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These three books lay out a story under a different future of Orange County, California.
The first, The Wild Shore, is a post-nuclear story about what it means to build your own future. When you grow up after "the America" has been nuked to hell and back, what parts of Americaness still linger? How do you find you place in a world that has already had an apocalypse before you were born? The Wild Shore has some answers for these questions.
The second book, The Gold Coast, is the neoliberal hellscape we are currently hurtling toward, but instead of Amazon there are thousands of shopping malls. Think suburban sprawl on steroids. One major theme of this book is how do you change the world around you when it's so overdeveloped and every aspect of that world is integrated with other overdeveloped aspects. This was the hardest one to read because it resembles most closely what our world is currently like. Some of the details are off (no cell phones, and the USSR is still around) but the vibe is spot on.
The third book, Pacific Edge, is more of a utopian novel. America has become an eco-socialist utopia and normal people make up and govern themselves in anarcho-syndicalist towns. There is peace and health and heartbreak. When the systemic, existential problems are taken care of, you have much more room to feel and be.
Each of these three books is wonderful. Kim Stanley Robinson is so damn good at ending a story.
I'd read some other KSR, but never mad it through the Three Californias. The new forward doesn't add much, but it is cool to have everything in one volume. However, for those who like reading in bed, over your head, you might find this copy a little heavy, with 900 pages
KSR is an amazing story teller and the Three Californias are no exception. I first read this trilogy in college (back in my distant past) and these were some of the first books I bought instead of borrowed from the library. They still sit upon my book shelves to be reread every few years. What wonderful visions of the future they were to my young self! Not as scientific as his other books, but still plenty to learn from the stories. As always, KSR imagined things that have now come to pass (self driving cars!). Buy this omnibus edition of the California trilogy; you won’t be disappointed.