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This article is about the novel by Douglas Coupland. The plot follows four characters, Karen, Rick, Luke, and Rachel, as they arrive in the lounge of an airport bar, as they interact with one another, and as they cope with chaos that erupts as cataclysmic events occur. The story addresses their motivations and perceptions, as well as their thoughts on certain themes. Bernie Lucht, selected Douglas Coupland to deliver the 2010 Massey Lectures. Coupland did not immediately agree but after some thought, accepted the panel’s offer. He was given the creative freedom to select how the lecture would be delivered, and chose to write a novel.
Coupland felt that “a narrative seemed like the most efficient and accessible way of putting forth a large number of propositions about life in the year 2010. The book is divided into five chapters. Each chapter is divided into five parts, each describing events from the perspective of one of the five main characters: Karen, Rick, Luke, Rachel, and Player One. The first chapter, “Hour One: Cue the Flaming Zeppelin”, has Karen arriving at the Toronto airport on a flight from Winnipeg to meet a man she met online. She sits on a stool at the airport hotel bar in which Rick is the bartender, Rachel is at a computer terminal, and Luke is sitting at a table drinking scotch. Rachel is there with the expectation to meet a man who can father her child and approaches Luke.
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Karen’s date goes badly as she finds the man too assertive physically and too distant intellectually. Leslie gives a speech to the group, takes Rick’s money, and leaves. Meanwhile, oil prices rapidly increase and explosions start to occur outside. With the power unreliable, Karen, Rick, Luke, and Rachel run to Rick’s vehicle to listen to the radio. Karen’s date, Warren, is killed by a sniper as he runs to the group, who quickly return to the bar lounge where they barricade themselves in. This is Player One here with your story upgrade.
I know that you, as this story’s user, may be curious and wondering what are the next sequences to come, so I will not tease. What will happen next is that Karen’s head will continue to spin, and as with Rachel, Karen’s brain will make a duplicate copy of the afternoon’s events. Player One’s perspective in Hour Two, page 85. In “Hour Three: God’s little Dumpsters” Karen’s daughter tells them, over the phone, of rioting and general chaos that is occurring. Rick and Luke crawl through the ventilation shafts to the roof to overpower the sniper but fail and retreat to the lounge.
As chemical fall-out starts to land on the airport, the sniper seeks shelter in the lounge and is taken prisoner by the other characters. In “Hour Four: Hello, My Name Is: Monster” Rick and Rachel have sex, the sniper explains his motivations, and a teenager suffering from chemical burns seeks their help. In the final chapter “Hour Five: The View From Inside Daffy Duck’s Hole” Karen and Luke tend to the teenager’s wounds. Rachel discovers that the sniper is actually Leslie Freemont’s son, and upon stating this, the sniper panics, manages to get his gun back and shoots Rachel. The final part of the final chapter is told from the combined point-of-view of Rachel and Player One, who exist in what is labeled as Eternity, and provide an epilogue revealing the fates of the characters.
Karen — A divorced mother of one daughter, and a receptionist at a psychiatrist office, who travels from Winnipeg to Toronto to meet Warren, whom she met in an online forum. Rick — A divorced father of one son, and a recovering alcoholic, who works as a bartender at the Toronto Airport Camelot Hotel. He has been saving money to enroll in an empowerment program operated by Leslie Freemont. 20,000 from the church and fled to Toronto.
She wants to become pregnant to prove to her parents that she can lead what they consider a normal life. Player One — A disembodied voice who watches the events and comments on the character’s past, present, and future actions and circumstances. Warren — The man who Karen is scheduled to meet at the hotel bar. Leslie Freemont — A self-help guru who operates the Power Dynamics Seminar System. He arrives with his assistant Tara to accept Rick into the program. Bertis — A religious fanatic, the son of Leslie Freemont, and the sniper on the bar’s roof.
Max — A teenager who tries to covertly take photos of Karen during their flight. He stumbles upon the group as he flees the chemical fall-out. Massey Lecture to be delivered as a work of fiction: a 50,000-word novel. The story is told as a first-person narrative with the perspective rotated between the five main characters: Karen, Luke, Rick, Rachel, and Player One. Rachel, though, speaks with a unique tone, devoid of emotion and unable to detect emotion in the voice of others, similar to how people communicate online without seeing one another, like via email. The story’s themes reflect many of the themes Coupland has addressed in his other works, including themes on time, religion, an afterlife, and communication. One reviewer mentioned that the book has “quintessential Coupland themes, chiefly, how the speed of change, both technologically and socially driven, is altering the world, our own sense of self and our souls”.