Monday, November 3, 2014

California: The book, not the state...but also the state a little bit

Brainstorming about what we might do in the event of a global catastrophe seems to be a natural human compulsion. It's driven by nothing so practical as preparedness (I have the empty cupboards and junk drawer with a lone AA battery rolling around to prove it); I think it's more about our fascination with the breakdown of the civilized world. It's why Zombie Apocalypse story lines are most compelling when they focus more on how the survivors form new hierarchies and moral codes and less on the AAAAAAH ZOMBIES.

The husband and I discuss contingency plans as a matter of course.

Just the other day
Me: "That looks like the kind of place where people are lured to die."
Husband: "But . . . no windows . . . gated courtyard . . . high, flat roof. Excellent shelter for the Zombie Apocalypse."

If you don't mind the very real possibility of murder by puppets and/or Bob

In California, civilization is knocked off course by a series of natural disasters, the severe effects of climate change that all those scientists have been warning us about. Exclusive gated compounds called Communities pop up for the few who can afford the extravagant membership rates. Outside the Communities, everything looks a lot more dystopian. This intensified contrast between the haves and have-nots brings out political radicals who seek to dismantle society even further so that everyone will be on the same level.

Young married couple Cal and Frida decide to leave disintegrating and increasingly dangerous Los Angeles and head for the woods, and that's where we find them at the start of the book. Juuuust the two of them. In the woods.
The finality of their situation sat on her chest like a brick and pushed. No one was looking. Her audience was sucked away, the ones keeping her safe with their concern, keeping her okay, keeping her the same as before, and she was spit out as if from a Wizard of Oz tornado.
But then Frida discovers that she's pregnant, and this whole cabin-in-the-woods, solitary existence doesn't seem like the best option anymore. As events unfold, Frida and Cal get alternating chapters to show us their side of things, which makes the book a lot about how this new reality changes them and leads them to do things that strain their bond as a couple.

Just for example

It's "eminently readable" for all the reasons Alice lists in her review (subtle plug for my homegirl, Reading Rambo), but if you happen to live in Los Angeles, you also get the added joy of seeing well-known locales from actual life through a grimy post-apocalyptic filter.
Toni lived on the second floor of a ramshackle duplex that overlooked Echo Park's now-drained lake. The lake's old bridge was gone, maybe burned for firewood, as were the pedal boats. Frida had been born too late to see the lotus flowers, which had once floated across the water's surface.

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