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Pacific Edge: Three Californias (Three Californias Triptych series Book 3) Kindle Edition
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The concluding book in Kim Stanley Robinson's critically-acclaimed Three Californias Trilogy, Pacific Edge.
2065: In a world that has rediscovered harmony with nature, the village of El Modena, California, is an ecotopia in the making. Kevin Claiborne, a young builder who has grown up in this "green" world, now finds himself caught up in the struggle to preserve his community's idyllic way of life from the resurgent forces of greed and exploitation.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
‘One of the finest working novelists in any genre’
'If I had to choose one writer whose work will set the standard for science fiction in the future, it would be Kim Stanley Robinson’
NEW YORK TIMES
From the Back Cover
The sun beats down from a glorious Orange County sky. People play softball and pedal their flyers above ecologically-sound thermocrete rooftops. The democratically elected council debate environmental issues and make rational decisions for the public good.
To Kevin Claiborne it must be the perfect society. But when he hears of plans to develop Rattlesnake Hill, the last piece of wilderness in the area, he senses the bubbling of corruption below the unblemished surface.
A world and an age away, a young writer sits in an internment camp in Virginia watching the march of events towards global disaster and dreams of utopia…
"Robinson's orange county books make their market-place competitors look trivial"
"Robinson into what he's best at, the evocation of people in love, people at odds, the delicate inside surfaces of social involution…supremely achieved"
"Robinson's utopia is intellectually engaging"
NY REVIEW OF SF
"An outstanding achievement…Robinson's writing ranks in the highest levels of the genre"
- ASIN : B00H6E6AYI
- Publisher : Orb Books; First edition (31 December 2013)
- Language : English
- File size : 1449 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 331 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 610,817 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Having read through all the reviews of each of these 3 books it's nice to see very different opinions about each of them without a single book shining through as a general favourite. I'd say that PE isn't my favourite of the three, for me I think that would be the Gold Coast, that said I've really enjoyed it and will reflect on a few of my musings in the hopes that someone looking to buy this book in the future may find them useful.
For those new to KSR I'd recommend his Orange County books as a way to get into his writing as they're less "hard-core" than his later trilogies. In PE we have Kevin; a simple guy with simple pleasures who seems pretty chuffed with his pretty simple life, his friends all seem happy and everyone enjoys the outdoor sunshine playing softball. It is a book essentially answering the question "how would it be if we were all eco-friendly and escaped the consumeristic society that we've ended up becoming?" and the book very early on establishes this mindset with characters being bewildered by the wastefulness of previous generations.
I must warn readers that on the face of it not an awful lot really happens (this is essentially true of all his books), you can condense the main events of the whole book into 2 sentences and do it probably reasonably well. However this isn't really the point; the book is about the people rather than any major plot being forwarded. It's about how the characters think, what dictates their actions, how they're affected by their world, the daft things they do (from one perons's perspective) or how they do all the best things they feel they can and still fail. The book (and really all his books) give you an insight into the characters, how truly ordinary they are and how the decisions they make rather than being amazing or impressive are iterative and straight forward and the same kind of decisions that anyone would make. This really allowed me to identify with the characters, especially Kevin, who you end up rooting for whilst at the same time wincing at his naive attitude to what life throws at you.
One thing lacking in this book compared to his later novels is a bit more about the world that has been created. Everything in the story is quite small-scale and pedestrian compared to the world and society changing scope that we get in the Mars books. There's nothing wrong with a smaller scale story as it allows focus on other things but I would have liked a little more detail into how this world worked and functioned, instead we kept getting little snippets and insights that are ultimately quite vague. Perhaps this was done in order to maintain the believability of the world KSR created, which I feel was well achieved. One minor criticism is that the book felt like it should have gone for 20 or so more pages and feels a bit abrupt. Though in another way it brings the point home about Kevin's journey and whilst not a happy ending has a bitter-sweet acceptance quality to it.
Overall a very enjoyable read.
The society in "Pacific Edge" is as close to a utopia as one can reasonably come... but that does not mean that people's lives are perfect. There is arson; there is heartbreak; there is ambition that will undermine the utopian aspects- etc. In some ways, while the society is more hopeful than the other 2, the personal relationships are more complex and painful. I think that's fair.
I am not sure how the "author"- who is writing 40 years previously to the events of the novel, and who is not really connected to the novel- works in. Apart from that, we have the elderly Uncle Tom, as in the previous books and with a similar function- though this time he breaks out of it- and we have the swing scene.
I probably wouldn't mind living in the "Wild Shore". I'd hate "Gold Coast". I'd love to live in "Pacific Edge", even though I am not an athlete and athletes seem to be treasured. But so are artisans!
Still- a message here is that even a reasonably perfect social/political structure does not remove one from loss and heartbreak- a message that many "utopias" get confused.
It's a solid end to a really intriguing trilogy.
These 3 books are not sequels. They are three alternatives. There are similarities or parallels which are fun to discover and see how they develop. This one was my favorite of the 3, but these are definitely not my favorite books by this author. It seems more like a writing experiment to see if the author can take similar personalities and put them into 3 different settings and see what they can do. None of the three books ends very satisfactorily. This one had several characters I liked but at the end it just seemed to fizzle out and end without resolving anything. In each book the main character just gets out of control later in the book, and does things uncharacteristic which creates havoc for them and others around them.
The wild shore was interesting because they were post disaster Americans who had to learn to live off the land all over again without technology. But the main character gets most out of control in this story and it leads to the loss of friends and the death of one friend.
Pacific Edge was utopian. The people had learned the lessons of over use and abuse of natural resources. they were determined to live within limits without waste, pollution, etc.
The Gold Coast was my least favorite being difficult to get into and get to know the characters who seem to spend all their time getting high and partying.
Like most utopias, there are a few flies in the ointment, and it is around these that the story line is based. Here we find Alfredo, the town mayor, scheming a way to go beyond the personal income limit, and the company he is associated with has become involved in shady deals to try and sidestep the limits on company size. The object of the scheming is an undeveloped hill commanding a great aesthetic view of the town and valley it sits in, and the book starts with an attempt to rezone the hill for commercial development. The book's protagonist, Kevin, something of an idealist and nature lover, not terribly politically astute but stubborn, stalls the attempt, but the battle is joined. As counterpoint to the political battle, Kevin becomes romantically involved with Alfredo's long-time lover Ramona, who has just split up with Alfredo.
Unfortunately, these story threads are only mildly interesting. There is little work done to explore either the pluses or minuses of the envisioned society, Kevin's personal problems are not strong enough, do not have enough angst, to make the reader become terribly involved in them, the basic object of the battle, the hill, does not seem deserving of all the energy devoted to it. This seems to be a typical problem with utopian novels - at their heart, utopias are necessarily dull, not having any strong points of contention on which to base a story. All of the actions of this book seem somewhat inconsequential, the object of contention is really a molehill, not a mountain.
The prose style is easy, the main characters are reasonably well developed, the plot line is coherent. But this is at best an average book, not nearly as good as The Wild Shore.