Sunday, 10 June 2012

89/111 - Generation A by Douglas Coupland

Phew, it's taken me ages to finish reading this! I started it at the end of my holiday, and I'm about to go on another holiday so there will be some more books being read pretty soon, I hope.

I bought this just before I left Waterstones, I think. I was getting pretty into Douglas Coupland at the time and I still really enjoy reading his books. This was no exception. Although I do wish I'd had a little more time to dedicate to reading it solidly, as I think that would have made it flow a bit better for me.

It's a book set in the near future where bees have become extinct and the world is in a sort of crisis. Seven characters are drawn together as over a period of several months they are each stung by bees. This is such a significant event that they are immediately carted away to secluded locations so that they can be studied, in the hope that a discovery will be made that will bring back the bees from their extinction.

Even though the book was told from the point of view of seven different people, a lot of the time the narratives felt quite similar, which I guess is Douglas Coupland's voice dominating things a bit. But that's okay, he's got a good voice, so I don't mind.

The book had some central themes which I found quite interesting - one was the idea of your life being a story. The idea of a story is very ingrained in the way that we think on a day to day basis - things have a beginning, a middle and an end. In order to explain our lives and to get meaning from our lives, we are all constantly making up stories as we go along. At one point, one of the characters points this out and says that there's no real reason for us to react to our surroundings in the way that we do. For example, I could jump out of my window right now and that would be another part of my story, but because I am the one telling it and constructing it, I have decided to write this instead of any other of the billions of things I could be doing.

One of the scientists takes the group to an island and isolates them, and gets them to invent and tell stories to one another, as its thought that story-telling produces a special kind of protein which would have attracted the bees to this group of people. The stories that they end up telling are often about story-telling and finding meaning in your life through the construction of a story.

This universe also features a drug called Solon, which causes users to become addicted to solitude, and when they go through withdrawal, they resent having to care about or be around other people. It is described as the feeling of becoming lost in a good book, but multiplied by thousands, and past users never get over the craving for that feeling.

I'm a bit ill this weekend, so I can't really articulate why I found these ideas interesting or satisfying, but I did. So I'm going to leave it at that.

Next: Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

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