Jpod is Microserfs v2.1! That’s what you get for picking a book for it’s cover and just start reading a novel without any historic perspective whatsoever. A couple of months ago I wrote about Douglas Coupland’s genius novel ‘Jpod’ which I read, how appropriate, on one of those 24hr mega airplane flights. Yesterday, I started reading his earlier sign-of-the-times novel ‘Microserfs‘ about a group of Microsoft coders in the early nineties. In a way Microserfs explains why Jpod is so good. It’s same reason why Bree Hodge makes such an incredible lemon pie… he already had a winning recipe he could follow. And the same as with the pie, he barely changed the ingredients.
Both Microserfs and Jpod are written in the form of a log by the main character. Both characters are in their mid-twenties, mainly live to work in the digital industry, which also means they are doubting their purpose in life, their friends are their -also slightly dysfunctional- colleagues, they fall in love with a female colleague and their parents have problems… And one thing both novels have in common is the fact that Coupland likes playing around in both books with lists and seemingly ‘at random’ words in different fonts and sizes that give you, the reader, some not spoken out loud information about the personality and lives of the characters.
So, if both novels are so much alike, why bother reading both then? Why not just pick one? Isn’t the reason that no one buys a Coldplay album anymore that they’re making the same album over and over again? Why do I want, no have to continue reading after I keep getting this continued deja vu? Or, to phrase this slightly bizarre, what’s the difference between Coldplay and Coupland? Let me explain using a video-gaming analogy.
Coldplay is the like big videogames hit franchise Fifa or NHL by EA Sports; a new version comes out every year that’s basically the same. You get some extra options, better graphics, new names of players, but: when you’ve bought Fifa ’06 of NHL ’06 there is really no need to buy any other version… unless you are really, really hooked and are a genuine Fifa collector’. Coupland is more like a shoot em up. ‘Halo‘ was a really, really big videogame. And, apparently, so is Halo 3. The basic idea of the games is the same; you’re a sci-fi marine and you try and kill the other side. The difference with the sportsgames is, that if you’ve played Halo 3 and liked it, but haven’t played the original version (or the other way around) there is every reason to give the other version a go as well. Different tactics, different possibilities… new game…
I guess you might say I have cleared every level of Jpod, the Halo 3 version of Microserfs and am now starting on the original Halo game. I’m actually at that point where I know I’ll love the game, even though I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. The fact that Halo is a Microsoft game simply cannot be a coincidence.