So I’ve been on this pretty major dystopian fiction kick. It’s an on-going theme – storylines beginning in the not too distant future when the environment has crumbled under the weight of humankind, the government has become a totalitarian regime and the protagonists are hell-bent on revolution. My recent obsession started with The Hunger Games, a wildly popular trilogy by YA author Suzanne Collins that’s presently being developed into a series of huge blockbuster films. I devoured (ha, ha) the books in a matter of days and became so invested in the characters’ fight for survival that I felt a little lost when the story ended. Immediately, I began scavenging for more books within the genre and found America Pacifica, the debut novel from author Anna North.
America Pacifica is one of many in a genre of dystopian futures. In this book, North introduces us to Darcy, a young woman who lives in the grim replica of North America located on a small island in the South Pacific Ocean called “America Pacifica”. Overcrowded and divided by the unequal distribution of wealth, the island is dissolving into the sea from toxic pollution and on the verge of civil war. Our heroine, Darcy, works as a cook and nurse’s aide at World Experiences, a retirement residence for the island’s first inhabitants, and is completely ambivalent to the problems of the island. That is, until her mother disappears and Darcy’s safe and private world is thrown into a tailspin.
The novel follows Darcy’s desperate search for her mother through the island’s most troubled districts where she is acutely suspicious of everyone she meets. The small world she had come to know as a child dangerously expands to include mute nuns with talking parrots, circus folk with missing limbs, bug-eyed solvent addicts and rich kids with too much free time. There are very few acts of kindness in this world and Darcy quickly learns that everything comes at a severe emotional, financial and physical cost. As the secrets of her mother’s past and disappearance come to light, Darcy finds herself the unwitting heroine of a revolution set to overturn everything she has ever known.
Like The Hunger Games, this book shares a similar character-driven storyline set in a future not terribly far off from our own, where the struggle for freedom is a matter of life or death and survival tests our most vulnerable of human virtues. America Pacifica is a fast-paced and a very quick read, and if you can forgive the author’s often long-winded use of dialogue, this novel is a great compliment to other dystopian reads. While some readers may think the genre a bit morbid, I’ve always appreciated the perspective it gives to our current political, social and environmental climate. If things are bad now, how much worse could it get? While America Pacifica does take a fantastical approach to the imagined fate of North America, at its core I found myself relating to Darcy and her plight, contemplating how I would respond in similar situations. Would I run or would I stay and fight?
I would recommend this book to anyone fascinated by the end of the world. If you enjoyed similar titles such as The Hunger Games, A Handmaid’s Tale or 1984, you’ll definitely quench your dystopian appetite with America Pacifica.
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