Book Review: Player One: What is To Become of Us, A Novel in Five Hours by Douglas Coupland

When I came across Douglas Coupland’s Player One in our Literature section, I was certain it was a mistake. I only knew Coupland for his science-fiction works, and was completely unaware that he had a CBC Massey Lectures side to him. It was this shocking (to me, at least) departure from his most popular genre that lead me to purchase Player One.

A novel in five hours, Player One is a real-time story taking place within a seedy airport cocktail-lounge. Inside the lounge are 5 vastly different people, and outside the lounge, the world is ending. This story proposes that our world, which has taken millennia to evolve, devolves almost completely in just 5 hours. For these 5 desperate people, these hours will prove to be the most enlightening hours of their lives. While the world around them comes to an end, the characters of Coupland’s story slowly reveal the truth about themselves and how they see the world.

It would be impossible to not identify in some way or another with at least one of the 5 voices in Player One. Whether you see yourself in Karen, the single mother looking to find love; Rick, the beaten-down airport cocktail-lounge bartender who is desperately searching for a way to make himself new again; Luke, the pastor who lost his faith and became a fugitive; Rachel, the beautiful girl who is incapable of true human contact; or finally, the mysterious and omniscient voice of Player One, you will see more of yourself in this story than you would have thought possible. It is this personal sense of identification that fully hammers home the realizations that Player One brings you to.

Coupland’s voice is one reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut’s, and any fan of Slaughterhouse-Five will feel right at home in Player One’s universe. Just as Vonnegut so aptly managed to, Douglas Coupland forces his reader to examine the modern crises of our time, our society, and our own humanity. This novel posed more questions than it answered, which was sometimes frustrating, but oddly, the challenge simply became part of the reading experience.

Player One opened my eyes to what the back of the book suggests is “a new phases of existence as a species” and left me believing, without a doubt, “that there is no turning back.”

Reviewed by Jordan Stewart

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