Generation A

Generation A

eBook - 2009
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"Now you young twerps want a new name for your generation? Probably not, you just want jobs, right? Well, the media do us all such tremendous favors when they call you Generation X, right? Two clicks from the very end of the alphabet. I hereby declare you Generation A, as much at the beginning of a series of astonishing triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago."
— Kurt Vonnegut, Syracuse University commencement address May 8, 1994
A brilliant, timely and very Couplandesque novel about honey bees and the world we may soon live in. Once again, Douglas Coupland captures the spirit of a generation....
In the near future bees are extinct — until one autumn when five people are stung in different places around the world. This shared experience unites them in a way they never could have imagined.
Generation A mirrors 1991's Generation X. It explores new ways of looking at the act of reading and storytelling in a digital world.
From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: Random House of Canada


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Mar 31, 2012

I'm surprised the rating isn't higher on this book, but I think some people seem to have missed the point. This is not a book against drugs or pharmaceutical companies or natural disasters. Those merely provide the backdrop into exploring the book's main themes, notably about people's dependency for electronics cause a rift between human communication, the importance of language, books, and storytelling, and the fragmentation and disunity of people, to the point where we value solitude more than anything else. Particularly the last point, I feel like this book is even more relevant than ever, what with cellphones, ipods/ipads all creating a bubble around us. This book is not so much about the mystery of the bees as much as the parallels of bees to humans, and the warnings to and about humanity.

This is my first Coupland novel, and I was very engaged in the storytelling and the mystery of the plot. The writing and structure is interesting, and it works fairly well, although the voices do echo traces of each other (which, conveniently, I suppose, is the point though). Looking forward to my next Douglas Coupland read!

Dec 24, 2010

Douglas Coupland is in fine form with this highly intriguing futuristic novel of a techno dystopian future. Darkly humourous and thought provoking.

Nov 09, 2010

Apart from a few good quotes, this is an amalgam of crazy characters with unlikely traits living outlandish scenarios. And for what? Yet another diatribe against large pharmaceutical companies, human greed, ecological disasters? Themes du jour to be sure, but they've been treated by others and in a much more comprehensive and creative way. This book just bored me. Only Harj grabbed my attention, but he alone could not save the book.

Jun 04, 2010

This is a really great idea for a book: years after bees have been declared extinct, 5 people in separate parts of the world are stung. Scientists gather these people together to study them and determine what they have in common that might have attracted the bees. Could have been brilliant, witty, and thought-provoking. It was instead silly and shallow. I only hope that the same thing happens to this book as happened to the one Yann Martel based Life of Pi on, that a really good writer reads the summary and creates something amazing from the bare bones of a mediocre novel.

sit_walk May 17, 2010

It's a clever book but seems annoyingly aware of its cleverness. Almost seems like a pastiche of "neat" ideas.

Nov 30, 2009

This is the 68th of a series of titles selected by writer Yann Martel to provide to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to encourage an appreciation of the arts and literature in particular in the PM, and to also help Harper with his stillness and thoughtfulness. Martel has regularly sent books from a wide range of literary traditions to Harper. Martel has devoted a Web site to the reading list and his kind, considered and often poignant covering letters with each volume. (All of his letters can be read at They are also now in printed form, in a book entitled, not surprisingly, What is Stephen Harper Reading? )

Martel's thoughtful persistence in this quest, started in April 2007, is both heartwrenching and highly commendable. He has never received a direct acknowledgement from Harper, and only some fairly form-letter responses from Harper's staff. He has also received a response from Industry Minister Tony Clement, but it wasn't directly related to any of Martel's book selections.

Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland is noted for works that unabashedly embrace the culture and pop culture of the times in which he creates. As well as writing, he also captures those times through his talents and background as a designer and visual artist.

Nov 21, 2009

Not Coupland's finest.
It may be an "updated" Gen X in setting but lacks a decent story. Good beginning but fades half way through.

dreadful74 Nov 06, 2009

Had potential but falls flat in the last few chapters. Still better then the Gum Thief. Stick with J-Pop but not the gawd awful TV show.

Oct 12, 2009

In Coupland's future, bees have gone extinct. Human diets have changed quite a bit, since so many plants depend upon bees for pollination. Hand-pollinated apples command exorbitant prices, when they are even available. People eat a lot of potatoes and wind-pollinated plants like corn.

Except that corn has its own problems. We are introduced to Zack in his Iowa cornfield, driving Maizie, "a harvester so luxurious it could shame a gay cruise liner." Zack's concern is not harvesting efficiency because "the whole crop was contaminated with some kind of gene trace that was killing off not bees (a thing of the past) but moths and wasps." So he is creating a ten-acre masterpiece design chopped out of cornstalks, using real-time satellite feeds to keep track of his work. And then he is stung by a bee.

Four other people around the world get stung shortly afterwards: Harj in Sri Lanka; Julien in Paris; Diana in North Bay, Ontario; and Samantha in Palmerston North, New Zealand. I was tickled to see that Coupland used kiwi slang when he was writing in Samantha's voice - 'Palmy' for the name of her town, and 'crikey dick' to express her exasperation. The five end up in a remote location together, being studied. They are one of the Haida Gwaii islands, in the temperate rain forest of British Columbia. "Within that forest, from all directions - up, down and sideways - life squished out like a Play-Doh Fun Factory."

A clue is given early on as to what might be happening to the five stingees, when a French scientist tells Julien (regarding the human frontal lobe not yet being completely developed at his age, 22: "nature gives young people fluid personalities because society would otherwise never get soldiers to fight its wars. Young people are still capable of being tricked by idiotic ideas."

Coupland covers some of the same ground as Margaret Atwood in The Year of the Flood: the natural world gone awry with scientific tinkering and a drug that is globally popular. His humour is more ebullient than Atwood's, however. I giggled often while reading. When Samantha returns home after having been in isolation for weeks, she says, "A reunion is always nice, so please insert some generic welcome-home family greetings here." (I think Coupland stole that idea from Nicole Brossard in Yesterday at the Hotel Clarendon, but it was way funnier in Coupland's version.)

The title comes from a university commencement address given by Kurt Vonnegut in 1994. "Now you young twerps want a new name for your generation? Probably not, you just want jobs, right? Well, the media do us all such tremendous favours when they call you Generation X, right? Two clicks from the very end of the alphabet. I hereby declare you Generation A, as much at the beginning of a series of astonishing triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago."

The first part of Generation A is definitely the strongest. I was not sure how I felt about the ending, so I've taken a few days to think about it before commenting. I've decided I like it in its entirety.

Sep 14, 2009

Great book, defiantly one of Douglas Coupland's great ones.

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