Top critical review
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Smug and overly pleased with itself
on 2 March 2009
Okay, let's be clear. I'm the exact demographic for this novel. And I recognised pretty much all the references it makes. And I like witty cynicism. Hell, I've even been to Palm Springs. So it isn't as if I "didn't get it" or that it somehow "went over my head".
I can live with the fact that there's no plot, no character develops or changes, or that there is no pace or drive to the narrative. The problem with this book is that, like Coupland's other efforts, it is less than the sum of its parts.
The cynical, I-always-see-through-marketing-hype style grates very early on. All three of the characters basically sound the same, act the same, and think the same. There is no spark or conflict between them - they all agree on pretty much everything. The smug "I'm cool because I'm deliberately a slacker" attitude is morally and ethically empty - it's a dismal anti-choice that teaches the reader nothing about anything.
Bits I enjoyed? The small definitions at the bottom weren't bad, in the same way they would (and really should) have been if they'd appeared as minor asides in a daily newspaper. Some of them seemed forced and shoehorned into an arch definition. And occasionally, when Coupland trusted himself not to play a smarmy, wisecracking slacker, the description can work well.
Overall, I wonder if there's simply something about books that claim to `define the zeitgeist', or `capture the mood of a generation'. This didn't. It didn't get close - just ramming product names into the narrative and then saying how stupid they are, doesn't say anything of any consequence at all. But then, I hated Catcher in the Rye as well, and everyone tells me I'm a philistine to hold such a view. This book didn't speak to me of my place, time, life, attitudes or habits. It was just three annoying people in the desert, feeling inordinately pleased with themselves for no particular reason.