There’s nothing I like more than a good speculative fiction. And there’s nothing I am more disappointed by than a specfic that starts out really well and then the point of it is lost somewhere in the middle and ends in a way that seems like a cop-out.
When I started reading California I was sucked right into the world that the two characters inhabited. A married couple living in almost total isolation after the world has all but collapsed around them. There are communities where those who can afford it live and seem to continue life just as it was before things started going wrong; an apocalypse as slow as a glacier. The couple, Cal and Frida left the city. Cal is handy on the land because he went to a college that encouraged the all male student body to work on farms and get experience of how the land works. Frida bakes.
With a name like Cal – short for Calvin but people have called him California in the past – you’d think that he would be the main character. He’s not and he is. He’s not because the story switches point of view between Frida and Cal and so we get to see different interpretations of similar and tangential events. But Cal’s actions and decisions are what count. Frieda’s purpose is limited to one thing she can do that Cal can’t. Aside from that one thing, Cal chooses what and if the do things.
Somewhere in the middle of the story, a curve ball is lobbed and it reduces the world and all the events that have happened and will happen to a single person. Weird when the apocalypse took such an organic and logical course across the entire planet.
The end of the story is a let down, which does reflect the feelings of the characters and does, I suppose, leave us with the possibility of a sequel. I’d like a sequel because I liked Frida. I also liked the style of writing, it allowed a greedy reader like me to be totally immersed, especially in the first half of the story. If this ending is the ending, it is a cop-out: too easy, too clean, too convenient. And a Cal choice, not a Frida choice.