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Book Review: JPod by Douglas Coupland

Posted in Book Reviews, Games, Programming and Software Development, Technology by engtech on November 15, 2006

Jpod is the sequel (in spirit) to Microserfs. The mid-nineties fast forwards to the mid-naughts and our protagonists switch from being monolithic Microsoft serfs in Seattle to serfs for a large game company in Vancouver. The title is a clever marketing ploy; it has nothing to do with Apple/iPod. JPod refers to the cubicle the six protagonists share. The tagline used in the marketing campaign is “Generation X-Box,” another blatant product alignment to sell more books.

Is JPod proof that Coupland has sold out?

He does his usual take of channeling the cultural zeitgeist to root the characters in a place and time. Set in the near-present day, this is probably the closest I have identified with his characters. While I haven’t programmed for games in years, I remember what it was like. Although, my life isn’t nearly surreal enough to fit in with the troop at JPod.

I especially enjoyed his moments of describing cube culture, and the incredibly bone-headed decisions that can come down from management at the last minute to take an interesting product and make it irrelevant. Other common tech memes are present like how geeks are all mildly autistic.

How do you tell an extroverted engineer from an introverted engineer?

An extroverted engineer looks at your shoes when he’s talking to you.

I found myself laughing aloud at the absurdity of the plot. Coupland still writes from the view of that era, but with JPod he’s released the shackles on his creativity. He’s out to tell a story and plausibility comes second; the reader is along for the ride. The novel begins with a shared event between our hero Ethan and his mother that is completely unexpected, and definitely outside the norm. But maybe that’s just what life is like in British Columbia.

Another unsuspected surprise was that Coupland takes potshots at himself in the third person. The characters live in a culture where they’re familiar with Generation X, and have a low opinion of the writer.

I enjoyed JPod at least as much as Microserfs, if not more because of the absurd humour that I really dig. It was one of those page turners I finished in two days only because I had to sleep. If this is Coupland selling out, I wish he’d done it sooner.


Favorite Quotes

There were enough of them that they deserved their own page.

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  1. […] Book Review: JPod by Douglas Coupland […]

  2. Tech Talk with engtech « Beats Entropy said, on November 29, 2006 at 8:22 pm

    […] Apparently, I know how to read. Check out my review of JPod by Douglas Coupland (favorite quotes) and Flow. […]

  3. dandavies23 said, on December 10, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    I thought J-Pod was great. After the heavily melancholic trilogy of Girlfriend In A Coma, Hey Nostradamus! and Eleanor Rigby I was delighted to find that he’d gone back to his zeitgeisty best. I was lucky enough to interview him a few years ago. I agree with you about the almost slapstick plot lines (best since All Families Are Psychotic) If you get a chance have a read on my site – are asure you he wasn’t the tosspot as he portrays himself as in Jpod!

  4. engtech said, on December 11, 2006 at 1:15 am

    It’s definitely a great book. One of those stay-up-all-night to read it books.

    Here’s a direct link to your interview:

  5. […] Book Review: JPod by Douglas Coupland […]

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