Generation A by Douglas Coupland

Generation A by Douglas CouplandDon’t think this is an old book! This one is from 2009. But you might be thinking of his 1991 book Generation X. Yes, the titles are very similar but as far as I know (I haven’t read Generation X) the books are unrelated.

Generation A: What it is about

In a very near future, all bees are extinct. At least, so it seems. People can only eat self-pollinating fruits and vegetables (dandelion has become popular) as there are no bees to do the job for them. Only very rich people can afford hand-pollinated foods.

Then, in the course of a few weeks, five people on different continents are stung by bees. This is such a rare event that it becomes widely known almost immediately when it happens and helicopters fly in to take away the stung person.

They end up in a research facility where they are checked for all kinds of possible reasons why they were stung and for possible effects of the sting.

The five main characters (the people that were stung) alternately relate what’s happening to them.

The reader is kept in the dark for a long time about what is really going on, but so are the people that were stung. The story ends quite differently from what I would have expected.

Generation A: What I thought

I have read several books by Coupland, and this one seemed quite “normal” for a long time. Some of his books are much weirder than this. Unfortunately, the end was stranger than I would have liked, but not all that odd for a Coupland novel.

I liked the writing style, it was very to the point. Not many words were spent on describing details. The writing style was also quite funny. Not laugh out loud funny, but entertainingly funny. I think this was because each character was telling their story in their own words without being polite or holding back.

I didn’t expect to find stories within the story, and certainly not such a large number of them (about 15 or so). Now, if I want to read short stories, I will find myself a short story book. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to read short stories and this was not a short story book.

So, at first I was taken aback. Then I tried to enjoy the stories which I succeeded in some of the time. Then it turned out that the stories slowly worked their way to the resolution of the novel and (almost) all was forgiven. But I still don’t like the idea of finding short stories in a novel.

I enjoyed the book a lot. The story was likely (up to a point) and bees being extinct is more than just a remote possibility. However, the reason the bees were extinct was, to say it mildly, somewhat farfetched.

Do you mind stories within a story?

Rating: 4.5/5

I got this book: bought it from

I read this in: English, the original language

Number of pages: 297

First published: 2009

Genre: contemporary literary fiction, science fiction

Extra: Check out my review of Player One by Douglas Coupland.

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

16 Responses to Generation A by Douglas Coupland

  1. Cindy says:

    I don’t mind stories within stories, as long as the layering is done well. This book sounds like a worthwhile read.

    • leeswammes says:

      Cindy, yes, the book is definitely worth reading. The stories within the story start off totally unrelated to the main story and seem to stay that way for most of the (15) stories. But slowly there are themes coming back in the different stories (told by several different people) and only the last 2 or so stories relate to the main story of the book. I definitely wasn’t keen the first few stories! 🙂

  2. Rachel says:

    wow… this sounds really interesting! I don’t like short stories in a novel either (weird!) and I am not a big fan of short stories anyway.. but I do like the premise of this book. Thanks for reviewing this one!

  3. I normally hate short stories – especially if they are forced on me within a book, but I actually found I enjoyed the ones in this book. It was a very weird experience for me! I’m pleased to see that you enjoyed this one in the end. Let’s hope Player One is just as entertaining.

    • leeswammes says:

      Jackie, didn’t you think at first, when you got to the first short story, “hey, what’s this?”. I don’t think PlayerOne has short stories (I glanced through it) and I think it’s going to be better than what I first thought.

  4. Alex says:

    I’ll read this one in 2011, for my Bees/Honey theme in the One, Two, Theme Challenge. At least two bloggers I trust have named it one of the best of 2010.

  5. That depends how well it’s done, but generally I don’t mind. Sometimes it can be jarring though. This book sounds interesting. I’ve been meaning to read more Coupland.

    • leeswammes says:

      Go for it Kate! I think Coupland is a great writer. From next weekend, Jackie from FarmLaneBooks and I will read PlayerOne, his newest novel, together. Join in if you can!

  6. Cass says:

    Random fact: I am terrified of bees. I think this book would keep me up nights.

    • leeswammes says:

      There are only 5 bees in this book, Cass – the ones that sting 5 people. Then they die. So I’m sure you’d be fine!

      I hate wasps more than bees, myself.

  7. Pingback: Generation A by Douglas Couplan « The Sleepless Reader

  8. Matthew ( says:

    I was a bit like you – surprised to find a heap of short stories in a novel – I quite enjoyed them although it did mean the book turned into something I wasn’t quite expecting. I know Coupland likes to keep readers on their toes, however, and I don’t particularly object to this. I think more could have been done with the main plot thread, however, with or without the short stories.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Mathhew, glad you enjoyed the book. Yes, the short stories… I’m not a fan, although in the end it worked out okay for me. Have you read Worst.Person.Ever? That’s such a different book. My review is here.

      • Matthew ( says:

        I haven’t – I’d definitely be up for reading more Coupland though so I will check out your review! A friend recommended him to me and I’m not sure I’ve found his best yet.

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