Six J’s in Pod

by vincentnguyen07

Our narrator, Ethan, and his five podmates work for a Vancouver gaming company that’s early like Electronic Arts. Their pod is their team within the company: the half dozen of them thrown together more or less randomly by someone in human resources with a sense of humour: all of their last names begin with the letter “J.” Like the whale pods for which the workgroups in their company are presumably named, they form a sort of unrelated family within the company, spending almost all of their waking hours together in an effort to make it productively through their lives. “Life is dull,” one character writes, “but it could be worse and it could be better. We accept that a corporation determines our life’s routines. It’s the trade-off so we don’t have to be chronically unemployed creative types, and we know it.”(492)

Before page 30, we’ve met the JPoders and visited Ethan’s mom, who has a successful marijuana growing operation in the family home. She’s made an emergency call to Ethan at work because she’s accidentally electrocuted a biker who was trying to extort her into giving him a share of her crop. (“This is a grow-op, dear,” she tells her son placidly while explaining her predicament. “I’m not raising miniature ponies down here.” (21)) She needs her son’s help to get rid of the body. Ethan obliges and, by page 31, he’s back at the office. By the time Ethan and his mom have biker Tim ready for his cement shoes, we haven’t even hit chapter two. If there were chapters. Which there are isn’t any. There are streams of ideas offset by pages of prose punctuated by reams of thoughts seemingly randomly laid down and all intersected and connected and supported by the very strong story of Ethan, his coworkers and a family that runs on Microsoft software.

JPod is a pleasure book to read. Fifteen years after Douglas Coupland changed the way we viewed the world with Generation X, the author is still amazingly fresh and relevant. He nails more than the dialog of the early 21st century cubicle worker: he brings home the desolation covered in irony covering hopelessness that this sad new century has brought in with it. Though I don’t think a book exists that will please every reader, this is perhaps more true of JPod, if you follow. Coupland fans will be pleased by JPod‘s twists and turns and deceptively simple storyline. Serious readers might be absorbed by Coupland’s innovation and his inimitable style. But I can’t help but think that some readers will be offended and others will spend much of the book wondering just what the heck is going on. It’s not a book without risk. I can’t help but thinking that might be the point.

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