Previously, on Jpod…

by Amy Nguyen

Vancouver’s Douglas Coupland delivers in his fictitious novel: Jpod. A tale about six video game programmers whose last names all begin with the letter “J”, Coupland’s clever use of humor and wit make these ordinary people seem extraordinary. The flaws of the characters are exaggerated for comedic effect while the setting of Vancouver makes it easily relatable to readers. Filled with unconventional and almost unrealistic (yet, still hilarious) plot elements, Jpod approaches the border between novel and sitcom; which is appropriate because Jpod was produced as a short lived TV series.

Although lengthy, Jpod is an easy read and page-turner. With our protagonist, Ethan Jarlewski, we are taken on a hilarious journey filled with comedic detours. Things that could happen to normal people? Debatable. Ethan and his team are creating a turtle character to insert into their current project: a skateboarding game, yet finds that balancing his personal and work life a little chaotic. One day, Ethan’s mother calls for his help and unaware of the situation, Ethan shows up to find “the beefiest, scariest death star of a biker I’d ever seen”(23). When asked what happened, his mother responds that she “electrocuted him…he was trying to extort me into giving him a share of a crop…what an asshole”(23). Death is usually quite a big issue to the norm, but in Jpod, it is taken with comedic stride and Ethan simply just helps his mother bury the biker evoking a lighthearted atmosphere for the reader. We also find out that a computer glitch has resulted in those with the last names that start with a “J” to work together in a cubicle pod where there is no escape. The newest addition to Jpod, Kaitlin tries to resign, only to realize that the only way out is death – by helium, in the case of Marc Jacobsen that is. Readers find themselves not wanting to put the novel down, while the characters are bound to the cubicle, wanting to escape.

Another interesting component to the novel is with the formatting. Aside from the actual narrative piece, we get pages with huge font of various texts, including: shipping labels, Chinese writing, and pages and pages of pi. These strong visuals only enhance the experience of Jpod making it much more than just a story on paper.

From his mother running illegal operations, his over-achieving brother smuggling immigrants in his home, to heroin addicted Steve returning to Canada, there is never a dull moment in the world of Jpod.

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