The writer who gave a generation its well-deserved ""X"" returns to the quasi-theological themes of his third novel, Life After God (1994), and again wanders off into spacey, New Age platitudes about death and transcendence. Although God makes no personal appearances here, He's represented by the ghost of an 18-year-old football player whose life touched all the aimless souls wandering through this media-literate narrative. After a gimmicky prologue in the voice of the dead Jared, Coupland soon shifts gears, displaying a new-found maturity and sharpness. Spanning two decades in the close-knit lives of friends in Vancouver, his kinetic text begins with the episode that lands the narrator's girlfriend in her 18-year coma. But whether it was the mix of pills and booze or Karen's premonition of a dreary future that rendered her comatose, the tragedy reverberates among her pals, whose lives will spiral out of control over the next two decades. Her boyfriend, Richard, the narrator, remains a faithful visitor to her bedside, through his go-go years as a stockbroker and his bouts of alcoholism. Of course, he must deal with their growing daughter, conceived the night before Karen's coma and unaware of her mother for seven years. And Karen's friends, to a person, all feel like losers, despite successful careers as a supermodel (Pam) and a doctor (Wendy). Drugs, overwork, and sheer boredom trouble even the seeminglycentered Linus, who eventually returns to Vancouver with all the rest. With everyone sleepwalking through life, Karen miraculously awakes, but her worst visions come tree--and here the story veers into disaster-movie--land, with a sleep-inducing plague overwhelming the planet. Jared returns to teach them about self-sacrifice and the need to change their lives, relying on all sorts of utopian blather and spiritual nostrums. Sappy at its core, but showing signs nonetheless of Coupland's evolution as a novelist not wholly dependent on trend-spotting and zeitgeisty patter.