There is usually one thing I can always count on when I pick up a new novel by Canadian author Douglas Coupland. And it is this: I never know what I’m going to experience, but there will be some things that will be familiar.
Player One, like most of Coupland’s work, concerns itself with the idea of stories. But this time there is a twist. Instead of being concerned with telling stories this time around, Coupland turns the focus more internally.
This time, Coupland wonders what it would be like if our lives became a story; what would happen if our lives became a series of instances in a plot. A heady concept for a novel, to be sure, and one that Coupland pulls off incredibly well.
The novel is divided into five chapters with each chapter broken down into five parts. Each of these five parts is told by a different person. Coupland has used the rotating narrative before, but never so effectively. In Player One, we meet the following:
Karen: A single mother looking for another chance at love (or at least lust) who is meeting an internet hook-up in a Toronto air port bar.
Rick: A down on his luck bar tender in the Toronto air port bar who has been trying to turn his life around (thanks to the promises of late night infomercials).
Luke: A middle aged pastor who has lost his faith completely. He is also a liar, a bit of a drunk and a thief.
Rachel: A cool blond number with problems of her own. After over hearing her father say that she isn’t human, Rachel has come to this air port bar in hopes of meeting a man who will impregnate her.
Player One: Little is known about Player One, but Player One knows everything…
The five people are thrown together when a global disaster brings the world crashing to a halt. Explosions boom through the air, people are being shot and chemical clouds are traveling through the sky.
Not knowing what else to do, the five strangers sit in the air port bar, hoping for safety and for some sort of salvation. But salvation, when it comes, will take one of them away forever…
My meagre plot summary doesn’t even come close to covering what happens in Player One. The novel ruminates on subjects such as religion, DNA, the art of the story, faith, pregnancy and death and that’s just within the books first pages.
What Coupland does so well is presents us with ideas that make us think in the form of a story. A few authors have tried this with dismal results, but for Coupland, the process seems to be natural. Instead of coming off as clunky, Player One instead is a lightning fast read where the pages turn themselves and you can’t wait to find out what happens.
Player One, What Is to Become of Us, a novel in five hours, is without a doubt one of the neatest, most inventive novels I have read in years. Perhaps one of the best books of the year. Don’t miss this book and get yourself a copy.
You won’t want to miss a word.