The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they've left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable in the face of hardship and isolation. Mourning a past they can't reclaim, they seek solace in each other. But the tentative existence they've built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she's pregnant.
Terrified of the unknown and unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses dangers of its own. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.
A gripping and provocative debut novel by a stunning new talent, California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind's dark nature and deep-seated resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.
"In her arresting debut novel, Edan Lepucki conjures a lush, intricate, deeply disturbing vision of the future, then masterfully exploits its dramatic possibilities."-Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Icy dread spreads through California, Edan Lepucki’s astonishing debut novel, which tells the story of a young married couple determined to endure the end times. After fleeing from a fuel-less, impoverished, and violent Los Angeles, Cal and Frida become homesteaders, living off the land in a desolate wilderness and taking solace in their growing intimacy. But when Frida starts to suspect she’s pregnant, she decides it’s time to seek out a larger community, a rumored settlement known to them as “the Spikes.” Lepucki’s atavistic vision of the future proves exceptionally terrifying, an apocalypse borne of slow, ugly decline rather than a cataclysmic disaster. What sets this page-turner apart from the ever-growing library of dystopian fiction is the California-based author’s unflinching dissection of a romantic relationship eaten away by suspicion, secrecy, base desires, and desperation.
In her suspenseful debut, Lepucki envisions a postapocalyptic America and the people left behind. After fleeing a decaying, ransacked Los Angeles to begin anew in the wilderness, married couple Cal and Frida are faced with dwindling supplies and an uncertain future. When Frida discovers she might be pregnant, the need to connect with other survivors becomes all the more imperative. The couple finds hope after stumbling upon a fortified rogue encampment in the woods with startling connections to Frida's past. That is, until unsettling aspects about the place the absence of any children in the community, a despotic leader, and ties to an underground group linked to a suicide bombing, among other revolutionary acts suggest Cal and Frida might be better off on their own. Though real-world parallels can be drawn regarding the circumstances of the world's decline and rebirth in the novel "the Group" is like a mash-up of the Occupy Wall Street and Weather Underground movements; the sterile wealthier "Communities" clearly signify the 1% Lepucki focuses on Cal and Frida's evolving relationship and their divergent approaches to their predicament. As seen in chapters told from their alternating perspectives, the less they trust each other, the more tension mounts, building to an explosive climax that few readers will see coming.
California was overall a good read. During some parts the book can get a little boring and monotonous. Easy read though and great for her first novel. If you're looking for a post apocalyptic book, this probably isn't going to be what you think it would be but good nonetheless.
Has little to offer
I just finished reading California, which I bought a couple of years ago because Stephen Colbert told me to. I began it then quite eagerly but gave up a quarter of the way through due to extreme boringness. Blaming my stupidity and lack of patience, however, I recently gave it another try.
Lepucki is a fine writer who offers many worthy examples of phrasing and description, but this book severely lacks imagination. From quite early on I kept asking myself, “Where is this story going?” — a question I would keep asking until Chapter 20 or 21 (out of 24). Wait, the end of Chapter 19, was that the climax? What the hell! While I thought the sections about the Pirates and Micah’s viciousness had potential, most of the dark secrets in the story were a snooze and did little to make me question my humanity. Had Lepucki never heard of The Walking Dead when she wrote this?
Anyway, for a book that is marketed as “post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction”, California proves to have very little to offer the genre.
Neat lil dystopian novella
Interesting concepts and psychology in this dystopian future novel. It's told from both sides of a young couple perspectives and it's intriguing how their perceptions are different from one another in the very small reality they share. I liked how vague the author was about the year, and about the state of world at large around them. Everything is important to them that's right at hand, mostly survival. This was a nice, entertaining, easy read.