Generation A by Douglas Coupland, copyright 2009.
Publisher: Windmill Books
Source: Personal Collection – Purchased New
Reason for Reading: Review by Farm Lane Books Blog
I was persuaded to read Generation A after reading this terrific review written by Jackie at Farm Lane Books Blog in which she gave the Douglas Coupland book a full five stars. Jackie and I tend to have similar literary tastes, so I was expecting to be head-over-heels for the book, but such was, unfortunately, not the case. The premise of this story is fantastic, a future in which bees have become extinct. Sounds like a winning story doesn’t it?
It’s sometime in the future, not far from now; bees are extinct and life on Earth is slowly becoming more depressing and meaningless as plant species after plant species dies off. Drug use is on the rise as humans begin looking for ways to make their meaningless existence pass more quickly. Over the course of a few short weeks, five young people from around the globe are stung by the apparently extinguished pollinating creatures. Each of them is whisked away to a remote holding facility where they are held in isolation and poked and prodded with needles. They are told they are being studied to find out why the bees chose to sting them; there must be something in them that was attracting the creatures. Eventually all five are brought together to discuss their experiences and (this is where it got weird for me) to tell stories. It is through the telling of their stories that the truth of their captivity and the truth about the extinction of the bees is revealed.
That’s about as much as I can say without giving anything away, but it was at that point, where they begin telling their stories that I thought the whole thing started to go downhill. As the stories are told and the reality of their situation became more evident, everything started to seem increasingly far-fetched. It culminated on the second to last page when there was a mention of …
****(Mouse over to expose spoiler)–> EATING BRAINS <–(End of spoiler) *****
and that just destroyed the story for me completely and utterly. I don’t have enough imagination for that kind of thing and I think I had been expecting the story to remain in the realm of the realistic. I’m not much of a fan of dystopian anything to begin with, for the very reasons I just mentioned, so I suppose I should have known better than to think this would be any different.
Generation A is a commentary on the direction in which our society is heading. The continued emphasis on profit based economy and our societal mantra of want and want more are coming at the sacrifice of something much greater as we manipulate our environment for our own purposes and drive the Earth towards disaster.
“Corn is a fucking nightmare. A thousand years ago it was a stem of grass with one scuzzy little kernel; now it’s a bloated, foot-long, buttery carb dildo. And get this: cornstarch molecules are a mile long. Back in the seventies, Big Corn patented some new enzyme that chops those miles into a trillion discrete blips of fructose. A few years later these newly liberated fructose molecules assault the national food chain. Blammo! An entire nation becomes morbidly obese.” Generation A, page 3.
There is no question that Douglas Coupland is a wonderful author. I found myself howling at some of the witticisms and sarcasm contained in this book. His writing is both engaging and fast paced, and as much as I found myself loathing the story towards the end, I retained an insatiable need to press on. If I can find another one of his novels that is based solidly in reality, I am quite certain I will give Coupland another chance.
RATING: Pretty Baaaaaahd