Five iconoclasts are drawn together by their reactions to an extraordinary bee sting.
Perhaps no other postmodern author wields such a wildly split personality as Coupland (The Gum Thief, 2007, etc.). His worst instincts are on full display in this disingenuous, warmed-over retread of Generation X. The story picks up in the near future as an unconnected quintet of rotating narrators amuse themselves with futuristic hobbies ranging from drawing sketches in a cornfield with satellite imagery to making “earth sandwiches” using GPS coordinates and cell phones. “It’s an Internet thing,” says New Zealander Samantha, without a hint of irony. Her fellow protagonists are Harj, an earnest Sri Lankan call-center manager; Iowa farmboy Zack; Julien, a caustic French gamer; and Diana, a Tourette’s sufferer. Coupland’s premise isn’t bad (by his standards): When the five are stung by bees at exactly the same moment, they’re whisked away by government drones and briefly thrust into the spotlight as Internet celebrities, which allows the author to hurl his usual volleys about the wired world. He also manufactures an interesting subplot about the world’s addiction to Solon, a “chronosuppressive” drug that eliminates anxiety about the future. But just as the characters are beginning to assert themselves, they’re whisked off to a remote island off the coast of Canada and encouraged by their mysterious host to spin short stories, the telling of which occupies the remainder of the text. If this sounds like a construct created specifically to make a point, it is. The point? The mystery drug draws its users away from the present in the same manner that reading a good book does. Coupland’s increasingly flip prose and his propensity to hit you over the head with social commentary, however, make this is a not-very-good book.
Generation X with less snark, less plot and much less interesting characters.