Saturday, November 20, 2010

Player One: What Is To Become of Us by Douglas Coupland (2010 Massey Lectures)

"Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die."
So say the characters in Douglas Coupland’s Player One: What Is To Become of Us, the 2010 Massey lectures, which were given as a five-part fictional story for the first time.
Player One was a good (almost great) but not quite excellent, exploration of human frailty and behaviour during a cataclysmic event. The story focused on four people in an airport hotel bar and their hopes and fading dreams. Coupland also tries to explore ‘what will become of us’ through bringing in technological developments, present and future, and how people are reacting to them. He also does this through one character but mainly through giving her cognitive ‘deficits’ like the inability to recognize and differentiate faces (prosopagnosia), atonality (laughter is a negative sound to her) and behaviours similar to autism. I appreciated the science, but it is unfortunate it had to be achieved in that way. Similarly, I thought he didn’t go far enough with the futuristic musings because there is a lot to explore. Currently, the line between sci-fi and actual technological research and development is often blurry.
For comparative purposes, here is the info paragraph from CBC that described the lectures:
In an airport lounge in the very near future, four people are marooned when a kind of apocalypse strikes. Sealed in, the four can only talk to each other, examining their lives and the meaning of love. Thick ash falls from the sky. Cell phones don't work. What is to become of us? In the tradition of Kurt Vonnegut and J.G. Ballard, Douglas Coupland locates his story and characters in an extreme situation and then pushes the implications as far as possible.
I thought the narrative style was fine, each of the four people described events in turn, but from third person omniscient instead of just first person like in Hornby’s A Long Way Down. There was a fifth voice, “Player One” but I thought this was not as well as executed as it could have been. My expectations were a little high, too.
Is it worthwhile? Yes. Fiction is probably a great way to expose non-sciencey people to these ideas. Go have a listen or read and let me know what you thought.


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