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JPod: A Novel

Bloomsbury USA
May 2007
Reprint
  • Business, Work, & Money - Fiction
  • Humorous Fiction
  • Science & Technology - Fiction

JPod: A Novel Overview

JPod, Douglas Coupland's most acclaimed novel to date, is a lethal joyride into today's new breed of tech worker. Ethan Jarlewski and five co-workers whose surnames begin with "J" are bureaucratically marooned in jPod, a no-escape architectural limbo on the fringes of a massive Vancouver game design company. The jPodders wage daily battle against the demands of a boneheaded marketing staff, who daily torture employees with idiotic changes to already idiotic games. Meanwhile, Ethan's personal life is shaped (or twisted) by phenomena as disparate as Hollywood, marijuana grow-ops, people-smuggling, ballroom dancing, and the rise of China. JPod's universe is amoral, shameless, and dizzyingly fast-paced like our own.


JPod: A Novel Synopsis

JPod, Douglas Coupland's most acclaimed novel to date, is a lethal joyride into today's new breed of tech worker. Ethan Jarlewski and five co-workers whose surnames begin with "J" are bureaucratically marooned in jPod, a no-escape architectural limbo on the fringes of a massive Vancouver game design company. The jPodders wage daily battle against the demands of a boneheaded marketing staff, who daily torture employees with idiotic changes to already idiotic games. Meanwhile, Ethan's personal life is shaped (or twisted) by phenomena as disparate as Hollywood, marijuana grow-ops, people-smuggling, ballroom dancing, and the rise of China. JPod's universe is amoral, shameless, and dizzyingly fast-paced like our own.— The New York Times - Dave ItzkoffTo Coupland's credit, the technologically sophisticated but socially alienated universe that he anticipated in 1995 is an even more tangible and complicated entity in 2006 a time when people really do speak in regurgitated sound bites from "The Simpsons," and are labeled autistic simply because they are shy, and are granted preposterous job descriptions like being part of a "world-building team" when they possess little control over the world in which they live and that gives him license to revisit this territory in JPod.


JPod: A Novel Excerpt

"Oh God. I feel like a refugee from a Douglas Coupland novel.”

“That asshole.”

“Who does he think he is?”

“Come on, guys,focus. We’ve got a major problem on our hands.”

The six of us were silent, but for our footsteps. The main corridor’s muted plasma TVs blipped out the news and sports, while ­co-­workers in ­long-­sleeved blue and black ­T-­shirts ­oompah-­loompahed in and out of ­laminate-­access doors, elevated walkways, staircases and elevators, their missions inscrutable and squirrelly. It was a rare sunny day. Freakishly articulated sunbeams highlighted specks of mica in the hallway’s designer granite. They looked like randomized particle ­events.

Mark said, “I can’t even think about what just happened in there.”

John Doe said, “I’d like to do whatever it is people statistically do when confronted by a jolt of large and bad news.”

I suggested he ingest five milligrams of Valium and three shots of hard liquor or four glasses of domestic ­wine.

“Really?”

“Don’t ask me, John. Google it.”

“And so I shall.”

Cowboy had a jones for cough syrup, while Bree fished through one of her many pink vinyl Japanese handbags for lip gloss – phase one of her ­well-­established pattern of pursuing sexual conquest to silence her inner ­pain.

The only quiet member of our group of six was Kaitlin, new to our work area as of the day before. She was walking with us mostly because she didn’tyet know how to get from the meeting room to our cubicles. We’re not sure if Kaitlin is boring or if she’s resistant to bonding, but then again none of us have really cranked up our ­charm.

We passed Warren from the motion capture studio. “Yo! jPodsters! A turtle! All right!” He flashed a thumbs-­up.

“Thank you, Warren. We can all feel the love in the room.”

Clearly, via the gift of text messaging, Warren and pretty much everyone in the company now knew of our plight, which is this: during today’s marketing meeting we learned we now have to retroactively insert a charismatic cuddly turtle character into our skateboard game, which is already nearly ­one-­third of the way through its production cycle. Yes, you read that correctly, a turtle character–in askateboard­game.

The ­three-­hour meeting had taken place in a two-­hundred-­seat room nicknamed the ­air-­conditioned rectum. I tried to make the event go faster by pretending to have superpower vision: I could see the carbon dioxide pumping in and out of everyone’s nose and mouth – it was purple. It made me think of that urban legend about the chemical they put in swimming pools that reveals when somebody pees. Then I wondered if Leonardo da Vinci had ever inhaled any of the oxygen molecules I was breathing, or if he ever had to sit through a marketing meeting. What would that have been like? “Leo, thanks for your input, but our studies indicate that when they see Lisa smile, they want a sexy,flirtysmile, not that grim little slit she has now. Also, I don’t know what that closet case Michelangelo is thinking with that naked David guy, but Jesus, clamp a diaper onto him pronto. Next item on the agenda: Perspective – Passing Fad or Opportunity to Win? But first, Katie here is going to tell us about this Friday’s Jeans Day, to be followed by a ­ten-­minute muffin break.”

But the word “turtle” pulled me out of my reverie, uttered by Fearless Leader–our new head of marketing, Steve. I put up my hand and quite reasonably asked, “Sorry, Steve, did you say aturtle?”

Christine, a senior development director, said, “No need to be sarcastic, Ethan. Steve here took Toblerone chocolate and turned it around inside of two years.”

