Short works

Books : reviews

Douglas Coupland.
Flamingo. 1995

rating : 2 : great stuff
review : 17 November 1996

A (fictional) group of computer geeks leave Microsoft, set up their own company, Oop!, in Silicon Valley, and 'get a life' in the process. Not SF as such, this journal of one of the crew shows how science fictional real life has become.

Witty, poignant, and hilarious by turns, the book is peppered with references to real computer companies, and crammed with brilliant one-liners, painting a vivid and detailed picture of what it's like to be a programmer. Set in 'real time' from the end of 1993 to early 1995, we watch the geeks grow from 'eat-code-sleep' hackers into adulthood (but with surprising little difficulty in their relationships). This could easily have been given an anti-computer treatment, but, refreshingly, although the characters grow, they don't grow 'normal': they stay weird, and don't lose their enthusiasm for all things technical.

A kind of cross between Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine, with a hint of Rudy Rucker's The Hacker and the Ants.

Douglas Coupland.
All Families are Psychotic.
Flamingo. 2001

Douglas Coupland.
Bloomsbury. 2006

rating : 6 : unfinishable
review : 27 July 2009

Microserfs was surreal, funny, clever, and affecting, and I loved it. I felt that, bizarre as their actions were, these people could actually exist, and I cared about them, and I enjoyed the weirdness of the style and the situations.

JPod is surreal, funny, clever, but silly, and it left me cold. We've moved away from the strangeness of geeks taken to extremes, to the strangeness of the world taken beyond extremes into silly inanity. Although written in a very similar style to Microserfs, this never gelled for me, and I gave up after about 200 pages. I enjoyed the cleverness, but there's only so much of that I can take without some more reason for reading. But if you liked Microserfs for its style more than for its story, you might like JPod too.