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Customer reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
Generation A
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on 31 August 2010
Coupland at his best. Which means once again he combines fantastically imaginative writing and a wonderful turn of phrase with an inventive, near-apocalyptic story involving five humans, some bees and a drug called Solon. Jane Austen once challenged Samuel Taylor Coleridge to write a poem about the most boring thing she could think of - a sofa. Coleridge rose to the challenge and you feel Coupland could so the same - give him any constituents you like and he could construct a great story from it. I loved the stories-within-a-story device Coupland previously employed in The Gum Thief and used again here to great effect. He's the closest thing we have to Douglas Adams.
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on 11 October 2012
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.
One person found this helpful
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on 5 December 2014
An engaging tale of global chaos brought about through greed - illustrating the truly awful potential for ecological damage to the world resting in one pair of hands. Coupland's talent for characterisation gives the reader not only a rounded experience, but also hope.
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on 29 January 2012
Now, I'm a fan of Couplands work - if you are too, it won't disappoint. Knowing, almost wise-ass dialogue from characters whose every personality trait is captured and put on display with a pin through it. And a story that keeps you engaged, if not on the edge of your seat.
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on 12 August 2017
brilliant!! a step up from generation x.
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on 26 February 2017
Coupland is always a great read. Not his best book, but it's still very Couplandish and for some reason i liked it a whole lot better the second time I read it.
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on 2 November 2010
...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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on 23 July 2013
longtime reader of douglas coupland here. not completely through the book yet, but just know this will be another great experience. others have written more eloquently than i possibly can about what makes his writing so great.
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on 5 October 2009
Generation A though is a real return to form for Douglas Coupland and has reinstilled my confidence in him, making me realise what made me so keen on his teachings in the first place.

There is definitely a taste of the future here but the stories and parables smack of the issues facing us all now. The twisting and turning of the plot is interspersed with parables told by the main protagonists drawn together by the fact that they have been stung by the now extinct bee.

This is a novel about loneliness, isolation, greed, corporates, and the environment and as a result despair; but like all Coupland novels there's an underlying sense of hope.

That's what makes Coupland the writer and social commentator he is and what guarantees that I will eagerly await his next offering.
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on 21 October 2013
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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