“No,” Steve protested. “I appreciate an open dialogue. All I’m really saying is that, at home, my son, Carter, plays SimQuest4 and can’t get enough of its turtle character, and if my Carter likes turtle characters, then a turtle character is a winner, and thus, this skateboard game needs a turtle.”

John Doe BlackBerried me:I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS

And so the order was issued to make our new turtle character “accessible” and “fun” and the buzzword is so horrible I have to spell it out in ASCII: “{101, 100, 103, 121}”

• • •

Back in our cubicle pod, the six of us fizzled away from each other like ginger ale bubbles. I had eighteen new emails and one phone message, my mother: “Dear, could you give me a call? I really need to speak with you–it’s an emergency.”

An emergency? I phoned her cell right away. “Mom, what’s up? What’s wrong?”

“Ethan, are you at work right now?”

“Where else would I be?”

“I’m at SuperValu. Let me call you back from a pay phone.”

The line went dead. I picked it up when it ­rang.

“Mom, you said this was an emergency.”

“It is, dear. Ethan, honey, I need you to help me.”

“I just got out of the Worst Meeting Ever. What’s going on?”

“I suppose I’d better just tell you flat out.”

“Tell me what?”

“Ethan, I killed a biker.”

“You killed abiker?”

“Well, I didn’tmeanto.”

“Mom, how the hell did you manage to kill a biker?”

“Ethan, just come home right now. I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

“Why doesn’t Dad help?”

“He’s on a shoot today. He might get a speaking part.”

She hung ­up.

• • •

On my way out of the office, I passed a ­world-­building team, standing in a semicircle, staring at a large ­German-­made knife on a ­desktop.

“What’s up?” I ­asked.

“It’s the knife we’re using to cut Aidan’s birthday cake,” a friend, Josh, ­replied.

I looked more closely at the knife: it was clownishly big. “Okay, it’s ­hard-­core Itchy & Scratchy– but so what?”

“We’re having a contest – we’re trying to see if there’s any way to hold a knife and walk across a room and not look psycho."

From the Hardcover edition.


JPod: A Novel Editorial Reviews

Dave Itzkoff

To Coupland's credit, the technologically sophisticated but socially alienated universe that he anticipated in 1995 is an even more tangible and complicated entity in 2006 — a time when people really do speak in regurgitated sound bites from "The Simpsons," and are labeled autistic simply because they are shy, and are granted preposterous job descriptions like being part of a "world-building team" when they possess little control over the world in which they live — and that gives him license to revisit this territory in JPod.
— The New York Times

Publishers Weekly

Coupland returns, knowingly, to mine the dot-com territory of Microserfs (1996)-this time for slapstick. Young Ethan Jarlewski works long hours as a video-game developer in Vancouver, surfing the Internet for gore sites and having random conversations with co-workers on JPod, the cubicle hive where he works, where everyone's last name begins with J. Before Ethan can please the bosses and the marketing department (they want a turtle, based on a reality TV host, inserted into the game Ethan's been working on for months) or win the heart of co-worker Kaitlin, Ethan must help his mom bury a biker she's electrocuted in the family basement which houses her marijuana farm; give his dad, an actor desperately longing for a speaking part, yet another pep talk; feed the 20 illegal Chinese immigrants his brother has temporarily stored in Ethan's apartment; and pass downtime by trying to find a wrong digit in the first 100,000 places (printed on pages 383-406) of pi. Coupland's cultural name-dropping is predictable (Ikea, the Drudge Report, etc.), as is the device of bringing in a fictional Douglas Coupland to save Ethan's day more than once. But like an ace computer coder loaded up on junk food at 4 a.m., Coupland derives his satirical, spirited humor's energy from the silly, strung-together plot and thin characters. Call it Microserfs 2.0. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews

Bored and zany computer programmers think of themselves as characters in a Douglas Coupland novel. The young video-game designers portrayed here resemble the nerds in Microserfs (1995), and their spokesman-narrator has relatives who recall the eccentrics in All Families Are Psychotic (2001). Assigned to the same corporate pod because their names end in "J," the Vancouver six hate the video game they're producing, called "BoardX," use their modest creativity in time-wasting foolery and decide to sabotage the game by encoding in it a crazed Ronald McDonald. Twentysomething narrator Ethan has "respite" from the laborious weirdness of work by tending to his wacky family-a ballroom-dancing father obsessed with having a speaking part in a movie, a marijuana-growing mother whom Ethan helps bury a body, a brother who sells mansions to Chinese gangsters. At one point, Coupland enters the novel as a character and contracts for the rights to the other characters' lives for, ultimately, this novel. The book itself has a game-like quality: Randomly scattered through the text in various formats and fonts are mock advertisements, quizzes, product placements, interviews and lists-many, many lists, including iterations of the number pi and 58,894 random numbers (both sets of lists go on for pages). It's hard to believe there are enough cubicle clones and bored gamers to give Coupland an audience, but it's even harder to imagine anyone else reading more than a hundred pages of this novel. "J" is for juvenile, jaundiced, joyless, jumbled junk.


Readers' Reviews


JPod: A Novel

Book Info

  • Book Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13: 9781596911055
  • ISBN-10: 1596911050
  • Edition: Reprint
  • Number of Pages: 464
  • Dimensions: 5.87 (w) x 9.43 (h) x 1.24 (d)
  • Approx Price: $8.09
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