EBook Review: Player One: What is to Become of Us by Douglas Coupland

12 02 2012

Player One: What is to Become of Us by Douglas Coupland

House of Anansi Press

Pages: 256

Format: Nook EBook

Genre: Literary Fiction, Apocalyptic Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Player One, while not typical of type of genre novels I usually read, brings together an interesting apocalyptic scenario with a mesmerizing though exercise on the complexities of our species use of inner dialogue, and how events can change perspective. This novel impacted me personally on many levels, and definitely made me think of certain issues and philosophies from a new perspective.

Sometimes I find it interesting how you may discover a book. Recently, I have discovered many of the books I have read through blogs and social media, and occasionally, through a random Google search, or website on a specific genre. Recently, I was doing some research for my weekly "Welcome to the Apocalypse" series. I am working on various lists of Post apocalyptic fiction based on causality, like nuclear war, plagues, zombies, or some other catalyst for the end. One such topic I have been researching is Peak Oil and other petroleum related triggers to the apocalypse. I have read a few novels on this topic, including James Howard Kunstler’s World Made by Hand novels, as well as a bunch of oil related thrillers, like Black Monday by R. Scott Reiss. During my research I discovered a novel that I had never read or even heard of called Player One by Canadian author Douglas Coupland. Player One tells the story of five characters who are stranded in an Airport Hotel Bar during a crisis where the price of oil skyrockets leading to riots and terrorism. The story is told in real time from the overlapping perspective of the five characters.

I have to say right off the bat that Player One was nothing like I expected. I am not very familiar with Coupland’s novels, and went into the reading of Player One with my only knowledge of the work being what I read at the Barnes and Noble product description. I later discovered that Coupland wrote this book for as his contribution to a Canadian lecture series. While the narrative of the tale centers on the events at the bar, most of the story takes place within the inner dialogue of the main characters. Unlike most of the novels I read, where the inner dialogues of the characters pertain to the events around them, Coupland displays the five perspective character’s inner dialogue in total. As the world is breaking down around them, the characters are dwelling on religion, psychology, sexual politics, aging, and presenting their self doubts out like a meal for us to consume. It’s mesmerizing fascinating, and at times frustrating, but often it is full of beauty as well. What makes it interesting is that Coupland has basically chosen four seemingly mundane characters at a moment that has the potential to be a turning point in their lives, and one incredibly unique character named Rachel with a neurological condition that gives her an almost alien perspective on the world. As someone who has a loved one on the Autism Spectrum, I found Rachel’s perspective to be fascinating, and touching in an almost ironic way. Rachel is at the hotel bar on a quest to find a man to impregnate her, because she believes this is the only way she will achieve true humanity in her father’s eyes. In many ways she is the driving force of the tale, the control group of the thought experiment taking place with the other characters. At the end of each hour, a mystery character called Player One who works as a sort of omniscient narrator, wraps up the happenings and foreshadows the events to come. Player One, while not typical of type of genre novels I usually read, brings together an interesting apocalyptic scenario with a mesmerizing though exercise on the complexities of our species use of inner dialogue, and how events can change perspective. This novel impacted me personally on many levels, and definitely made me think of certain issues and philosophies from a new perspective.

As this is typically an audiobook review blog, with my print review I like to add my thoughts on the potentiality of an audiobook version of the novel I read. I think Coupland’s novel would have difficulties translating into audio form, but if it was, since most of the novel took place inside the heads of the characters, I think it would be important for a different narrator to handle each perspective character. In the unlikely chance that this book does become an audiobook, I would be highly tempted to listen to the audio version to see how the narrators would pull it off.

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