In this latest novel from the poet laureate of Gen X—who is himself now a dangerously mature 36—boy does indeed meet girl. The year is 1979, and the lovers get right down to business in a very Couplandian bit of plein air intercourse: "Karen and I deflowered each other atop Grouse Mountain, among the cedars beside a ski slope, atop crystal snow shards beneath penlight stars. It was a December night so cold and clear that the air felt like the air of the Moon—lung-burning; mentholated and pure; hint of ozone, zinc, ski wax, and Karen's strawberry shampoo." Are we in for an archetypal '80s romance, played out against a pop-cultural backdrop? Nope. Only hours after losing her virginity, Karen loses consciousness as well—for almost two decades. The narrator and his circle soldier on, making the slow progression from debauched Vancouver youths to semi-responsible adults. Several end up working on a television series that bears a suspicious resemblance to The X-Files (surely a self-referential wink on the author's part). And then … Karen wakes up. Her astonishment— which suggests a 20th-century, substance-abusing Rip Van Winkle—dominates the second half of the novel, and gives Coupland free reign to muse about time, identity, and the meaning (if any) of the impending millennium. Alas, he also slaps a concluding apocalypse onto the novel. As sleeping sickness overwhelms the populace, the world ends with neither a bang nor a whimper, but a universal yawn—which doesn't, fortunately, outweigh the sweetness, oddity, and ironic smarts of everything that has preceded it. —This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Girls, memory, parenting, millennial fear — all served Coupland-style. Karen, an attractive, popular student, goes into a coma one night in 1979. Whilst in it, she gives birth to a healthy baby daughter; once out of it, a mere eighteen years later, she finds herself, Rip van Winkle-like, a middle-aged mother whose friends have all gone through all the normal marital, social and political traumas and back again…This tragicomedy shows Coupland in his most mature form yet, writing with all his customary powers of acute observation, but turning his attention away from the surface of modern life to the dynamics of modern relationships, but doing so with all the sly wit and weird accuracy we expect of the soothsaying author of Generation X, Shampoo Planet, Life After God, Microserfs and Polaroids from the Dead.
The eponymous heroine of Miss Wyoming is one Susan Colgate, a teen beauty queen and low-rent soap actress. Dragooned into show business by her demonically pushy, hillbilly mother, Susan has hit rock bottom by the time Douglas Coupland's seventh book begins. But when she finds herself the sole survivor of an airplane crash, this "low-grade onboard celebrity" takes the opportunity to start all over again:
She felt like a ghost. She tried to find her bodily remains there in the wreckage and was unable to do so.... Then she was lost in a crowd of local onlookers and trucks, parping sirens and ambulances. She picked her way out of the melee and found a newly paved suburban road that she followed away from the wreck into the folds of a housing development. She had survived, and now she needed sanctuary and silence.
She's not, of course, the only Hollywood burnout who'd like to vanish into thin air. Her opposite number, a producer of big-budget, no-brainer action flicks named John Johnson, stages a similar disappearing act. After a near-death experience, in the course of which he is treated to a vision of Susan's face, he roams the western badlands. And even after his return to L.A., Johnson is determined to unravel the mystery of this woman's fate.
Throughout, Coupland displays his usual gift for capturing the absurdities of modern existence. The distinctive minutiae of our age--junk mail and fast food, sitcoms and Singapore slings, and the "shop fronts bigger and brighter and more powerful than they needed to be"--come to vivid, funny life in this author's hands. And while Susan and John occupy center stage, Coupland is just as generous with his peripheral characters. A scriptwriter and his supernaturally intelligent girlfriend, a recluse who spends his evening generating Internet rumours--all manage to be blessed and cursed, numbed by their pointless existences but full of humanity when put to the test. Picture Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut collaborating on a Tinseltown version of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and you come halfway to grasping Coupland's brand of thoughtful, supremely funny storytelling.
Considering some of his past subjects--slackers, dot-commers, Hollywood producers--a Columbine-like high school massacre seems like unusual territory for the usually glib Douglas Coupland. Anyone who has read Generation X or Miss Wyoming knows that dryly hip humor, not tragedy, is the Vancouver author's strong suit. But give Coupland credit for twisting his material in strange, unexpected shapes. Coupland begins his seventh novel by transposing the Columbine incident to North Vancouver circa 1988. Narrated by one of the murdered victims, the first part of Hey Nostradamus! is affecting and emotional enough to almost make you forget you're reading a book by the same writer who so accurately characterized a generation in his first book, yet was unable to delineate a convincing character. As Cheryl Anway tells her story, the facts of the Delbrook Senior Secondary student's life--particularly her secret marriage to classmate Jason--provide a very human dimension to the bloody denouement that will change hundreds of lives forever. Rather than moving on to explore the conditions that led to the killings, though, Coupland shifts focus to nearly a dozen years after the event: first to Jason, still shattered by the death of his teenage bride, then to Jason's new girlfriend Heather, and finally to Reg, Jason's narrow-minded, religious father.
Hey Nostradamus! is a very odd book. It's among Coupland's most serious efforts, yet his intent is not entirely clear. Certainly there is no attempt at psychological insight into the killers' motives, and the most developed relationships--those between Jason and Cheryl, and Jason and Reg--seem to have little to do with each other. Nevertheless, it is a Douglas Coupland book, which means imaginatively strange plot developments--as when a psychic, claiming messages from the beyond, tries to extort money from Heather--that compel the reader to see the story to its end. And clever turns of phrase, as usual, are never in short supply, but in Cheryl's section the fate we (and she) know awaits her gives them an added weight: "Math class was x's and y's and I felt trapped inside a repeating dream, staring at these two evil little letters who tormented me with their constant need to balance and be equal with each other," says the deceased narrator. "They should just get married and form a new letter together and put an end to all the nonsense. And then they should have kids." --Shawn Conner, Amazon.ca
From Publishers Weekly
Coupland has long been a genre unto himself, and his latest novel fits the familiar template: earnest sentiment tempered by sardonic humor and sharp cultural observation. The book begins with a Columbine-like shooting at a Vancouver high school, viewed from the dual perspectives of seniors Jason Klaasen and Cheryl Anway. Jason and Cheryl have been secretly married for six weeks, and on the morning of the shooting, Cheryl tells Jason she is pregnant. Their situation is complicated by their startlingly deep religious faith (as Cheryl puts it, "I can't help but wonder if the other girls thought I used God as an excuse to hook up with Jason"), and their increasingly acrimonious relationship with a hard-core Christian group called Youth Alive! After Cheryl is gunned down, Jason manages to stop the shooters, killing one of them. He is first hailed as a hero, but media spin soon casts him in a different light. This is a promising beginning, but the novel unravels when Jason reappears as an adult and begins an odd, stilted relationship with Heather, a quirky court reporter. Jason disappears shortly after their relationship begins, and Heather turns to a psychic named Allison to track him down in a subplot that meanders and flags. Coupland's insight into the claustrophobic world of devout faith is impressive-one of his more unexpected characters is Jason's father, a pious, crusty villain who gradually morphs into a sympathetic figure-but when he extends his spiritual explorations to encompass psychic swindles, the novel loses its focus. Coupland has always been better at comic set pieces than consistent storytelling, and his lack of narrative control is particularly evident here. Noninitiates are unlikely to be seduced, but true believers will relish another plunge into Coupland-world.