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Pacific Edge: Three Californias Paperback – May 15 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books (May 15 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312890389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312890384
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.6 x 21.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #43,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

An outstanding achievement, the concluding volume in Robinson's Orange County, Calif., trilogy again takes place in the middle of the next century. The books are not strict sequels, providing instead several versions of an alternate world. While The Wild Shore depicted a postnuclear holocaust society and The Gold Coast reflected a period of uncontrolled technological growth, this novel is set in an ecological utopia with a reduced population and rational use of renewable resources. Because utopias can be boring, Robinson generates action through several intertwined conflicts, combining the political and personal lives of his characters. The introduction of the newly hired town attorney provides a fresh insight into the community of El Modena and an external viewpoint on its citizens' "usual array of Machiavellian battles," as do excerpts from a diary writtten in the past. The characters are fully developed and individually motivated; the reader identifies with them easily. Robinson's writing ranks in the highest levels of the genre, and the last sentences of the book generate a soaring optimism. Taken together, the books of the trilogy invite interesting comparisons or their several worlds, but separately each is a completely independent, excellent story.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

An outstanding achievement....Robinson's writing ranks in the highest levels of the genre. The book generates a soaring optimism. (Publishers Weekly)

Through a blend of dirt-under-fingernails naturalism and lyrical magical realism, Robinson invites us to share his characters' intensely personal, intensely loyal attachment to what they have. The result is a bittersweet utopia that may shame you into entertaining new hope for the future. (The New York Times Book Review)

[Pacific Edge is] the outstanding utopia of the last ten years and more. (Foundation)

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Despair could never touch a morning like this. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 23 2003
Format: Paperback
I'm dumbfounded at all these bad reviews. I've read this book several times, as it touches me pretty deeply every time. It seems the main complaint is about anemic story lines. I personally don't agree, but think the book is fascinating for its search for utopia. Even though all these characters are searching for different things, and no one is completely happy with the current status, the very act of working towards creating their idea of utopia is utopic. "Dynamism" is a term used in the book to describe that effort to improve things. Dynamism is the utopia. It's the possibility of creating utopia (through dynamism) out of less-than-ideal situations that helps the book manage to be hopeful even in the face of some not-so-good things happening.
I've read The Wild Shore and was sorely disappointed after Pacific Edge. Seeing as all these reviewers liked the other two so much more, I don't think I'd dig the other one.
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Format: Paperback
This book is part of Robinson's 'Three Californias" triptych about alternate futures seen from the perspective of Orange County, California. Gold Coast is a dystopia, The Wild Shore is post-apocalyptic, and this book completes the thematic triangle as a utopia. Here we find a future that is a melding of socialism, capitalism, democracy, and strong ecological concerns. Personal income and business sizes have strict upper limits, everyone is required to devote some of their labor hours to community projects (usually involving some form of ecological cleanup), most people live as part of communal co-operatives, but at the same time people are free to chose their own jobs, live where they wish, have a voice in community affairs, and can say what they want.
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.
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Format: Paperback
I enjoyed the first 2 of KSR's "Three Californias," but this one was disappointing (see my reviews). It is simply not as morally or aesthetically compelling as his other books. The plot drags its anemic self through predictable interludes, leaving the reader surprised at the missed possibilities. The characters, even the lead, come off as rather cardboard-thin.
In fact, it becomes apparent that KSR has more or less a set of stock characters: the athletic idealist who's rather dumb (Kevin = John Boone from the Mars set); a dark scheming male who's Kevin's romantic rival (Alfredo = Chalmers); a sexy Ramona both men fight for, and who uses both ( = Maya), et al.: Doris is the Russian woman from the Mars books, and Oscar is equivalent to the big guy who shows up in Green Mars (I forget his name at the moment - is it Arthur?).
Not only are characters repeated but so are settings. Spas seem of great interest in all 3 Mars and all 3 California books. So are socio-economic-idealistic battles involving the environment + sports + romantic struggles. All very interesting the first time, but rather tiresome by the nth iteration.
One nice point was Tom Barnard's appearance in all 3 books. I liked how this theme character set off colorful motifs in this California "triptych," as KSR terms it. It's interesting to see how KSR puts Tom in relation to the global events of each book: (1) post-apocalyptic storyteller, (2) drowning in the nursing home as a forgotten inmate of suburbia, or (3) the depressed-but-then-revived old attorney who sails off into the wild blue of utopia.
Another point: "Pacific Edge" as a utopia - does it work? I can't speak to this question, since this is the first utopia I've read (not counting Plato's Republic or Critias (?)).
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Format: Paperback
This is billed as science fiction. I'd hesitate to call it that. Yes, it's set in 2065, and yes, it's set on Earth with radical changes in place, but these things seem to take a back seat to the main story. All good science fiction is character- and plot-driven, of course, but much of it still seems to have that obsessive fascination with technology; Robinson muses on the properties of a new thing or two, but ultimately, the story is about something we've all likely seen over the last twenty years: a zoning fight.
Kevin Claiborne is coming of age in the Orange County of 2065, a kind of leftist tree-hugging utopia that's all about water control. If you control the water, you have the world in your hands. (Not surprisingly, the water is controlled by Los Angeles, but that's another story.) Kevin is the newest member of the city council, replacing his friend, the newly-elected mayor Alfredo Blair. In his first meeting as mayor, and Kevin's first meeting as council member, Alfredo tries to get a hill by Kevin's house rezoned for commercial use. Kevin opposes, as do two or three other council members, including the town's new attorney. And thus the battle begins. Things are complicated when Alfredo's longtime lover leaves him, a woman with whom Kevin's been in love since the two were kids.
Obviously, there's a lot going on here, and any one of the subplots probably would have been enough to fill a novel. As Kevin, Oscar (the attorney), and Kevin's ex-girlfriend Doris dig a little deeper into Alfredo's company, they start finding the beginnings of something that would have made a bang-up spy/intrigue novel. The story of the changing relationships between Ramona/Kevin/Alfredo and Kevin/Doris/Oscar (it's tough being the point of two triangles at once!
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