Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Book Review: California
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended for lovers of the 'oh my god this could be our own apocalypse' fiction.
Publisher: Little, Brown
I've had this one on the Kindle for a long while - I downloaded after I had attended a panel where Edan read from it - and finally got around to cracking it open.
California is set in a dystopian world that breathed itself into existence slowly, where the government has begun collapsing, a near-invisible disintegration that was quickened under the additional pressures of serious illnesses and devastating storms that had hit the US over an unspecified period of time.
The novel starts out as a quiet survival story - married couple Frida and Cal have attempted to make a go of it on their own, after fleeing the dangers of the dying city to make a home for themselves in the relative seclusion of a ill constructed shed in the middle of LA's wilderness. Though they are frustratingly naive and prone to arguments (hell, who wouldn't be when you're each other's only company), they were also fortuitously well-prepared for the slow fade of civilization. Cal's green thumb and his experiences at Plank as a college student come in extremely handy as they resort to hunting and foraging in the forest for sustenance.
When Frida realizes she is pregnant, the fear of "how do we have this child alone" pushes the young couple out of their little fantasy world in search of a nearby community. After a day and a half of travel, they timidly approach a labyrinthine series of large man-made spikes and are greeted by a man who escorts them into The Land. What initially appears to be a peaceful and pleasant settlement (c'mon, we all know better, right?!) turns out to be a society with some pretty dark secrets and a disturbing set of rules.
Edan has done something wonderful within a somewhat "been there, read that" genre. As a fan of post-apocalyptic and dystopian literature, I've experienced just about every end-of-the-world scenario. From meteors to zombies to plagues,.. and while there is nothing wrong with that, I have a deep appreciation for the slow, unobtrusive way in which Edan ushered in hers. How scary to imagine growing up in a world where, little by little, we are pushed back towards the dark ages. Internet and electricity are spotty at best, colleges teach its students to farm, people trade gold for the silliest trinkets.
Through California, Edan addresses our biggest fears as she offers its characters the opportunity to rebuild society, and right past wrongs. Will they continue down the dark path that brought about their own undoings or move humanity forward in new and unexpected ways?
For the record, had my husband and I been characters in this book, fleeing the same dying city, we'd be dead within a week of exposure to the elements, dehydration, and us stupidly gorging out on poisonous berries or some ridiculously dumb infection by hangnail. We're just not cut out for the end of the world as we know it.
Do you think it's too late to influence my kids into becoming crunchy granolas? This novel makes me fear for their future.