When I read the premise for California, it appealed to me on two levels. First, I am a sucker for books about survival and living off the land, whether it be pioneering or the end of the world. Second, with the many books coming out recently (is it just me?) that are dystopian/apocalyptic/speculative fiction, I have been very curious about how many different scenarios writers can dream up on this topic. I think people who write about the future (well) should be commended for, not only their writing, but also their imagination.
On the back of the book there is a myriad of praise for California, including “Thrilling”, “Brilliant”, Stunning”, and “Astonishing”. Although, those are not the words I would use to describe this book, I would agree with “A big, gripping and inventive story” and “An entertaining and stimulating debut”. California kept my interest, it seemed like a story that could actually happen, and I was curious about how it was going to end.
About the ending, though. I thought the ending was left wide open. Possibly the author wants us to speculate on the future ourselves, based on what we know could or might happen next. Possibly she’s thinking of writing a sequel. I don’t know. But, I do know that I felt like the story wasn’t over.
I thought the best part of the book was when Cal and Frida were alone in the wilderness, not knowing where they were, not knowing who was around or how safe they were. I think that would be the worst part- the not knowing. As the story goes on, there are more and more questions. Slowly, we learn more about their past, and eventually we learn about some of the others living in the area and what they have planned for the future. But, the book ends before we get to find out about all the potential plans we have just heard about. And, for now, Cal and Frida seem to be safe, but it is not likely to last.
Another aspect of the novel is how Cal and Frida’s relationship changes as their circumstances change. We are given insights into both Cal and Frida’s thoughts throughout the story. How do they interact when they are living all alone? How does their relationship change when they are suddenly living with many other people in a place where there are plans and secrets? And, how will their relationship hold up when they move on again at the end of the book where there are even more secrets and uncertainty?
How impossible, though, to turn one’s back on all the horrors in the world; there had to be another way to live.
Overall, California explores a possible future in which there is chaos; a breakdown of government, safety, availability of resources; and a much widened gap between rich and poor. It explores the relationship within an American marriage under much different circumstances than we find ourselves in today. It was a good read if you’re looking for a book to entertain you for a while, and scare you a little bit. It reminded me of Swarm by Lauren Carter, which also takes place in the near future. However, Swarm felt more immediate and real, with much better writing.
If you read this book, what did you think of it or the ending? Do you like to read this type of book, or are you tired of all the speculation? What have been your favourite apocalyptic novels?
Here’s a good review of California from The Guardian: Edan Lepucki’s hit story of marriage after the apocalypse.
Edan Lepucki’s website. Her first book, If You’re Not Yet Like Me, looks worth checking out!