04 August 2014

Review: California by Edan Lepucki

I like a good dystopian / postapocalyptic novel as much as the next guy, and I'm especially excited to find a book in this genre with adult characters and geared to an adult audience. Thus Edan Lepucki's California seemed right up my alley. Here are my thoughts in a Bullet(less) Review.

Basic plot. Set in the not-so-distant future (the oldest generation was alive in the twentieth century), California explores a fallen-apart world, with severe weather, scanty electricity, a weak central government, and a crumbling infrastructure. Cal and Frida, hoping for a better life, leave the remains of Los Angeles to homestead in what is now the wilderness.

Using their combined knowledge and skills they eke out a lonely existence in a shack they found in the woods. After months of living off the land, they are startled to discover they're not as alone as they thought they were. Meeting their neighbors was both a blessing and a curse, but the real problems begin when Frida learns (on page 2, no spoiler) that she's pregnant. No longer just two against the world, the couple has difficult decisions to make.

What worked. Lepucki creates a world that seems scarily possible, even in our lifetimes.

What didn't work. Unfortunately, I didn't connect strongly to either Cal or Frida; thus I wasn't caught up in their plight and didn't really root for them. In addition, there was quite a bit of foreshadowing, which meant there were no real surprises. I'm not saying I figured out the entire plot by the second chapter, but I certainly knew what was going to happen long before Cal and Frida did. I also had issues with the last third of the book, because I didn't buy some of circumstances of the dystopian society (being vague so as not to spoil the story).

General thoughts. Although California received high praise from a number of authors and reviewers, I didn't feel the love. Not only didn't I make an emotional connection to the characters but I didn't see that Lepucki added significantly to the genre. It's true that some of the details of her world are unique, but I didn't find much that was new, except that California's protagonists are adults and have different perspectives from the teenagers we're used to seeing in dystopian fiction.

Recommendations. If you love dystopian fiction, you'll probably want to read California just because, even though it's unlikely that you'll find new issues to ponder. On the other hand, if you're just getting started in the genre, this novel could serve as a good starting place. In either case, remember that I'm in the minority; Edan Lepucki has garnered glowing reviews.

The audiobook. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 12 hr, 26 min), read by Emma Galvin. My complete audiobook review will be available from AudioFile magazine, but in a nutshell, I'm recommending that this novel be read in print.

Published by Hachette Book Group / Little Brown, 2014
ISBN-13: 9780316250818
Source: Review (print, audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

7 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks 8/4/14, 6:24 AM  

I am probably the only one left not to have read this, but I haven't really seen anything, including your review, to convince me to want to do so!

Man of la Book 8/4/14, 7:39 AM  

I have read on YA dystopian fiction and a few of those as well. The adult ones I read didn't strike my fancy from some reason.

http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

Jenn's Bookshelves 8/4/14, 8:27 AM  

You aren't alone! Myself and at least one other blogger I know had this experience as well. While I've attempted to write a review to express my thoughts, I ended up getting even more furious about the time wasted in reading this. I read it before the most recent ravings, so I can't even blame that for my less than stellar experience. You know me, I don't like to be harsh. Yet the time I wasted reading this, I'll never get back.

I'll read the next book. I won't rush out to buy it, instead waiting for it to join my library's collection.

Daryl 8/4/14, 9:17 AM  

i read a blurb about this novel shortly after Stephen Colbert lobbied for it on his show .. apparently Amazon wouldn't do a pre-order on it … and i think its published by Colbert's publisher hence his endorsement … what i read didnt intrigue me at all and i adore books like this

Beth Hoffman 8/4/14, 11:07 AM  

Though I don't read dystopian, I have to say that I adore the cover. Very clever. Happy Monday, my friend!

bermudaonion 8/4/14, 11:43 AM  

Oh gosh, with the water issues in Toledo this book sounds all too believable!

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 8/4/14, 11:54 AM  

I like dystopian, but I need really good world building to keep me interested and characters I can connect with. I held off on this one because of all the hype, and I think I made the right decision not to invest my time. You aren't the only reviewer who's opinion I trust that wasn't thrilled with this one.

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All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2016. All rights reserved.

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