Wednesday, 15 August 2012

[Duel Review!] Generation A - Douglas Coupland

Today marks the inaugural review of a project my friend Colin (thebookpirate) and I have been working on for about a month now. He and I have decided to both read the same book and post our reviews on the fifteenth of each month. Then, after a few days, we will respond to each other's reviews. I'm really excited about it and look forward to hearing what Colin has to think. If you aren't reading Colin's blog already, you should be!

Our first book is Generation A by Douglas Coupland, mainly because Colin was reading it already when we planned to do this. I'd never read a Douglas Coupland book before but the plot sounded intriguing so I was happy to give it a go.

Generation A takes place in the near future where, inexplicably, all the bees have vanished. This has led to fewer plants, less of a harvest and less honey, obviously. Most people are getting on fine, however. What starts the whole book rolling is when, in the middle of a midwestern cornfield, a young man is stung by a bee, the first in a good five years. Four other people all over the world quickly follow in succession but no where near their areas can any hives be found.

The five are all quickly hauled away and brought down for testing in extreme medical facilities. After some odd studies, they are sent back out into a world where they are celebrities. But something seems to be drawing them back together again.

The book has a super interesting premise. I can honestly say that I never thought a book about the disappearance of bees would be something I would be eager to read. I was excited about the premise and really looked forward to reading it. Whether I liked it or not, I'm still not completely sure. 

While the first half of the book was crisp and fresh, about midway through, the book decides it wants to play around with narratives, having the main characters all start telling stories. While the stories were interesting and fun, there were far too many without any narrative action in between. While a few would be good, this many was distracting and took away from the urgency of the actual plot. It was jarring.

Coupland's writing style is definitely unique. He has turns of phrases that you would never think of that make you chuckle and a definite flair for creating character. I do think he's a bit questionable when it comes to his female characters (it's a bit off-putting when a female character uses the word 'tits' and it's not the one with Tourettes) but they definitely all have unique voices. There were a couple of times where I thought Coupland might be leading us down a certain path (I felt sure that one character didn't actually have Tourettes, just said what she was thinking and used it as an excuse) but he just never did. It was slightly strange but I suppose I got used to it. He does have a bit of an abortive writing style, suggesting ideas and then killing them off just as quickly. It tools some of the drama out of the story but I suppose it didn't do too much harm.

I did feel when I finished the book that I wasn't entirely sure what I had read. The beginning and the end are both quite interesting but the middle bit was lagging, drawing attention away from what could have been a very well done ending sequence. Perhaps its because Coupland doesn't like writing action (and I feel him on that because I don't either) but the lack of it was definitely noticeable. I can't say this for sure because this was the only book by Coupland I've ever read but I think perhaps he's the type that comes up with amazing plots but is never quite sure how to execute them. I will have to read another to see.

I did enjoy the book. It was a page turner, especially since every few pages the narrator changes, making it easy to fly through and keeping interest by waiting to see what another character would say about a situation. I felt like a few characters were weaker than others but I suppose that's just life. I can honestly say that I definitely wanted to get through it and learn the truth. The truth may have been a bit dubious (and I wish it had been explored more at the expense of some of those stories) but it was definitely interesting. Would I recommend it? I suppose so. Just be prepared for a bit of a trek.

Read Colin's review here. And look for a new Duel Review on September 15!

1 comment:

  1. I really liked the premise too, despite it not sounding the most exhilirating on the face of it. I think you're absolutely right - the book is a page-turner, not only because of the frequent change in narrator, but also just wanting to know what was going on! I'm not sure the conclusion/reveal was totally satisfying but it was still an enjoyable read.

    My review: Generation A by Douglas Coupland