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Generation A

Generation A - Douglas Coupland I read this months ago, but I just couldn't bring myself to write the review because it was the last book my friend and former roommate added to his Amazon.com Wishlist (on my recommendation) before he took his own life. The themes of this book are themes we'd discussed and were just too raw to talk about. I'm just glad that I took notes as I read.

Douglas Coupland has long been one of my favorite authors because he has a gift of looking at the problems of the generation and capturing their essence on the written page. These are problems that many people know exist but allow them to continue because of the convenience factor. One of the things my friend was often depressed about was the state of our world and his inability to change it no matter what he personally did.

Generation A is a fictitious satire on current popular culture. Specifically, it is a commentary on how separate we've all become even though we're more connected electronically. Coupland shows how people are turning into photoshopped avatars and cartoon characters rather than living out their lives as real people. In the novel, a contributing factor to this problem is a drug called Salon which makes people crave solitude and want to escape reality, time, and people. As a result of this drug, people have separated themselves even further from a reality in which the world is falling apart and the bees have died out.

The storyline centers around 5 people around the world who are bitten by bees when the world thinks that they're extinct. Immediately, these people are whisked off to research facilities to find out what is so special about them that they have been chosen to be bitten by an insect thought to long be dead. When these people meet, they pass the time telling stories to each other. They tell stories of royalty, cults, wordplay, superheroes, disasters, aliens, fear,devolvement of language, and seclusion. My favorite of these stories is one called "The Man Who Loved Reading and Being Alone". It's through these stories that Coupland brings about a gradual message. I've never read an author that delivers a message in a book like Coupland does. He weaves fine threads like spider webs throughout the novel that eventually come together to make a picture. But the picture is so transient and fleeting that it's like seeing a picture in a cloud and then losing it again or like staring at one of those 3D pop out images forever before seeing the image and then losing it again. But all the little ideas coalesce together in your brain and stay there forever, becoming part of your worldview.

This is a must-read for any Douglas Coupland fan or anyone who finds the asocial individualism of the internet to be an evolving problem of our current generation: Generation A.