Published by Little Brown and Company on July 8th, 2014
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 despite the isolation and hardships they face. Consumed by fear of the future and mourning for a past they can't reclaim, they seek comfort and solace in one 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 but 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 its own dangers. 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 irrepressible resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.
Hated it. Oh god I hated this book.
I feel as if I need to put a disclaimer on this expressing that I expected something entirely different from this book based on the description because that might help explain my hatred, but the reality is it was just that bad.
Initially, I was sold on the premise of a post-apocalyptic dystopian setting, but in my experience, this sort of setting is usually inclusive of an explanation of how the world came to be in the mess it is in, and usually, that is a compelling story. California failed to deliver here. The best explanation for why the world is ‘post-apocalyptic’ was some chat about a couple severe earthquakes, followed by a fizzling of community and commodity. Considering that the wealthy fled to live in ‘Communities’ that are gated and protected, I started to wonder if this was some sort of social commentary on the 99% vs. the 1%, but soon realized no, that would be too deep for the kind of crap I was reading.
This was the most extremely boring, flat book I have read all year. Technically,it was poorly written, repetitive and completely bland. Stylistically, it was spiritless, wearisome and unsatisfying. There was absolutely no tone to this book other than completely blase — even when faced with moments that other people might actually have an emotional reaction to, these characters barely had the brain cells to garner a facial expression. In fact, there was next to no inflection of emotion: there was no comic relief moments, there was no true anger or rage, there was just a bunch of nothing.
And holy crap these characters. Frida is the most insipid protagonist I have ever read! A former stoner who also happens to be a disgusting human being (seriously, if your crotch smells like manure you should DO something about that, my god!), with no other sense of unique personality other than she worships a turkey baster. How much of my life did I waste reading about a turkey baster!? She’s literally pregnant and the turkey baster was still getting more page time. She got irritable and acted like a cow for no reason, and then blindly accepted anything that might actually warrant real emotion. It got to the point where the only reason I continued to read was in hopes that she would die. Violently.
Cal is not much better – there are hints that he might have had a personality at one point, but being out in the woods for 2 years with nothing to do but screw a woman with manure crotch would probably rot your brain too. I had hoped for complexity with the neighbours, but they turned out to be just as empty, save the moment where they got WAY too obnoxiously nosy into talk of pregnancy and child bearing. Go kill yourselves. Oh wait….
So anyways, finally there is a tiny bit of impetus in the story, and Cal and Frida set off in search of the Land beyond the Spikes — which are somehow terrifying displays of trash that would just be called modern art today. Being stupid as they are, they ignore the clear message of ‘stay away’ and yet through old family ties, still get accepted into the commune inside. The commune inside holds a bunch of political activists, including someone who is supposed to be a surprise, but just isn’t. They live a pretty boring life for former terrorists, just shifting off work to one another, and Frida ends up baking. Yawn.
So get this: the big objective of the story is the ‘fear’ that the commune won’t vote to let them stay and they’ll have to go back out and live in the woods. Wow, nailbiter. So, naturally, Frida keeps her pregnancy a secret – no wait, that is also not normal. Its stupid. Especially if they don’t know if they want to say when they learn ‘deep, dark secrets’ that you would just almost expect of anyone who lived through an apocalypse…
Anyways. I hate it. I hate it so much that I could rant forever but I won’t. Set this book on fire.