Douglas Coupland's JPod
I have been a pretty solid fan of Douglas Coupland’s work over the years, especially novels like Generation X, Microserfs and Polaroids from the Dead. I was excited to finally pick up JPod to revisit the world of high-tech workers through his eyes. Unfortunately, this one fell flat for me.
JPod is the story of six people who work for a company manufacturing video games. Their office space is known as JPod because the last name of all the people working in the pod is “J.” (Except for one person who they all feel was placed there by mistake.)
The novel works at its best when it’s telling the story of these quirky people dealing with their quirky bosses and the quirky politics at work, which revolve around a skateboarding game that manages to morph into a medieval quest-type game. (I’m sure this all speaks to me a bit more since I’m working in a tech division.) Some of the novel’s subplots, such as a Chinese gangster who befriends all of them and tales of their dysfunctional parents, are okay too.
Where the novel lost me, and became truly annoying, is that Coupland made himself a character in the book. At first the JPoders were just discussing Coupland and his novels and how they would probably be in his novels. Okay, that was a cute little wink-wink sort of thing. But then Coupland actually turned up in the book too and played a pretty large role in how the book ended. That was just too much for me, and the whole thing came off as pretentious and tainted the book for me.