Tag Archives: Douglas Coupland

Impressions of “Kitten Clone,” by Douglas Coupland

Kitten-Clone by Douglas Coupland

Depending on your age and interests, you may know Douglas Coupland for

popularizing the term “Generation X” (1991)
his detailed, and thinly fictionalized, novel of Microsoft two decades ago (1996)
his detailed, and thinly fictionalized, novel of EA Sports Vancouver last decade (2007)
His gallery show, Everywhere is Anywhere is Anything is Everything

Kitten Clone combines Generation X’s feeling of being alive after the major events happened, Microsofters & jPod tech sensibility, and Everything’s pop sensibility.

“Kitten Clone” is also interesting, because it completes the histories of Bell Lab’s I’ve written.

Crystal Fire, which I reviewed in 2009, took place in an era where Bell Labs was a scientiifc powerhouse
Life in the Crown Jewel, which I also reviewed in 2009, the first-person account of a corporate official who helped implement many disasterous reforms
and Optical Illusions, which I reviewed in 2010, about the acquisition by the French

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But the wheel keeps turning. Alcatel-Lucent, the purchaser of Bell Labs, has been purchased by Nokia for $16 billion.

And this knowledge, that Kitten Clone is a snapshot of life after Bell Lab’s greatest but not in the after-after Nokia era, is what makes the book moving.

Oddly, near the end, are two paragraphs that relate strongly to Pope Francis’s Laudato Si. Coupland has a gift of writing about right now, whether right now has just happened or is just about to happen:

After leaving Chen’s office, I experienced time sickness as though I really have wormholed into the future. A few hours later, I’m at a dinner in a glass tower above the Bund [in Shanghai], a trillion dollars worth of real estate and LED lighting that blows Tokyo into the weeds. The steaks are from Argentina and cost $100 apiece. There are thirty different kinds of single-malt scotch. The restaurant’s air is cool and fragrant, but the air outside the window is boiling and muggy and has that slightly damaged feeling, like when you see a big car with a large dent in it that makes you wince and say, “Ow.”

“As I sip my drink, I look out the windows toward the power plants that are burning the coal from British Columbia that fuels the air conditioners and elevators and routers and switching devices and laptops and mainframes and hard drives and cell rechargers of Shanghai. The sky is chalked white from particulates, but the glowing skyscraper walls make the sky look like pink water milk.

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Kitten Clone is high detailed, impressionist, echoing with nostalgia, echoing with the future, echoing with the now.

Short Impressions of “JPod” by Douglas Coupland

I don’t know if Douglas Coupland changed my life. If not, he came close.

Douglas Coupland is the author of Microserfs, a fictional tale of life at Microsoft in the mid-1990s. I had to have read Microserfs before December 1998, because according to my Amazon’s history that’s when I read Coupland’s Girlfriend in a Coma. I read Microserfs, and wanted to be with those people, to know those friends, to live that life.

Now I work there.

JPod is an update that takes place a decade later and two hours to the north, in Vancouver, British Columbia. JPod is not a copy of Microserfs, but the books definitely ‘rhyme.’ JPod also takes place in the world after the 9/11 attacks, which are never directly mentioned, but appear to lurk behind the surface. Microserfs was a work of techno-optimism, and ends with the what might be the most moving description of transhumanism I ever read. The world of JPod is subtly darker and more violent.

We no longer live in a world where the young do not have a war to support, oppose, and think about. They now have too many.

But JPod’s tone is funny, the antics more absurd than in Microserfs, and follows a stream-of-consciousness style. There’s plenty of geek humor too — if a technical manual that identifies .cpp (C++) files as “containing information about films that won an Academy Award” is hilarious, this may be the book for you.

JPod is recommended for fans of Douglas Coupland and Microserfs.