Critical Overview

Douglas Coupland's Microserfs is written in a very unusual story form. For this reason, reviews have been mixed. Coupland's skills at making his readers laugh as he chronicles specific portions of his generation (computer nerds) is praised or at least applauded. However, some critics question Coupland's ability to truly tell a story, at least in a traditional novel form.

For instance, James Aley, writing for Fortune magazine, complains: "What keeps you laughing is the compulsive specificity of Dan's description." Then Aley adds: "But humorous vignettes and techno-hipness notwithstanding, the premise of Microserfs is thin."

Microserfs is written in the form of a diary. Some entries are only one sentence long. Other entries are a combination of a lot short, unrelated topics. There are pages of random words and phrases that the narrator is supposedly feeding his computer to see if  artificial intelligence really exists. There are copies of email messages, misspellings included. And in the midst of all of this is brief narration. This is how David Segal, of the Washington Post, describes Microserfs as an experience that "holds your attention, but it is numbing."  Segal suggests that maybe Coupland should stop trying to write novels and instead write non-fiction. Segal muses, “Coupland's true genius may lie in turning his limitations as a novelist into a commentary about his peers."

Some critics do laud Coupland’s effort. Writing for the Canadian publication Columbian, Georgea Kovanis points to Coupland's skill as an observer, saying, “Coupland is a good writer whose pop culture observations, while often self-conscious and self-congratulatory and embarrassingly pretentious, are also witty and wry."

Craig Bromberg, of People magazine, likes Coupland's novel. He describes it as a "hilarious, intimate look at the way high technology is transforming American life—for better and for worse." Pretty much picking up on the same theme, Jay McInerney, of the New York Times, describes Microserfs as  “fascinating, if somewhat exhausting."

However, Justin Smallbridge, writing for the Canadian publication Maclean's, comments on something that the other reviewers seem to miss. "By the conclusion of the novel," Smallbridge writes, "Coupland has achieved an emotional depth that, having sprung from deceptively banal ingredients, is both surprising and satisfying."