Saturday, November 28, 2009

Douglas Coupland, Generation A

Coupland is Back!
The stories we tell ourselves define us--in fact, they're so important they can save the world. And when we stop telling them, stop reading them, stop caring, we become a planet of zombies, doomed to destroy ourselves. That's the far-fetched, but never heavy-handed, message of Generation A, a vigorous return to form for Douglas Coupland that updates his tale of disaffection for a new generation.

The story revolves around five young people around the globe, each of whom is stung by a bee. No big deal--except that bees have gone extinct. There are no flowers, fruit is a hand-pollinated luxury item, and almost everyone is addicted to watching old YouTube videos or playing World of Warcraft--and to a new drug that can make people stop caring about the future.

Why were the five young people stung? This mystery propels the book forward at a galloping pace; I tore through its 300 pages in two days. The message is subtle but unmistakable; dark humor populates every page, but Coupland has serious, timely concerns, and he's created one hell of a page-turner to convey them.

This is an Amazon Vine review, available here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

D.C. Pierson, The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep (and Never Had To)

Great Premise, Iffy Execution
Fantastic title? Check. Great cover art? Check. Interesting narrator? Check.

This should be a five-star enterprise, right? And it is interesting and engaging and evocative of what it feels like to be a kid in high school--right up until the big reveal (spoiled by the title, but a secret for almost half the book). Before that happens, the little framing narrative at the beginning seems like a cryptic curiosity; afterward the expectation that somehow the other half of the frame will provide some closure grows and grows as things take several madcap turns. These madcap turns, and the second half of the frame's failure to provide closure, make it impossible for me to give this book more than three stars. Too bad--the materials were definitely there for something better. I'd definitely give Pierson another shot--I just hope he can sustain the same level of quality for the whole book next time.

This is an Amazon Vine review, available here.