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America Pacifica by Anna North
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America Pacifica (2011)

by Anna North

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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: http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/
( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
This was pretty crude in places. And the writing seemed like it was more for an adult audience with all of the description and internal debates. I'm still not sure how they got in the situation they were in. What caused the cold? And why was their island the only place deemed safe? A lot of the situation didn't make any sense to me. And the ending was not good at all. ( )
  Mirandalg14 | Aug 18, 2014 |
A beautifully written, darkly dystopian novel about a colony of survivors after the second ice age, who move to America Pacifica, the last remaining inhabitable island off the Californian coast. There, teenage heroine Darcy Pern lives with her mother Sarah in abject poverty, working in an old folks' home and returning to the same squalid room, until one night Sarah doesn't come back from work. Darcy's quest to find her mother, and uncover the truth about the island and its founder, sends her reeling between strange encounters with shadowy figures from the mainland and deeper into danger.

First of all, I really like Anna North's style. Even when the plot was starting to come unhinged, I enjoyed reading her way with words, like, 'She wished her mother was something she could keep in a closed fist, like a coin' or 'women's whispers, like dishwater swishing in a tub'. And her world-building is incredibly evocative, if deeply depressing - I could almost feel the heat and the damp, and taste the 'cheese product', whatever that is.

The story left me slightly bemused, however - I got the feeling that North was writing a heavy-handed allegory of colonialism, but I'm probably thinking too hard! A guy named Tyson engineers the evacuation to America Pacifica, where the same privileges and iniquities of the old world are re-established. However, a band of orphans from the mainland choose to believe the word of another ice age icon, a man called Daniel who fought against Tyson's mass emigration, and rise up against their downtrodden existence on the island. Darcy and her mother are caught in the centre of this revolution, and Darcy must decide whether to stay and fight or return to the mainland to look for Daniel and any other survivors. I honestly think I missed a page somewhere, though, because the pace suddenly jumps from an agonising search for Sarah into a full-blown war. And the ending was tantalisingly vague.

Depressing but exquisitely detailed, Anna North's debut novel is more of an experience than a novel, but thought-provoking and satisfying all the same. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Sep 22, 2013 |
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.

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. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
Does it seem like apocalypic/dystopian works meant for adults just don't pack the same punch as those targeted at a young adult audience (or is this just me)? America Pacifica, The Dog Stars, The Testament of Jessie Lamb, and White Horse all left me feeling kind of "meh". They aren't bad, but they also don't really hold my attention.

In America Pacifica, I never really felt anything for the main character, Darcy. I didn't feel bad for her when her mom disappeared, I didn't even really care about her future. And then the end of the book? WTH? It suddenly goes from describing events to some kind of vague notion of...being saved? Dying? I have no idea.

I liked aspects of this book. The world-building was pretty interesting, but it would have been nice to have a little more description -- did they just pick an island and use trash and "solvent" to build it up?

Not a bad read...but no where near one of my favorites. ( )
  melissarochelle | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Book description
America Pacifica is an island hundreds of miles off the coast of California - the only warm place left in a world in the grip of a new ice age. Darcy Pern is seventeen; her mother has gone missing, and the novel details her quest to find out the truth about her disappearance - a quest which soon becomes an investigation of the disturbing origins of America Pacifica itself, and its sinister and reclusive leader, a man known only as Tyson.

America Pacifica invites comparison with the work of Margaret Atwood and China Mieville, but also with Cormac McCarthy's The Road, for its post-apocalyptic scenario and the touching relationship between Darcy and her mother, and the Stieg Larsson trilogy for its implacable central character who is determined to uncover the truth.
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America Pacifica is an island hundreds of miles off the coast of California - the only warm place left in a world in the grip of a new ice age.

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