Bored and zany computer programmers think of themselves as characters in a Douglas Coupland novel.
The young video-game designers portrayed here resemble the nerds in Microserfs (1995), and their spokesman-narrator has relatives who recall the eccentrics in All Families Are Psychotic (2001). Assigned to the same corporate pod because their names end in “J,” the Vancouver six hate the video game they’re producing, called “BoardX,” use their modest creativity in time-wasting foolery and decide to sabotage the game by encoding in it a crazed Ronald McDonald. Twentysomething narrator Ethan has “respite” from the laborious weirdness of work by tending to his wacky family—a ballroom-dancing father obsessed with having a speaking part in a movie, a marijuana-growing mother whom Ethan helps bury a body, a brother who sells mansions to Chinese gangsters. At one point, Coupland enters the novel as a character and contracts for the rights to the other characters’ lives for, ultimately, this novel. The book itself has a game-like quality: Randomly scattered through the text in various formats and fonts are mock advertisements, quizzes, product placements, interviews and lists—many, many lists, including iterations of the number pi and 58,894 random numbers (both sets of lists go on for pages). It’s hard to believe there are enough cubicle clones and bored gamers to give Coupland an audience, but it’s even harder to imagine anyone else reading more than a hundred pages of this novel.
“J” is for juvenile, jaundiced, joyless, jumbled junk.