Player One is probably the most unconventional entry on the Giller longlist. Here are Trevor’s opening review paragraphs — you can access the full review at the Mookse and the Gripes. Coupland has an international following and it will be interesting to see if this book moves forward.
Probably the best known name (internationally) on this year’s Giller Prize, that Douglas Coupland’s novel made the Giller list was still, to me, a surprise. It is a novel, but actually it is Coupland’s contribution to the Massey Lectures, an annual event in Canada, directed at “enable distinguished authorities to communicate the results of original study on important subjects of contemporary interest.” Hopefully some Canadian visitors will help us learn more about this event, how prestigious it is, which lectures have been particularly memorable, and just how many of the lectures have taken the form of fiction. As far as I know, Player One(2010) is the first of the Massey Lectures to be nominated for the Giller.
I was both interested in and wary of the premise for the novel. Four individuals find themselves together in an airport cocktail lounge when disaster strikes the world outside. We first meet Karen, who has arrived at the lounge to meet a stranger she met on the internet. Rick is the bartender who was trying to start a landscaping business before someone stole his truck and tools; now he is anxiously awaiting the arrival of a famous life coach. Luke was — until yesterday, in fact — the pastor of a small church; he lost his faith, emptied the church’s bank account, and is now on the run to who-knows-where. Rachel has shown up at the lounge to find someone with whom she can procreate in an effort to show her father that she is truly human. There is also a fifth individual named Player One, but the first we learn of Player One is that it is Rachel’s online avatar. At the end of each hour (the book’s five sections are each subtitled “Hour One,” “Hour Two,” and so on), Player One comes in to narrate a glimpse of what is coming next.