Book choice for April 2011

Generation A [suggested by Rob Friedlander]

front cover

"Generation A" is not a sequel to "Generation X", and it grips from the start. Imagine a future where bees are extinct, but somehow five people around the world (USA, Canada, France, Sri Lanka and New Zealand) are all suddenly stung. Helicopters or military transport planes land, figures in hazmat suits step out, and the five individuals are taken away, drugged and bound if they struggle. When they come to they find themselves in research facilities, furnishings stripped of all brand identities, and each day they have blood samples taken, a computer generated voice talking to them in an accent of their choice, asking them questions about themselves. They are eventually released, but are soon recalled to an island off the coast of Canada and instructed to tell each other stories...

I found the first half of the book utterly gripping, wondering who the people were, how and why they'd been stung by a seemingly extinct species, and why they had been rounded up. I was a little concerned at the start of the second half as I thought the individual stories (not reminiscences, but short pieces of fiction) would drag and become repetitive, but this was far from the truth - they were all hugely enjoyable and incredibly created. What was the purpose of this though? Ahhh - it all comes together beautifully in the end, and any hints in this review would ruin the surprises. [abridged review by Peter Lee on Amazon]

Here as always is the novel's Wikipedia page.

About the Author

Douglas Coupland's career has been, contrary to initial glance, consistent and methodical. His ongoing focus has been on visual culture, writing, typography, popular culture, essay writing and technology.

Douglas Coupland is Canadian, born on a Canadian Air Force base near Baden-Baden, Germany, on December 30, 1961. In 1965 his family moved to Vancouver, Canada, where he continues to live and work. Coupland has studied art and design in Vancouver, Canada, Milan, Italy and Sapporo, Japan. His first novel, Generation X, was published in March of 1991. Since then he has published ten novels and several non-fiction books in 36 languages and most countries on earth. He has written and performed for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, England, and in 2001 resumed his practice as a visual artist, with exhibitions in spaces in North America, Europe and Asia.

2006 marked the premiere of the feature film "Everything's Gone Green," his first story written specifically for the screen. In 2007 Coupland's novel, jPod, was adapted into a series of thirteen one-hour episodes with Canada's CBC.

Coupland's biography of Marshall McLuhan was published by Penguin Canada in March of 2010. In October 2010 Coupland presented the 2010 Massey Lectures across Canada, coinciding with a published version of the lectures, Player One: What is to Become of Us.

Coupland has designed a Terry Fox memorial in Vancouver, to be unveiled in September 2011, and a national memorial for fallen firefighters, to be unveiled in Ottawa in 2012.

The above bio notes taken from his personal website. There's also a Wikipedia page of course.


Shortlisted for this month

Book selectors can bring one, two or three books for selection, although it's usual to bring three. This month Rob brought four, so we've ignored one of them. Here are the other two:

Carter Beats the Devil

Carter Beats the Devil

With romance, magic and science as its central themes, Glen David Gold's impressive debut Carter Beats The Devil is an inspired delight, a dazzling combination of fact and fiction. Charles Carter is given his stage name "Carter the Great" by the legendary Harry Houdini and the jazz age of the early 1900s is clearly well researched, yet the romance and strong cast of characters must owe more to the imagination than to history.

The novel begins in 1923 with the most daring performance of Carter's life. Unfortunately, two hours into the performance, US President Harding is dead and the magician must flee the country, pursued by the Secret Service. This is only an instalment in Carter's amazing life though as we are guided from his childhood, where both the family servant and a circus freak bullied him, to his rise to stardom and his eventual performance in front of the president. Subsequently, the protagonist is crippled by loneliness, widowed and hunted down by those who believe him a murderer and yet he rises again and again to delight and fulfil the highest expectations of his audience. The strong narrative and storyline make for a compelling read. And Carter is such a magical character that you cannot fail to be touched by him--loving whom he does and hating his enemies.


About the Author

Glen David Gold's Wikipedia entry, his personal blog (looking a bit unused these days), his website (just about the most minimalist website I ever saw), and finally an interview for Times Online. Be quick - it could disappear behind a paywall at any time!

Slavoj Zizek (Routledge Critical Thinkers)

Quite Ugly One Morning

We often talk about suggesting a non-fiction work, but nothing ever happens about it. Until now. Well done, Rob, even though it wasn't selected. The Routledge Critical Thinkers series is exactly what it says. A series, about critical thinkers, from Routledge.

Here's what their website says about the Slavoj Zizek volume:

Slavoj Zizek is no ordinary philosopher. Approaching critical theory and psychoanalysis in a recklessly entertaining fashion, Zizek's critical eye alights upon a bewildering and exhilarating range of subjects, from the political apathy of contemporary life, to a joke about the man who thinks he's a chicken, from the ethicial heroism of Keanu Reeves in Speed, to what toilet designs reveal about the national psyche. Tony Myers provides a clear and engaging guide to Zizek's key ideas, explaining the main influences on Zizek's thought (most crucially his engagement with Lacanian psychoanalysis) using examples drawn from popular culture and everyday life. Myers outlines the key issues that Zizek's work has tackled, including:

* What is a Subject and why is it so important?
* The Imaginary, the Symbolic and the Real
* What is so terrible about Postmodernity?
* How can we distinguish reality from ideology?
* What is the relationship between men and women?
* Why is Racism always a fantasy?

Slavoj Zizek is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the thought of the critic whom Terry Eagleton has described as "the most formidably brilliant exponent of psychoanalysis, indeed of cultural theory in general, to have emerged in Europe for some decades.

That's from this page. The rest of the series is listed here.

About the Author

As an academic author, Tony Myers is notable by his absence from any personal web pages or Wikipedia entries. He does have an Amazon author page though. Good luck with that.


Previous Months' Book Choices

March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
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November 2009
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