Douglas Coupland’s newest novel, Generation A, can be summed up by those simple and aged words. It is not our gizmos, gadgets, or social networking sites that create our identities, but the stories we create and hear. And the stories shared that make our communities. In age becoming increasingly technological and where technology is a part of almost every part of our lives, Coupland writes a story of brilliant social satire. In fact, he almost loses his readers in the beginning by making his characters fairly disgusting; to the point that most readers probably don’t finish because they may find it difficult to invest anything in them. They are shallow echoes/shades of the digital generation.
The plot is simple. Something (no one knows quite what) kills the bees on earth. But five bees commit suicide by stinging five different people (and separated by several thousand miles). Why the bees chose these people and what this event means is the focus of scientists who collect the people for testing.
In part, Coupland is right. Technology has helped people become lost. However, its not just technology, but the desire to not attach themselves to any stated philosophy or religion. More so this generation chooses to be individualistic and create their own brand of philosophy and religion and to do this they choose to abandon everything else. A chain of personal experiences creates the meaning in life, so to speak. But through creating meaning from these expriences, one can easily lose themselves in the wash of artifical presences (created through digital environments) or thousands of experiences. With no guiding principle, it is easy to be stationary and thus desirable to live only in the present. Hence the appeal of Coupland’s alternate universe.
In the end, the story’s premise is not brand new, but his criticisms I have found to be thought-provoking. Most readers will be annoyed with the either the beginning, the end, or just the story in general, but this story is not meant to be read quickly. And if anything, the short stories scatttered throughout the end are fantastic and can be read alone.