Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Player One by Douglas Coupland (4/5)

The back says: A real-time five-hour story set in an airport cocktail lounge during a global disaster. Five disparate people are trapped inside: Karen, a single mother waiting for her online date; Rick, the down-on-his-luck airport lounge bartender; Luke, a pastor on the run; Rachel, a cool Hitchcock blonde incapable of true human contact; and finally a mysterious voice known as Player One. Slowly, each reveals the truth about themselves while the world as they know it comes to an end.

I say: This is the first I’ve read by Coupland (for some inexplicable reason), but definitely not the last.

I’m not quite sure how to write this review because, to me, there are two sides to this book. On the one hand we have the actual story and the way it’s written, and on the other hand we have all of the issues that Coupland brings up.

If we start with the story itself, I found it intriguing. I rarely pay attention to the concept of "real-time" since I sometimes read fast and sometimes slow – also I didn’t read this in one go – but I can see why Coupland chose to write it as such; it illuminated what he was trying to say. Or, my interpretation of what he wanted to say. The way that all of these characters changed within the space of these five hours is amazing, mostly because it was so subtle for some of them. I really liked the fact that we got to be in each character’s head and see what they thought about each other and their situation and how that came to relate to themselves.

One thing that I didn’t like was the narration of Player One. At least not until the end. Prior to that it simply felt like Player One was rehashing what we already knew and then adding bits of information that was about to happen. I mean, it literally says ”what will happen next is” (p.42) and then there was an outline followed by us being brought back to the story and those exact things happening.

”I’m actually more of a ghost than a soul, but it remains to be seen when I got here and how it happened.”
– p 42

Having found out who/what Player One was I still see no reason for those little interceptions.

And on to the other hand, which was all the issues that Coupland brought up. I’m not even going to begin to discuss them (I like having those discussions in a forum where I can get a reply, rather than just typing them up) as I could go on for days and still not be done. What we’re dealing with is hardly anything that hasn’t been dealt with before and Coupland doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but I do like the way he did it. Of course (very presumptuous of me) we’re dealing with religion, society, identity, etc. and the most interesting thing in the novel (for me, at least) time – the very concept of time.

This is the type of novel that I rate higher due to the fact that it makes me think, rather than the storyline. Thus not saying that there was anything wrong with it, it’s just that I know that what I will remember about this are the problems/issues brought up and how I relate to them.

Favourite character was most definitely Rachel and her desire (or was that obsession) to prove that she was human.

Also, I liked the dictionary at the back of the book - it had a lot of useful (?) terms.


  1. Yay! I always love it when I find someone who reads and loves Coupland for the first time. This is the only book by him I haven't read (I do have it sitting there). I am actually a little jealous of what you have ahead. My favourites are probably Microserfs and Jpod (which are actually similar to each other).

  2. I love discovering a writer that's new to me and that has an extensive body of work behind him - it's worse when it's a first novel as I'll have to sit and wait for more.

    They have Microserfs at the library so I may start with that one - it sounds interesting (they all do). Looking forward to it. He seems to be the type of author that people either love or hate, from what I've read online.

  3. I know what you mean. I am extremely impatient when it comes to waiting for a new book. I'm a little one book behind Coupland just now.

    Yeah, I think you are right. Definitely a love or hate type author. I think some of his books don't date well though. I felt that way when I read his first book Generation X. Still enjoyed it though. All Families Are Psychotic is another good one.