Tuesday, May 09, 2006

#38 - JPod

Douglas Coupland's latest book, JPod, quite a long one by his standards at 528 pages, might possibly just be one of the funniest novels I've ever read. The "JPod" of the title refers to the workspace of Ethan Harrison Jarlewski where he toils away until all hours of the night for a gaming company in Vancouver. He fills each day with absurd challenges, which means doing as little work as humanly possible, getting caught up in the crazy world of online, and programming a game that management seems dead set on ruining with the latest marketing buzz and chasing the "hip" dragon.

Throw in Ethan's crazy family, his pot growing mother and almost-working actor father, couple this with a cast of supporting characters that include his fellow podmates, mix in a strange group of non-friends from the criminal element of the Vancouver underground and come across an "evil" Douglas Coupland, and you've got a racing, urgently satirical, and immensely enjoyable novel.

Filled with pop culture references and staggeringly real in terms of how it portrays life in an interactive chop shop, JPod barrels along from one insane situation to the next, and as crazy as it gets, Ethan seems to take it all in stride. I don't want to give away too much of the plot of the novel. It's both perfectly absurd and ridiculously intelligent at the same time. And to give even a hint of the whirlwind insanity between the covers isn't worth it—it's a book you've got to experience not knowing what's coming. It's that good.

I've never read anything that so thoroughly captures the idea of working in an online environment (even though Ethan's a gamer—I'm calling him a kindred spirit) under ridiculous bosses on crazy projects that take up massive amounts of your time, and then someone makes a daft decision that derails everything and you've got to start all over again. Put all of this together and once you pick up the book, I'd challenge you to be able to put it down.

There's a cute site for the book, as well as an amazing interview with his publisher, if you're looking for more info.

No comments: