So it turns out that I don’t love JPod as much as I previously thought. Sure, there was a completely genius part where our hero, Ethan, can’t quit his job because he’s been kinda-sorta-promised a promotion to assistant production assistant once he gets his art, programming, management and people skills up to the mark. And there’s also an all-too-realistic meeting in which an upper manager decides to add random new elements to a nearly-completed game because he thinks his kid will like it. (I was in that meeting, several times.)
But then Ethan meets a fictional Douglas Coupland, and even though it’s been foreshadowed since pretty much the first page, it’s a bizarre twist. There had been a couple references to Coupland novels before this, but mostly tongue-in-cheek moments as the plot raced along.
There’s a scene in Candace Bushnell’s One Fifth Avenue where Lola Fabrikant refuses to live anywhere besides the Village because that’s where Carrie Bradshaw lived. When she says this, Lola is moving from a McMansion in the suburban sprawl of Windsor Pines to an apartment selected and funded by her parents. This character couldn’t possibly be more different from Bushnell’s Carrie, and the moment is hilarious in context, even with a little wiggling of the fourth wall.
One could argue that it’s just as likely that tech hipsters in JPod would have read Coupland’s other novels as wannabe Manhattanite Lola would have read (or possibly, seen) Sex And The City. But the Coupland thing isn’t a tongue-in-cheek moment, it’s an entire subplot.
I felt like I’d entered an absurdist play or a was reading a freshman English writing project. What happens to the narrative if the writer is BOTH an unreliable narrator and himself? What happens when the writer is literally the deus ex machina in his story? Is this purely an indulgent ego trip or am I missing something?
Since I was less interested in Coupland writing about Coupland writing about JPod, and more interested in the JPodders, this was kind of a downer. After giggling and wishing I were ereading so I could share passages all though the first part, I found myself kind of skimming the sections about Coupland, and waiting for the story to improve.
Still, the first half of the book struck home for me, and I’m glad I read it for myself after hearing it called recommended reading for anyone who works on a merry team of weirdos making a game. Which pretty much describes my career.
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