In 1991, Douglas Coupland burst onto the literary scene with the groundbreaking Generation X, a novel that brilliantly captured the minds and imaginations of those who stepped tentatively across the threshold of adulthood in the late 1980s. Now, nearly 20 years later, Coupland revisits the generational divide, this time focusing on the pressures and insecurities looming on the horizon of the 21st century.
Generation A uses the same framed narrative style as its predecessor; five disenfranchised 20-somethings—all trying to find their place in the world—unfold their individual stories through alternating chapters. They are scattered across the globe, unaware of each other’s existence until the unthinkable occurs, irrevocably linking them to one another: they are each stung by a bee. In Coupland’s vision of the future, bees have long been extinct, so getting stung by one is not just something to blog about, it’s worthy of attention from the National Guard! All five Wonka kids (as they call themselves) are rushed into isolation where they are scrutinized and studied for several weeks before finally being released back into the wild without any explanation. Soon an undeniable pull causes them to seek one another out, eventually uniting on a small island where their narratives slowly begin to merge as they piece together not just what has happened to them, but more importantly, why.
Within the first pages of Generation A, readers will realize that they are in the hands of a master, that they have been gifted with something more lofty and ambitious than the average work of fiction. Coupland playfully exposes the contemporary contradictions that plague us: in the era of Twitter and mass communication, as we play exhibitionist and voyeur on a global stage, how is it that we feel more isolated than ever? Where can genuine human connections be found, or are they a thing of the past?
A piercing analysis of our modern society, Generation A is exhilarating and insightful, bubbling with wit and verve. Readers who are willing to brave Coupland’s literary pyrotechnics and unconventional exercises in style will be richly rewarded with a thoughtful and mind-bending analysis of what makes us tick. Coupland is better than ever, and Generation A is certain to thrill readers of every generation.
Stephenie Harrison writes from Nashville and now considers herself part of Generation A.