Book review: "Jpod" by Douglas Coupland

Posted on January 18, 2008

Lately I've had a great string of luck in reading good books by good authors. Unfortunately, the string has run out. "Jpod" by Douglas Coupland is not-so-good book by a good author.

I know this because I read "microserfs" and thoroughly enjoyed it. The funny thing about that book is that I used the same concepts in my first book, "The Developers," but I didn't read the book until I was almost finished writing mine. I expected "Jpod" to at least be as good, maybe even better. But to my dismay, the best thing about the book is finishing it quickly.

Let's start with the plot. The plot is ... how do I describe it? Nearly non-existent. On one hand, I think of it like "Seinfeld," a show about people doing nothing. But at least in nearly very episode, there is some type of closure and consistency within the 20 or so minutes of viewing time. With "Jpod," Coupland seemed to bounce all over the place and eventually land in far-away places.

This oftentimes works in novels, but when you have to add yourself in as a main character, I have to draw the line. Why not use a famous celebrity? Why not make up a new character? There is no value in having the author as a primary antagonist in a story.

Something else that people appreciate in Coupland's works are his puzzles. There are numerous games in "Jpod," and I skipped all of them. I'll admit that some looked interesting, while others could have been created by anyone with access to the Internet. For instance, one of the games is to find a digit that was secretly inserted into the value of pi, which spans 10 pages in the novel. Do people really rack their brains attempting to solve these?

Coupland is definitely a good writer. I like his style and the way he weaves pop culture into his works. But I guess I'm just looking for something more than that in "Jpod." It's almost as if he tried to see how fast he could write it so that he could continue developing new pointless brain teasers.