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Jpod Paperback – June 4, 2007
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Already dubbed Microserfs 2.0 by some pundits--a winking allusion to Douglas Coupland's previous novel Microserfs, which similarly chronicled pop-culture-damaged twentysomething misfits flailing, foundering, and occasionally succeeding in the high-tech sector--JPod is, like all of Coupland's novels, a byproduct of its era and yet strangely detached from it. Only this time with a bold and very crafty narrative device: Douglas Coupland, novelist, is a character in Douglas Coupland's novel. Which, when you think about it, makes sense since the type of people Coupland depicts are precisely the type of people who consume Coupland novels. As the once-great comedian Dennis Miller might holler, "Stop him before he sub-references again!" Readers familiar with Coupland's oeuvre know what to expect with the characterizations here. They also know that Coupland on a roll is both savagely observant and laugh-out-loud funny: "Bree was showing someone photos of her recent holiday visiting Korean animation sweathshops. She was bummed because she couldn't get into North Korea: too much legal juju. [She said] 'I just wanted to know what it's like to be in a society with no technology except for three dial telephones and a TV camera they won from Fidel Castro in a game of rock paper scissors.'" Much of the book is like that, built on granular and meandering exchanges between characters about . . . stuff. While JPod's flow is hobbled by some preposterous twists and character traits and by random words, phrases, and numbers splattered gratuitously across successive pages in oversized typeface, it's hard to imagine Coupland fans walking away disappointed. --Kim Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Coupland returns, knowingly, to mine the dot-com territory of Microserfs (1996)—this time for slapstick. Young Ethan Jarlewski works long hours as a video-game developer in Vancouver, surfing the Internet for gore sites and having random conversations with co-workers on JPod, the cubicle hive where he works, where everyone's last name begins with J. Before Ethan can please the bosses and the marketing department (they want a turtle, based on a reality TV host, inserted into the game Ethan's been working on for months) or win the heart of co-worker Kaitlin, Ethan must help his mom bury a biker she's electrocuted in the family basement which houses her marijuana farm; give his dad, an actor desperately longing for a speaking part, yet another pep talk; feed the 20 illegal Chinese immigrants his brother has temporarily stored in Ethan's apartment; and pass downtime by trying to find a wrong digit in the first 100,000 places (printed on pages 383–406) of pi. Coupland's cultural name-dropping is predictable (Ikea, the Drudge Report, etc.), as is the device of bringing in a fictional Douglas Coupland to save Ethan's day more than once. But like an ace computer coder loaded up on junk food at 4 a.m., Coupland derives his satirical, spirited humor's energy from the silly, strung-together plot and thin characters. Call it Microserfs 2.0. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
After the obvious lag that was apparent in Eleanor Rigby, Coupland is back to his usual satiric, witty self.
Jpod follows the life of Ethan Jarlewski, a video game programmer that works with other colorful individuals in a cubicle farm they call "Jpod". There's not much of a linear plot to speak of. The story mainly jumps around between Ethan's involvement in his Mom's pot dealing escapades, his Dad's zest for trying for a speaking part in a movie by over-exerting himself as a lowly extra, and his brother's involvement with a Chinese people-smuggler named Kam Fong. All the stories interweave, and mixing the different stories together produces some outrageous exploits that are fun reading.
Coupland does insert himself as a character in the book, which I was worried about because it sounded unwarranted and pretentious. However, he played it out well, and only once did it feel forced. I saw a Coupland reading not too long ago in Austin, and he described his character in the book as an "evil, slick, James Bond version of himself". This characterization is pretty accurate and is why this portion works out the way it does.
Coupland inserts many examples of "text art" in the book. On one page there is nothing but the words "ramen noodles" over and over. Another is about 30 pages of random numbers. Others are random buzz words of our modern culture. At first this text art can seem unnerving, but once you realize that their purpose is to conjure images in your head to create a setting in time, you start to appreciate and even enjoy them.
All in all, JPod was a very enjoyable read. Without providing any spoilers, I will say that it was an accurate portrayal of our technology and efficiency obsessed culture. It is not preachy but written with a love for who we are. It was a relevant update from 1992's Microserfs.
First of all, if you liked Microserfs, you will like JPod. If you haven't read Microserfs...it's not entirely necessary to do so before reading JPod, but I would recommend it, if nothing else than for getting the full effect.
When the events in the book begin to become repetitive, Coupland merely inserts another set of textual jargon, numerical "geek games", or a clever turn-of-phrase, in order to keep the reader from losing interest. While novel in Microserfs, this technique comes off as lazy in JPod (though I found it helped me get through the book faster as I did not have to read it to keep up with the plot and could thus turn the pages faster). To make matters worse, Coupland inserts himself into the story, which may have seemed like a good idea during a heavy night of drinking, but should've been nixed by his editorial staff. It comes off as cheap and vain, and only adds to the reader's misery.
Readers should read this book, but only after it comes out in paperback...and can be bought by the boxful at the local Salvation Army for a dollar. Perhaps by doing this, the book will finally find its proper place in literary history- as kindling.
To end this review on a kind note, I recommend readers check out Microserfs, Generation X, and especially Polaroids From the Dead.
These texts were written when Coupland was in his prime and will fortify the reader prior to their decent into hell with JPod.
My comparison, Microserfs vs. JPod, in short? Microserfs, in my opinion, was Coupland's zenith of writing aptitude -- fresh and original with 'real' characters that many a geek could relate to. The microserfs made you want to care about what happened to them. The story actually went somewhere.
JPod? Stale as 3-week-old bread, artificial as Twin Equal 'sugar' packets, featuring two-dimensional unbelievable characters. Gone are the refreshingly all-too-human disillusioned "microserfs" with their witty repertoires and flat foods. They are replaced with JPod'ers -- dusky, gutter-mouthed and aimless, with their couldn't-care-less-about-anything attitudes. The result? We could care less about them. Coupled with an implausible, over-the-top, and insipid plot, it is a novel that evokes apathy and indifference. Coupland's frequent referrals (blatant plugs) to his other works of fiction, were uncomfortable and tawdry.
Not that there weren't any redeeming qualities in the book. The reader is treated to a few remaining bits of Microserfs-esque laurels -- the memoir-like narrative, the fun cubicle surveys ("if you were to sell yourself as an item on eBay...") and splash pages with binary, spam, and technical what-not. However, it was not enough to compensate for JPod's weak plot and characters, which ultimately made the novel uninteresting and difficult to finish. As much as I wanted to like it, I didn't. At all.
It was mentioned by a friend and fellow Microserf-aficionado that it's "harder for authors to write like disenchanted young people when they have been rich and famous for 20 years."
I agree 101% and couldn't put it better myself.
Most recent customer reviews
The sections with the jpod employees were funny enough, and I loved the parts about adding a hip turtle to the nearly-finished...Read more