Douglas Coupland: Player One [Review]

25. Juli 2013 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

I read this one in English, might as well review it in English.

Player One is an apocalyptic novel. Five strangers coincidentely meet at an airport bar. Karen, who very much evokes images of an average mother in my head. She dresses sophisticatedly, has a 15 years old daughter, is divorced and lonely. She traveld across the American continent just to meet up with Warren, who she got to know in some dubious chat room online. Warren is described as looking like a repeat-sex-offender. He walks into the bar, immediately places his hands on Karens tights and insists on calling her „Sunshine“ all the time, giving me the notion he simply forgot her name. On the other side of the bar there is Luke. Luke is a former priest, who just this morning lost his faith, stole all of the Church’s money he had served for and escaped to this godforsaken place. Behind the bar works Rick, who has been dry for the last fourteen months and is about to be hoaxed by some fake TV-life couch. Rick is excitedly looking forward to this. Across the room sits Rachel, who tries to get the bars computer to work and has some mild autism symptoms. She overheard her father doubting her being a human being; so she came to this bar to prove him wrong by the only way she can think of. By reproducing. And lastly, there is Player One, who is introduced as a ghost of a machine or Rachels avatar in Second Life. At the end of each chapter it gives an outlook onto the next chapter, therefore predicting the future of every person in the room.

All of this people are confined together when suddenly the oil prices explode. Power and water supplies stop, there are some explosions heard not too far away and people going crackers. It’s anarchy right away.

All of these things don’t affect the people in the airport bar too much. Phones, TV, radio and PC don’t work. The only way they can retrieve information about what’s happening is the ancient way. By listening to people coming from outside. So, for the most part, it’s dialogues and monologues.

The story tells the first five hours of the catastrophe. In each chapter every person gets to tell what’s happening from their point of view. I very much enjoyed reading the women’s perceptions and had great trouble to distinguish between the male characters. Luke, Warren and Rick are all facing a deep crisis in their life even before the world changing catastrophe stroke and have a lot of deep monologues – all very bitter and dark, talking about life and how meaningless individuality is. I’m not saying that it wasn’t interesting. It was very much so. They just had a very similar way of thinking so I constantly mixed them up, making me feel like Rachel, who can’t distinguish between faces. I also liked Player One as a neutral and outward spectator – it basically serves as a cliff hanger at the end of each chapter. It also confused me a bit. It is somehow connected to Rachel, it even merges with her, so how was it able to predict the future so accurately?

I personally liked the book a whole lot. When I first came across the title I though it would be about some video game or an online commonity. Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong, but I wasn’t disappointed nevertheless. If I had to criticise something: the last chapter „Future legend“ strikes me as odd. It lists and describes all kind of crazy theories and human condition of modern society (like Monophobia, Next-Flight-Homers, Lyrical Putty etc.). It kind of hindered me to let the awesome end sink in. I thought the chapter „Future Legend“ would actually tell something about circumstances a few years after the catastrophe. Instead I got a weird list. It’s remarkable of course; it’s just that I would have appreciated the last sentence of the story way more, if I hadn’t expected another chapter.

All in all, the book gets a big thumbs up from me and I highly recommend anyone to read it.

PS It was by the way Sanne (aka booksandquills) who called my attention to this book. Here goes her review. If you have time, check out her review too!

Douglas Couland: Player One. London: Windmill Books, 2010

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