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Fiction Satire


by (author) Douglas Coupland

Random House of Canada
Initial publish date
Jan 2007
Satire, Literary, Psychological
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2007
    List Price

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A lethal joyride into today’s new breed of technogeeks, Coupland’s JPod updates Microserfs for the age of Google.

Ethan Jarlewski and five co-workers whose names start with J are bureaucratically marooned in jPod, a no-escape architectural limbo on the fringes of a massive Vancouver game design company.

The six workers daily confront the forces that define our era: global piracy, boneheaded marketing staff, people smuggling, the rise of China, marijuana grow-ops, Jeff Probst and the ashes of the 1990s financial tech dream. jPod’s universe is amoral and shameless. The characters are products of their era even as they’re creating it.

Everybody in Ethan’s life inhabits a moral grey zone. Nobody is exempt, not even his seemingly straitlaced parents or Coupland himself, as readers will see.

Full of word games, visual jokes and sideways jabs, this book throws a sharp, pointed lawn dart into the heart of contemporary life. JPod is Douglas Coupland at the top of his game.

About the author


Douglas Coupland was born on a Canadian NATO base in Germany and raised in Vancouver, where he still resides. Among his best-selling novels are Generation X, Shampoo Planet, Polaroids From The Dead, Microserfs, Miss Wyoming, Hey Nostradamus! and Eleanor Rigby, altogether in print in some 40 countries. Coupland also exhibits his sculpture in galleries around the world, indulging in design experiments that include everything from launching collections of furniture to futurological consulting for Stephen Spielberg.


Douglas Coupland's profile page


  • Nominated, Scotiabank Giller Prize

Excerpt: JPod (by (author) Douglas Coupland)

"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.


“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’t yet 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 a skateboard ­game.

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, flirty smile, 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 a turtle?”

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 a biker?”

“Well, I didn’t mean to.”

“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."

Editorial Reviews


“Coupland is possibly the most gifted exegete of North American mass culture writing today. . . . JPod is without a doubt his strongest, best-observed novel since Microserfs.” —The Guardian (UK)

“Coupland explores the landscape of our rapidly globalizing culture like a tourist armed with a digital camera and a limitless memory card, taking snapshots of everything that catches his eye.” —The Vancouver Sun

“A first-rate novelist and observer of the contemporary scene.” —National Post

“[Coupland has] given us a rollicking good, larger-than-life read.” —Ottawa Citizen

“[Coupland] once again nails the zeitgeist of the age. . . . The best thing about JPod is its characteristic good writing . . . and its dark, unflagging wit.” —Calgary Sun

“Coupland is an accomplished and talented writer whose books are perennial bestsellers.” —Quill & Quire
“[JPod] is a work in which [Coupland's] familiar misgivings about life on the technological cusp are again invoked, but also one in which the skills he’s been developing as a novelist pay off, where his satirical streak and his social consciousness finally stop fooling around with each other and settle down together. . . . JPod is a sleek and necessary device: the finely tuned output of an author whose obsolescence is thankfully years away.” —The New York Times Book Review
JPod is a seriously funny book, . . . a rolling thunder of sustained comedy, first page to last, as it ends up, and skewers the shamelessness and amorality that define our era. . . . Coupland’s timing is impeccable: JPod is the right book at the right time.” —The Globe and Mail

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