of prose that you just eat up. Copeland seemingly writes so easily and descriptively that after I'd finished I couldn't believe he'd created such a complete and satisfying book in so few pages.
The fact that Karen is in a coma for 17 years and that you have followed the life of her friends through that time and only a 3rd of the book is finished is incredible. The 2nd third is packed with moving descriptions of every day life, love and self-discovery, only to then have a bolt out of the blue for the last third that is a post-apocalyptic end-of-the-world truly surreal yet strangely gripping scenario. The ending does jolt a little, but if you go with it, I believe that Copeland achieves his aim of making you question modern day life, its' trapping and its' ultimate emptiness.
I was very very impressed. The book is really deep (man), and examines the meaningless of life and adulthood and the loss of dreams, yet it isn't a chore to plough through, it's a pleasure.
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on 11 March 2017
Great read!!!! I preferred it to generation x. Illuminating characters, clever storytelling, it had just the right balance of suspense that didn't drag on. I marvelled at the structure and how he masterfully used tense. I loved the use of metaphors although I understand they aren't to everyone's taste. I thought it was highly imaginative.

I read the one star reviews out of interest (I couldn't understand anyone giving it one star). I do see some of their points of view though. It probably would be mind blowing to a young adult who hadn't questioned the 'meaningless of present day life', although perhaps its just older people always feel this way about change! It does get a little repetitive and sermon like towards the end.

Overall one of the best books I've read in a long time though!
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on 5 September 2013
Douglas Coupland has been going for a while now and as the worst of Generation X become grandparents before there time, is he still relevant? Thankfully he is, novels like `Girlfriend in a Coma' has shown that he has been able to adapt his generation angst formula for each decade he writes. `Coma' is set in the late 70s, but eventually spans all the way to the late 90s and the time of its writing. Set in Vancouver (could you guess), it follows a group of aimless teenagers through their lives after one of them slips into a two decade coma.

As always it is Coupland's powers of observation that make the book a great read. He paints the late 70s is vivid shades of grey, but also manages to move through the 80s and 90s with consummate ease. What makes `Coma' stand out from his usual family frenzied fiction, is its challenging narrative. This is not just a drama, but dips into the supernatural and science fiction. I found these elements really aided the book, allowing Coupland to explore his themes of disenfranchised youth from interesting and different angles.

As always in a Coupland novel, the characters are not always that easy to like. The end of this book in particular lets the side down, with the characters navel gazing so hard that they end up somewhere near their own colons. If the final 30 pages had been a little more solid and less abstract, this would have been Coupland's best novel. As it is, `Coma' remains a very interesting book that is funny and sad in equal measures. Get through the first 30 pages or so and you will be warmly rewarded.
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on 8 June 2006
OK, I admit it, I started reading this purely because I'd heard it had loads of Smiths lyrics embedded in the narrative. But I soon forgot trying to spot them as I got completely caught up in the story itself. As a whole, it's a great book, but I did enjoy the first part the most, particularly when the characters all go slightly off the rails as they get older(the description of Richard vomiting into his stero had me in stitches), and start wondering if there isn't some greater meaning to life. Coupland writes these scenes fantastically well - they are questions we've all probably asked ourselves, and maybe had drunken conversations about - but he makes the characters do it in a way that's somehow both touchingly innocent but profound at the same time.

It's also done in a way that tantalisingly hints at answers being given later in the book, and ones that are tied up with Karen, the eponymous girlfriend, and the visions she had before her coma. And indeed they are, but somehow the answers given by Coupland fails to match the intrigue of the question. For me, this led to the second and third parts being inferior. Karen waking from the coma is very moving, and her first reactions to meeting everyone again are interesting, but the apocalyptic section moves the book more to the realm of sci fi thriller. The final part I mainly found irritating, mainly because I didn't really like the character of Jared the ghost, but it somehow all came together quite well in the final scene at the dam, and the ultimate message - which seemed to be 'start looking out for the rest of the world, not just yourself' - a thought-provoking one.

