Rebecca's Reviews > California

California by Edan Lepucki
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it was ok
bookshelves: dystopian, reviewed-we-love-this-book, read-via-edelweiss, suspense

The literary dystopian is becoming a crowded genre, and California, with its belabored suspense plot and tedious world-building, does not really compare to Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Hinting at environmental catastrophe but focusing on human relationships, it tries to inhabit a middle ground between those two precedents but ends up feeling rather juvenile. So you get duff lines like these:

• “These men were up to something.”
• “God, she could be such a selfish brat.”
• “She had wanted to be a part of a community, and abracadabra, here it was.”
• “Catch up, Cal, will you?”

By contrast, the pinnacle of the author’s prose is the (admittedly very nice) line “A dog with xylophone ribs stalked an uneven porch.” (Almost sounds like it should be a pangram.)

I appreciated that Lepucki has tried to produce a new angle on the post-apocalyptic novel, with a married couple taking the forefront. Also, a bit like in Children of Men, she effectively uses an unborn child as a symbol of hope, of life continuing: “glory be the gift of children, excited for the bounty they would inherit. Because that’s what moms did, right? They chose to believe the future was good. To assume otherwise was to participate in a kind of despair.” (It comes as no surprise that Lepucki had her first child while composing the novel.)

The problem is: Frida is an interesting enough character; Cal, not so much. Neither of them is hugely compelling, however. (And it seems like all they ever do is have sex.) Plus there is a very pantomime villain. Characterization is definitely lacking here.

My favorite little aside was (view spoiler).

Still, this is a quick and gripping read (I read it in about 48 hours). The best thing about it is the deft contrasting of past and present with a believable future. But bottom line? I didn’t think it was necessary when we’ve got other serviceable dystopian stuff out there.
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Reading Progress

February 27, 2014 – Shelved
February 27, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
July 18, 2014 – Started Reading
July 21, 2014 – Finished Reading
July 22, 2014 – Shelved as: dystopian
July 22, 2014 – Shelved as: reviewed-we-love-this-book
July 22, 2014 – Shelved as: read-via-edelweiss
July 23, 2014 – Shelved as: suspense

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by William (new)

William I learned a new word (pangram).


Rebecca Ha ha - now you could read Ella Minnow Pea to learn lots of actual pangrams! :)


message 3: by Sonja (new)

Sonja Arlow Great, one less book to add to my huge TBR list


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