Friday, August 14, 2009

Douglas Coupland - Girlfriend in a Coma ***

After finishing what was apparently Coupland's masterwork, Microserfs (though I haven't read Generation-X yet) which I adored and reviewed here a little while ago, I immediately hit the bookstore again in search of the other book of his that I'd been kicking around buying for awhile as well: Girlfriend in a Coma.

Unlike Microserfs, the plotline of this 1998 release is not such a simple one. It's set in and around Vancouver, Coupland's home, and has to do with the end of the world mostly. And, like the first book I read of his, Hey Nostradamus!, it begins with narration from a character who is already dead. Which consequently also makes me want to buy Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, but I'm trying to save my money, dammit. Oh, also, there's a girlfriend in a coma. It's not just a Smith's reference.

What made Microserfs such a perfect book was its simplicity and its characters--just how real and full of emotion they were while doing the most banal things. The characters in Girlfriend in a Coma are certainly full of emotion, but the entire book is ramped up into the realm of science fiction. Not a bad thing, but it's harder to gauge just how "real" the entire thing feels when the entire plot is predicated on something unrealistic. It's not that I couldn't suspend my disbelief, it's just that the plot really drives this novel forward, not every day the interactions of the characters that shone so brightly in Microserfs.

Still, Girlfriend in a Coma is a damn fine and affecting book, but comparing it as I inevitably did with the book I finished just days before reading it was like comparing apples to slightly less wonderfully amazing apples. As wacky and unbelievable as it can get, humanity still does ring out clearly. So it goes with all good speculative fiction, or there would be nothing to speculate on at all. It would just be explosions and high-speed chases through the galaxy. Like a Michael Bay movie. Ugh.

I suggest the book highly, though not as high as I might some of his others. It's a little bit Vonnegut and a little bit Heller, with dark visions of the future and an inescapable fear of the unknown. Good all around, and a solid entry from an author who is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

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