This collection of eight short stories is the third book by Coupland, whose 1991 novel, Generation X, christened the age group born between 1961 and 1981 and helped spawn a marketing revolution. In his previous two works, Coupland, 32, wickedly satirized the fast ecological ruin, shrinking white-collar job market and fear of intimacy confronting his generation. These bare-bones tales—many in the first person—set mainly in British Columbia catch Xers in varying states of misery.
A couple of the book's lost-at-the-strip-mall characters are compelling. Laurie, an affluent suburban druggie who becomes so obsessed with the story of Patty Hearst that she runs away, is lovingly remembered by a sibling as "the one for whom I would skip high school." But most are cardboard creations whose sole distinguishing quality is self-pity: Witness one narrator who notes, "I think the price we paid for our golden life was an inability to fully believe in love; instead we gained an irony that scorched everything it touched."
Like Generation X, which included pictures and slogans in its margins, Life After God has a gimmick. Illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings, the book is the size of a pocket Bible. But Coupland's ultimate commercial maneuver is his 30-second readings on MTV. Sly marketing savvy may always be part of Coupland's art, but fans will hope he ditches the self-indulgent wailings and regains his hip, funny point of view. Growing up, even in the '90s, doesn't have to be this humorless. (Pocket, $17)