A thin, occasionally maudlin poke at the pharmaceutical industry.
The Zeitgeist-defining novelist who tagged his rudderless contemporaries Generation X (1991) is now 40 but still feels his characters' pain. Here, plucky 67-year-old matriarch Janet presides over the discombobulated Drummond clan—two freaky sons, one square daughter, numerous dotty spouses, and a mean ex-husband—as it gathers in sweltering midsummer Orlando for the launch of a NASA shuttle carrying Sarah Drummond-Fournier. The much-admired astronaut was a born with one hand, thanks to the thalidomide her mother took during pregnancy, and the ironies roll on as Internet-savvy Janet reveals she is taking the drug again for mouth ulcers caused by AIDS. How did she get the dread disease? A bullet meant for seropositive son Wade (shot by his enraged, drunken father Ted) penetrated her body after passing through Wade’s. Meanwhile, as Coupland continues to pile on the action, much of it slapstick, Wade, equally clueless brother Bryan, and dipsomaniac Ted—all in need of some quick cash— descend on Disney World to meet up with one of Wade's lowlife buddies. He enlists them as couriers of a letter stolen from Princess Diana's coffin that they’re to deliver to Florian, the Swiss head of Buckingham Pest Control in the Bahamas. Florian also runs one of the world's biggest pharmaceutical firms, and after dinner with Janet, who carries a pillbox “the size of a sewing kit,” he cures her by clasping her bleeding hand to that of an immune Ugandan prostitute stolen from the Centers for Disease Control. The author just wants everyone to get along, but his sympathies evidently lie with 42-year-old loser Wade, pregnant women, and Janet. With this “pure and crud-proof” mom at the helm, he suggests, even the ill-starred Drummonds are not without hope.
Little evocative description, even less character development: this time out, Coupland settles for improbable adventures inspired by middle-of-the-night channel surfing.