Picks and Pans Review: Hey Nostradamus!

UPDATED 08/04/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/04/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

By Douglas Coupland

In a darkly comic morality tale that begins with a Columbine-like massacre at a Vancouver high school, Generation X author Coupland dodges cliches to find space for uncomfortable laughter and sardonic smiles.

Traumatized by the shooting death of his high school sweetheart Cheryl and sadistic treatment at the hands of his Christian fundamentalist father, Jason, the most vivid of the book's four major characters, crawls through life longing for peace and a sense of his place in the world. Instead, he wisecracks, "I can barely get the automatic doors at Save-on-Foods to acknowledge my existence."

Wickedly adept at unearthing the complex emotional reactions to such a horrific event, Coupland again proves a keen satirist and disturbingly funny societal observer. He frames questions about faith and purpose with far more insight than grief counselors and TV reporters, and to his credit he doesn't try to suggest pat answers. (Bloomsbury, $21.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Wry and wise

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