three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
24-Sept-Oct-2006
user_rating: 
0

A-JPodIn an extension of the world of Microserfs (1995), 20-somethings Ethan Jarlewski and five other precocious engineers whose last names begin with J (hence their "JPod" cubicle) develop video games for a bureaucratic Vancouver corporation. But Ethan’s life is far from dull. As he struggles to please the marketing department by inserting an idiotic turtle based on a reality TV host into his fantasy game, he simultaneously courts a coworker, visits porn sites, addresses a Chinese immigrant-smuggling ring, and helps his marijuana-growing mom conceal a murder. Amid all this action, the JPod denizens compose love letters to Ronald McDonald.
Bloomsbury. 448 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 1596911042

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"The whole book is a very funny but an almost bitterly derisive indictment of Internet culture, with which Coupland obviously has a love-hate relationship. … It’s not for everyone; technophobes and readers detached from Coupland’s barrage of cultural references may not appreciate its nuances." Clayton Moore

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The postmodern intrusion of a character-manipulating Coupland character is disturbing in the wrong way, and the ending feels, well, manipulated. But there is brilliance at work in JPod. Not to mention more LOLs than you could shake a bong at." Kai Maristed

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It is a work in which his familiar misgivings about life on the technological cusp are again invoked, but also one in which the skills he’s been developing as a novelist pay off, where his satirical streak and his social consciousness finally stop fooling around with each other and settle down together. At times it reads like the textual equivalent of a 1980’s-era Nintendo game: a virtual playground where Coupland’s more irritatingly mannered habits run amok." Dave Itzkoff

USA Today 3 of 5 Stars
"Yes, subtlety still eludes Coupland, and his relentless riffing can be exhausting. … Perhaps it’s time to admire his virtuoso tone and how he has refined it over 11 novels." David Daley

Denver Post 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Sure, the novel can be a fun read, with its loopy interludes (like random quotes for the tech literate from video games, toy packages, websites, epic chain e-mails, etc.), bizarre characters and ripped-from-the-cubicle dialogue, but the gestalt is ultimately an unsatisfying assemblage of ungainly episodes tied together by an unlikable protagonist and his unfortunate band of underachievers. … [Jpod] just feels lazy." Eric Elkins

Oregonian 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Somewhere in these 450 pages there’s a good book, a commentary on how pop culture replaces genuine aesthetics, about the displacement of emotion for sensation. But for now, real life is definitely more interesting." Luciana Lopez

Critical Summary

Since the early 1990s Douglas Coupland has mined North America’s cultural milieu in books including Microserfs, Generation X, Shampoo Planet, and Eleanor Rigby ( 3 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2005), among others. Jpod contains the best and worst of Coupland. The novel offers brilliant commentary on global consumerism and Internet culture. Bizarre characters and witty humor captivated some reviewers. But others criticized the bombardment of cultural references, flat characters, meandering action (15 pages of prime numbers double as a game), and self-conscious insertion of the Coupland character. "If it’s more difficult to recognize the profundity of his insights this time," notes the New York Times Book Review, "we should still appreciate Coupland for his consistency in making them."