America Pacifica by Anna North
Little, Brown & Company, 2011
Hardcover, 297 pages
Little, Brown & Company, 2011
Hardcover, 297 pages
Eighteen-year-old Darcy lives on the island of America Pacifica—one of the last places on earth that is still habitable, after North America has succumbed to a second ice age. Education, food, and basic means of survival are the province of a chosen few, while the majority of the island residents must struggle to stay alive. The rich live in "Manhattanville" mansions made from the last pieces of wood and stone, while the poor cower in the shantytown slums of "Hell City" and "Little Los Angeles," places built out of heaped up trash that is slowly crumbling into the sea. The island is ruled by a mysterious dictator named Tyson, whose regime is plagued by charges of corruption and conspiracy.
But to Darcy, America Pacifica is simply home—the only one she's ever known. In spite of their poverty she lives contentedly with her mother, who works as a pearl diver. It's only when her mother doesn't come home one night that Darcy begins to learn about her past as a former "Mainlander," and her mother's role in the flight from frozen California to America Pacifica. Darcy embarks on a quest to find her mother, navigating the dark underbelly of the island, learning along the way the disturbing truth of Pacifica's early history, the far-reaching influence of its egomaniacal leader, and the possible plot to murder some of the island's first inhabitants—including her mother.
America Pacifica by Anna North is set in a post-apocalyptic future. America Pacifica, an unidentified island, was settled by refugees from the USA after a new ice age has overtaken the continent. It is now 2043 and America Pacifica is run by a dictator called Tyson. It is a society based on a strict social hierarchy, or caste-system, in which the privileged few try to recreate the life they (or their parents) had in North America, while the majority struggle simply to survive.
In the novel survival is a struggle for 18 year old Darcy and her mother. Darcy works in the kitchen at an residential enclave for senior citizens. Her mother works as a pearl diver. When Darcy's mother disappears, she sets out on a quest to try and find her mother, and the reason for her disappearance. The descriptions reinforce a dirty, gritty feeling as you follow Darcy's journey through the various neighborhoods and polluted piles of trash while searching for clues about her mother's disappearance. Darcy's inquiries lead her to Ansel, a dissident, and some startling information about the founding of their island home.
North did some note-worthy world building in America Pacifica. It also serves as a political allegory, and focuses on class systems, poverty, revolution, and ecology in the changed world. Most of the action takes place in and describes the poor areas of America Pacifica. The poor classes eat food products manufactured from jellyfish and seaweed. Seaweed is a basis for building materials and clothing for the poor, which causes problems when it rains. Some residents are addicted to huffing solvent. It's said to be a young adult novel, but be forewarned that it contains a few graphic scenes.
I felt like America Pacifica was well written, however there was a point toward the end of the novel where it felt like something was left out and there were just a few stumbles. The ending seems to indicate that there will be a sequel so the climax was a bit of a let down for me. If you like post-apocalyptic fiction and can accept an ending that isn't then you'll likely enjoy America Pacifica. I will be looking for the sequel.
Highly Recommended, almost very
The trouble started when the woman with the shaking hands came to the apartment. Her face was small but fleshy, with a little puffy mouth. She was dressed in shabby, slightly strange clothes—a magenta skirt a little too short for her age, a T-shirt with home-stenciled snowflakes—and her skin was a weird sallow color like she had just fainted or was just about to faint. She said she was a friend of Darcy’s mother, but Darcy’s mother didn’t have friends. opening
“Darcy,” her mother said, in a voice that sounded like it came from a time before all the tenderness and bitterness and songs and rhymes and whispers and private names that had grown between them in the eighteen years of Darcy’s life. “Can you give us a minute?”
Darcy didn’t like it. The woman’s eyes were moving all over the hallway like they were expecting something to come charging through the wall.
“What’s this about?” Darcy asked.
The woman looked at Darcy’s mother and Darcy’s mother looked at Darcy with an expression she had seen on the other mothers but almost never on her own, an expression that said, Please do this and don’t ask me why.Darcy obeyed. She left the apartment and the woman walked in. They shut the door and Darcy was alone in the hallway. pg. 4
“How do you know her?”
Sarah turned her back to Darcy and began scraping again. When she answered, she spoke quickly, giving each word as little weight as possible.
“I used to hang around with her when I was younger.”
Darcy knew this was a bad sign. Her mother never talked about the mainland, or about coming to Pacifica, or about what it was like to live on the island before it was overcrowded and overbuilt and falling apart at the edges, when it was still an exciting new escape from the frozen, used-up hulk of North America. Darcy knew Sarah had lived in a co-op in Seattle, that she’d come to the island on the first boat when she was just ten years old, that she’d done odd jobs until she got pregnant, when she became a pearl diver, that Darcy’s father’s name was Alejandro, and that he was dead. Everything else that happened to Sarah before Darcy’s birth was off-limits, and Sarah didn’t even get satisfyingly angry when Darcy asked about it. She just put on her faraway face, her face that said, Even though I know everything there is to know about you, there are things about me that you will never know, and gave Darcy the only piece of advice she ever gave: “Don’t get stuck in the past.” pg. 7
The printing was cheap, doubled like drunk vision, but today’s headline was a screamer: SEAGUARDS THWART HAWAIIAN ATTACK. Below it was a line drawing—the few working cameras on the island had rotted into hunks of scrap long ago—of a ship with enormous guns jutting from its sides. Twice before in Darcy’s memory they had shot down invader ships, destroyers coming west from Hawaii. The last time had been ten years ago—Darcy was eight, and for weeks all the kids talked about nothing but boats and torpedoes and wars. Then the threat dimmed, and the western settlements became what they’d always been—far-off enemies, featureless and vaguely fearsome, a role to force the uncool kids to play in games of make-believe. Some of the kids in Darcy’s high school even claimed that all the westerners had died, that a hot ocean current had fried them just like the cold had frozen America. You got in trouble if your teacher heard you say so, but more and more in recent years Darcy had seen underground flyers posted around Little Los Angeles, their blurry type proclaiming, HAWAIIANS DEAD! FIRE THE SEAGUARDS! They were never up for more than a day. pg. 10-11
She wasn’t dumb enough to think that everyone on America Pacifica would ever have their own house, but if she could live like the people in Sonoma one day, she wouldn’t worry about anyone else. pg. 13
To the animal brain this disappearance was the culmination of an old dread, older even than the night ten years ago when Sarah was so late, as old as the first question that Sarah had refused to answer. The animal brain whispered that Sarah had always had a secret place she was half-inside, and now she had gone all the way. Darcy chewed her fingernails as the bus plowed past the Hollywood sign and the Paramount Flyers building, past the Seaboard Sears Tower with the long fingers of parrot shit down its front, down the Strip, past the climate-controlled baseball stadium that cost a month of Darcy’s wages just to get into, and then out onto the narrow road that ran along the eastern shore.
This was the restricted side—on the western beaches you could sunbathe and buy shaved ice and cut school to lie in the sand and huff solvent if you were lucky enough to still have school to cut. But on the east coast, for some reason that Darcy had never fully understood, the only civilians allowed were pearl divers and refinery workers. A retaining wall ran gray and solid along the edge of the road, crowned with barbed wire. pg. 31