Generation A is set in the near future when nearly all the bees have disappeared; the site of the last known active beehive has now become a UNESCO World Heritage site. Flowers have vanished and crops are failing. One day five complete strangers (the narrators of the novel) are stung in different places around the world - New Zealand, Paris, a cornfield in Iowa, Sri Lanka and North Bay - and are immediately taken into custody by security forces, isolated, and subjected to a barrage of medical tests as scientists try to figure out why they attracted the bees. Each of the five eventually finds out about the others and starts to make contact. And when they finally meet. . .
I can't write any more without spoiling the story and anyways, this has one of those plots that is impossible to summarize satisfactorily. Suffice it to say that if society read a little more, and used their blackberries a little less, we'd all be better off. This novel was just so much fun to read - it' s spot on about our obsessions with the cult of celebrity, the online world, video games, processed food, sex and shopping, and prescription drugs guarenteed to make us happy. How selfish and narcissistic and mundane our modern world has become; we desperately need to keep those bees buzzing! Here's a brief description of that malaise:
I hate the way our bodies move through the world, clip-clop, like beef marionettes. I hate how the world has turned into one massive hamburger-making machine, how the world is only about people now - everything else on the planet must bow to our will because there's no longer any other option. Fundamentalists rejoiced when the bees died out; to them it was proof that the planet exists entirely for and was entirely about people. How could such thinking not make you want to go out and vomit into the street?
That quote could almost have come out of Margaret Atwood's new dystopian novel The Year of the Flood, and indeed, it would be fun to read the two books back to back or compare them in a bookclub. They have completely different narrative styles and stories, but both authors employ their sharp satirical bite to chew on the damage we are inflicting on our world. Please recommend both books to teens as well - they are the generation that needs to pay attention.
And finally if you want to know whether Douglas Coupland thinks this
is the most attractive, evil or loneliest letter of the alphabet, or need full instructions on how to make the Earth Sandwich described in Generation A, or are just curious about his answers to a number of other challenging questions, check out this YouTube video.