Reviews: J Pod

J Pod - The Novel

Douglas Coupland's J Pod, above all else, is kind of irritating.

The book is a sort of love letter to geekdom. The main characters are all computer programmers for a video game company, though they prefer to spend their office hours thinking up their favourite Simpson quotes or having inane discussions about Ronald Macdonald. The problem is that they aren't always convincing. A geek is someone who obsesses over all the obscure details of pop culture/technology, but Coupland's nerd protagonist, who refers to films/sitcoms/science all the time, has a jarring habit of getting things wrong.

At one point, he is reminded of "the knife throwing, Asian henchman from Goldfinger", though anyone who will have seen that film will correctly recall that the henchman throws hats. Another occasion, he describes the temperature outside of an airplane precisely, in "degrees Kelvin". The error being that any science geek worth their salt knows that you shouldn't say "degrees" before "Kelvin". Finding these errors is a little off-putting, and it makes the characters less plausible. Yes, an ordinary person can make mistakes, but a true geek should not be screwing up his film/science references.

Characterisation aside, the most annoying feature of J Pod is the way in which every Post-Modern gimmick is chucked in. Chapters aren't represented by titles, but by random words, like the ingredients to pharmaceutical products. Occasionally the protagonist will rant, stream of conscious style, for a few pages. Another time, Pi was quoted to several thousand decimal places. Finally, the author (Coupland) stars as a character in his own book. I felt like I had already seen these tricks used elsewhere, so I wasn't especially impressed by all this. I can imagine why Coupland was putting them in (to show how these "slightly autistic" characters are overloaded with information) but I don't feel they were necessary.

Finally, I just didn't find the book all that funny. The occasional funny jokes did not make up for all the pretentious post-modernism and meta-fiction, nor the flimsiness of the plot. Don't bother with this one folks.