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A Reader of Fictions: Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who

America Pacifica

Author: Anna North
Pages: 297
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Brief Summary:
Pacifica is a small island somewhere off the coast of L.A. and it may be the only place people still live, although they fear Hawaiians may still be out there and ready to attack. Pacifica is one of the few places still warm enough to live, because it's built on a volcano. The continent was freezing, temperatures so cold that 0 degrees would have felt like spring. The people of Pacifica, unless very wealthy live primarily off of jellyfish, caught far enough out in the ocean that they are not poisoned by the solvent closer in. Solvent is a fuel, but also a drug, which a lot of the populace is addicted to. Ruling over all of this is the mysterious ruler, Tyson.

Darcy and her mother live in a shitty apartment building with a disgusting shared bathroom, work grueling weeks for little pay, and eat little beside cheesefood and jellyfish products. Still, they are relatively happy despite these problems, because they have each other; they don't need anything else. When Darcy's mom disappears, what little peace there was in her life goes too. She quits her job, gives up her apartment and focuses on trying to find the only person or thing that really matters to her in the world. She discovers along the way that her world is even more corrupt than she thought and that, even though her mom knew everything about her, there were some serious and huge things she didn't know about her mom.

Review:
I almost gave up on America Pacifica in the first chapter, which is unusual for me. I generally try to stick it out, which obviously I did, but I came so close to writing this book off (punned). The reason I did not is because of my dystopia obsession; I knew that, should I give up on it now, I would end up reading it later anyway. For the record, I am glad that I finished the book, and not just because I would have read it eventually.

Still, I did not love this one. It's a hard read, both because it's slow or confusing at times and because it's disgusting. Allow me to elaborate as best I can on the latter point. When I say disgusting, I don't mean gory or foul-mouthed, although there is a little bit of both. It's more that almost everything and everyone is dirty and living in filth and eating things people really shouldn't eat to the point that it made me uncomfortable. It was hard to read about it, even more so because I know people really do live like Darcy and her mother.

The dystopian society depicted here definitely feels real and terrifying and a sight different than the rather sweeter versions in most of the YA stories. Anna North was obviously inspired by the darkness in 1984 and Brave New World, not just trying to write a dystopia because people like me will read it purely for the label. However, North did not do a good job explaining how the society came about. The results are clear, but, so far as I noticed, there was no description as to what precipitated the massive environmental changes that lead to America Pacifica. Explaining how it came about is pretty crucial in a dystopia, especially one that's not liable to have a sequel, as that is not often done in adult dystopias and as it has the usual dystopia ending where it's not entirely clear what happened.

I also took minor issue with some of the basic ways this society functions. For example, what's with the jellyfish. I get that you can't eat food from near the island because of the solvent, but are there no fish further out? There must be. The solvent, too, is curious to me, because it is used as an energy source, a replacement for gasoline, but people also use it as a drug. Wouldn't something like gasoline kill these people? Then there's their diet, in general. Most of the poor folks get nothing but the jellyfish and cheesefood (whatever that is). There are mentions of life on the continent before the establishment of Pacifica, which include the fact that tons of people got scurvy. Why is this not happening on the island? Is it because they get the very occasional mango? Or is it because they get carried off by the strange parrot's disease first? And finally, nuns that use parrots to speak for them? Lol whut?

Regardless of all of my questions/concerns, America Pacifica did turn out to be an interesting and thought-provoking read. Oh, and, for those who haven't noticed, the cover is upside down. It took me a while to notice myself. The cover has nothing to do with anything in the book, but it is pretty and upside down.

"We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution"

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