Douglas Coupland attempts to comment on Canadian culture in his national bestseller

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009


Written by: Douglas Coupland
Random House

2.5 stars

According to The Globe and Mail, JPod is the “right book” written at the “right time.” However, JPod isn’t necessarily the right book or the wrong book to read right now.

Though all 516 pages of Douglas Coupland’s national bestseller are rife with contemporary humour, the characters’ shallow indifference to everything leaves readers feeling neither better nor worse after stumbling through the novel.

JPod follows a group of Vancouver game designers sharing the same cubicle space because their last names begin with the letter “J” (hence “JPod”). Trouble ensues in the first section of the three-part story when a new addition to the “pod” replaces a worker who died from helium abuse and the pod’s new boss practically sabotages a perfectly mediocre skateboarding game by adding a playable turtle character.

The pod’s ringleader, Ethan, also battles several other problems; he must deal with his mother’s involvement in a marijuana grow op, his father’s philandering and struggle to become an actor, and his formidable crush on the office’s new girl. To top it all off, he’s frequently visited by a powerful people smuggler.

Although the novel’s balance between pop-culture dribble gone awry and plot movement is entertaining in the first segment, the second part is a ridiculous parody of itself. The third section is like an obscenely large red bow, garnishing an aesthetically pleasing ending.

Graphic discussions pertaining to Ronald McDonald’s inner rage, Survivor host Jeff Probst’s perfection and eBay provide the brunt of character dialogue.

The book’s biggest fault is Coupland " he appears eight times in the novel as a reference or a character. He even starts and ends the story with himself. Though he portrays himself as a self-serving jerk, his presence ruins any plausibility the novel might have maintained otherwise.

Coupland’s attempt at comedic commentary on today’s amorality ultimately becomes comedic amorality.

At least Coupland has a good sense of humour.

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