Video Games, Criminals, and Randomness

by chrislansigan

One of the most interesting and entertaining novels I have ever read, Jpod is one of those fictional novels that places much allusion throughout the pages of this five hundred page book. Written by Douglas Coupland, it is most interesting generally for its knack of breaking the rules of writing a novel page to page, with repetitive sentence structures. And by sentence structures, I mean the constant use of ink being jotted row after row filled with words. Jpod breaks the binds of traditional writing, by inputting abnormally large fonts that are completely irrelevant to the main plot on pages, sometimes even on multiple pages at once (the use of pie, for example). This creates a comical sensation that traditional novels don’t normally give, for the reader does not know what to expect to pop out into his/her face the moment the page is flipped to the next.

          Jpod has a city/suburban setting, taking place in multiple locations from an expensive home in North Vancouver, all the way to a SARS-ridden factory deep in China. The main protagonist, Ethan Jarlewski, is an average geek that works for a video game designer company, with a weakness of tumbling over and lending a helping hand to anyone that utters the word “help me”, no matter how law-abiding and degrading these tasks are. His fellow colleagues, all whose birth names start with the letter ‘J’ as well, are all as mentally “stable” as Ethan is, and I emphasize stable for the pure notion that autism is popular and practically invisible to these nerds. Other characters that are introduced, such as Ethan’s parents, Kam Fong the Chinese people smuggler and gangster, and Steve, are all coherent to the main plot, and add to the distress calls Ethan goes through page after page. Coupland inserts several characters in one book, mainly to show how people react to one another’s different personalities and ideals, such as Ethan (geek) towards his mother (drug dealer and murderer), which is a mixture of respect and confusion. These personality traits are explored through the many uses of allusion, which helps by putting certain characters in settings that they are not comfortable in, and seeing how they react away from their comfort zone.

The plotline itself is both plausible and questionable. One key fact is that Ethan seems to be on an awkward/non-negotiable streak when it came to family and friend problems. Ideally Ethan does what his instincts tell him to do and goes along and helps the people close to him, but in reality to the readers, he is merely depicted as a geek with not enough backbone to refuse. The events that take place are real events that do happen in Vancouver (drug-related murders, third-world smuggled people entering your life, rescuing an employee you don’t even like from the depths of China, etc.) but the chances that they happen all at once within such a short time are very low, and make Ethan’s life seem more exciting.

This novel is quite the exciting book to read, and if you’re the type that enjoys a little change from the boring, traditional novels and with a plotline  relevant to modern day problems, then this book is worth picking up from start to finish.

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