It turns out JPod is about as pointless and unbelievable as could be conceived, and maybe that’s the underlying statement. The characters lose themselves in fantasy, while their lives are beyond fantasy. The irony of wanting to replace yourself with something that is less bizarre. But that’s a lot of pages to get a simple ironic message across. The only real sad thing is that nothing comes close to the promise of the first two pages.
One thing that did amuse me was impossible to plan, and can only come from reading something years after it was written. They mention constantly the golden age of the 90’s, and they’re right, it was a golden age for tech. But the videogame industry of 2006 compared with 2012 must seem like a forgotten golden age itself. Most videogame companies haven’t even come close to their new worth in 2006 (check out Ubi-Soft’s or Nintendo’s stock history). It’s easy to do nothing on the job when times are good, you’re rising with the tide, and it provides the temporary environment for the characters unrelatable nihilistic attitudes.
Do authors intentionally make their characters unrelateable? It’s a hard thing to pull off, and something people like to try since Seinfeld. But that was a stroke of genius, or a fluke. I can’t understand why would anyone would want to. How does that motivate you?
In the end the book left me hating the concept of a videogame culture. Not games themselves, just the culture, or at least the one that’s portrayed in the book. It turns out there’s good reason to avoid mixing passions for literature and games.
He’s also ruined the name Kaitlin for me. I never minded it before, but now seeing it in writing makes cringe.
I have heard of JPod before. I realize it when the main character writes a bio about himself and says his favorite game is Chrono Trigger for the “Sony Playsation”. And I instantly think to myself, who the hell picks the Playstation version of Chrono Trigger? The main character is 30 in 2006, at that age there is no way your first experience with the game isn’t on the Super Ninentdo. And then I remember, I’ve heard this somewhere… this same critique of this same passage. At some point in my life I read an article pointing out the exact same ridiculous point.
He just can’t leave the poor game alone though. Later in the book when they are collecting drug money, he enters a house and a biker gang member is playing Chrono Trigger on “Sony Playsation”.
All I can think is, “No he’s not. That scenario has never existed in the history of the world.”
So this post is about a novel, that’s about videogames. But as I’ve been reading it I realize, not really.
Novels and videogames are perhaps two of my favorite things in the world. But I’ve kept them in separate universes. They felt like different parts of my psyche, and ones that I shouldn’t mingle. But I chose this book randomly. It sat alone, facing outward, on a stand at the library, lego figures and a catchy name- “JPod” on the front. I didn’t put it back when the slip cover told me it was about videogames.
Douglas Coupland must be somewhat famous. The first real line inserts him into the novel in way that would imply he is well-known. It came out around the same time as Brett Easton Ellis’s Lunar Park, so they both seemed to have grown the idea organically and independent of each other, but his insertion in the story doesn’t seem to be a metaphor. It’s like a form of name dropping, but for yourself. Still the name rings no bells with me.
All this being said, the first two and a half ramblings pages (followed by “$”s and “Ramen Noodles” printed over and over) that serve as a prelude before the book begins, are amazing. Perhaps the coolest thing I have read in years. But does two pages mean a lot? Yeah, I guess it kind of does, as it’s a bright spot that you can hold onto. The rest of the book remains decidedly uncertain for me.