The various cultural references are also interesting - the lyrics, Smiths or otherwise, the unnamed TV show which is obviously the X Files. Unwittingly, Coupland also appears to have invented Lost in this book, with his description of a tv show about survivors of a plane crash who are never found... I'd also be interested to know if whoever wrote the screenplay to the film Goodbye Lenin had read GIAC, as the basic concept is exactly the same... especially seeing as Karen is told ad nauseam about the Berlin Wall coming down while she was asleep.

So overall, an excellent read, and I will definitely try some of his other books as a result.
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on 23 August 2012
The novel opens with the reader being addressed by a dead school jock who collapsed on the field of play and was diagnosed with fatal leukemia. The mix of quirky and misery pervades throughout the book, as the jock hands over narrative duties to the boyfriend of a girl who falls into a 17 year long coma after they finally seal their relationship with a consummative act of sex.

The group of high school graduates enter the big wide world, all the while their friend and lover lies in a persistent vegetative state. Their highs and lows are plotted against her unchanging state. But in truth they seem to be going nowhere, even when they are making progress in their careers. Something seems to be missing.

And it's here where Coupland's novel is a real tease. He hints at why their lives are unfulfilled. All sorts of strange groupings of fate centre around this group that seems to make them immune for the rest of the world's manipulations. And this protected status is actualised in parts 2 and 3 of the book, though I won't spoil in what way. However, the metaphysical debate that Coupland offers behind their feelings and their status turns out to be empty-handed as all the questions about life and its purpose are thrown back on the reader. So the tease that Coupland might be building up to and preparing us for some mighty answers to gigantic questions, is shown to be an utterly empty reveal. Ultimately, the characters shrink in stature to bratty, wastrel, self-indulgent post-teens who never really grew up and my sympathy for one largely evaporated. It is probably a deliberate contrast of the infinity of possibility felt by teens on the cusp of adulthood when graduating and about to launch into the world and that submergence of such possibility within the need to work and pay the mortgage. But this slips into insignificance when held up against the grander metaphysical questions Coupland seems to be offering throughout.

Having said that, Coupland is too good an author not to also move & involve me at points. The scene when the 10 year old daughter conceived the night of her mother slipping into a coma, gets to see her mother for the first time some ten years later is heart-rending. Equally some of the detail of the wasted body when Karen does finally emerge from her coma are beautifully drawn. However the language is curiously flat in places, the metaphors being drawn in the mundane of the domestic; while this may suit the novel's theme of the struggle between the ennobling of the spirit and its crushing in the everyday, it means the words don't really soar off the page " I want to squish my friends into my heart, as though they could grout a troublesome crack". So for me, these are not enough to save what is a curate's egg of a book.
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on 29 April 2000
I would have given this book more stars but whilst I enjoyed almost every page of Coupland's wit, humour, and depth, the end of the book was an incredible let-down. It just got ridiculous. I won't actually tell you the ending incase you want to give the book a shot, but I was really disappointed after the rest of the book had been so enjoyable. 'Generation X' on the other hand, is a work of genius, and I strongly recommend it to those of you just starting to experience the world of Douglas Coupland.
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on 6 March 2017
Easy to read, named after a Smiths song, nice characters with a moral undertone. What's not to like?
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on 6 May 2007
This is not my usual type of book, but it caught my eye on one of those "books you must read" lists and I decided to give it a go. I wasn't sure I liked it at first but found it became more compelling the further I read. Unlike some of the other reviews, I enjoyed the ending and I found Richard and Karen's relationship very moving. Overall, a good thought provoking read with a difference - I look forward to reading more of his work.
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on 15 January 1999
This book. Well, this book moved me in the end. And the middle. Now, perhaps this is because I'm 16, naive, and impressionable, much like the characters as they are at the beginning...and the way Karen, one of the most central characters, essentially remains throughout. I am happy to admit this: I have never read any of Coupland's other work, but on the strength of this work alone, he appears an excellent writer. The book uses highly graphical and richly evocative imagery to describe the visions of Karen, as well as in other instances, such as the 'stereo' heroin-overdose-induced premonitions of her two married friends, Pamela and Hamilton. I'm not quite sure of the complete message of this book - I have to read it again. But trust me, you will forget yourself for a while.
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