In general, post-apocalyptic fiction tends to cater to the narcissistic desires of preppers, firearm fanboys, and zombie groupies. If only it were possible to survive the complete collapse of our society with a sufficient supply of high capacity STANAG magazines and freeze dried chili mac.
However, occasionally a book comes along that really nails what it might actually be like if the trappings of our modern society slowly crumbled around us. How would we retain some semblance of the past while dealing with the uncertain future?
Edan Lepucki nails it in her debut novel California. For those of you who do not follow the business news, Lepucki received quite a boost in terms of publicity when she became the poster child for the dispute between publisher Hachette and retailer Amazon. Fortunately, California lives up to the hype.
The story centers around couple Cal and Frida who have abandoned an increasingly hellish Los Angeles for a spot of semi-idyllic wilderness somewhere in the western United States. It’s not really clear where these two drove to on the last drops of gas, but I am guessing somewhere in NoCal. The crux of the plot is that Frida becomes pregnant and the pair’s subsequent decisions are a direct result of this change in life status.
Sure, there is violence and danger in a world without order but it is not central to the story in the way that more “militarized” post-apocalypses are portrayed. The violence is a component of daily life, but so is washing your clothes. Years ago someone said that most stories about the end of the world as we know it failed to deal with the reality that we would start having to take a crap in outhouses and people would die of basic infections due to the lack of antibiotics. You get that sense in California.
I do not want to do a rundown of the plot with spoilers because that would truly ruin discovering the surprises that lay around the next page when you take the opportunity to enjoy this novel.
If you do not borrow this book from your local public library like I did, buy it from an independent bookseller like Powell’s or someone in your area. No one should buy books from Amazon.