MICROSERFS by Douglas Coupland


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Gen-X guru Coupland's (Life after God, 1994, etc.) third offering is a sprawling, amiable novel filled with the deracinated underachievers who have given their author both audience and theme. Although Daniel Underwood (alias danielu@microsoft.com.) has his hands somewhat less than full, he hardly counts as a slacker. A 26-year-old bug checker at Microsoft, he lives in a group house with five other nerds, all of them vassals of Bill Gates and true children of their age. Postmodernism has left its mark: Characters are usually described in Jeopardy! categories, or compared to Hanna-Barbera cartoons or 1970s Barbie prototypes. Michael is a recluse who will eat only crackers, Kraft singles, and other flat foods that can be slid beneath closed doors. Susan, bored with the misogynist asexuality of nerd life, starts a movement for feminist techies -- called Chyx. When Daniel's father gets sacked by IBM, he and the kids set up their own software concern, Oops!, and look for venture capital in the usual shady places as Daniel gives us the play-by-play. Although there are plenty of detours along the way here -- weird theme parties with female bodybuilders, a giant and never-ending computer diagram made of Lego blocks, raucous arguments over the decadence or salubrity of breakfast cereals -- it's pretty clear from the start that Daniel is trying to figure out Life and Love, with a dead brother, a weak father, a sick mother, and an insecure girlfriend as parts of his equation. He manages to work something out by the story's end, although it must be said that most readers will see the finale a good six blocks away. An easy, pleasant read with little to go back for. Coupland may have defined his generation, but unless he injects something into it, his writing will remain sociology rather than literature.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0061624268
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: HarperCollins