The Gold Coast by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Gold CoastThe Orange County where Jim McPherson and his friends live is covered in concrete. The only orange grove left is part of a cemetery and even there it is slowly disappearing. Jim, Sandy, Abe, and Tashi were friends before they were on the high school wrestling team ten years earlier. Now they still see each other constantly, especially at some of Sandy’s wild parties.
Sandy has become a drug dealer of mood enhancing chemicals. He is doing quite well, and creates much of his own stock. Abe is an ambulance driver for Orange County – he could answer a call up on the densepacked elevated highways or on the ground level roads. He almost always is called for an auto accident. Tashi lives in the tent on the roof of a condomundo and surfs at night. He prefers the outdoors, although in Orange County there isn’t much to the outdoors. Jim is a part time teacher at the local community college and a part time data entry man at a real estate title company. He feels he is a poet, but he doesn’t like his own work. Jim’s father,
Dennis McPherson, works for one of the big five aerospace businesses based in Orange County. He’s an engineer working on guidance systems for defense missiles. Jim and his father do not get along. Jim hates what his father’s company does and stands for. Dennis believes his son is still wasting his life, not growing up. And behind it all is concrete Orange County.
Orange County is covered in freeways from ground level to very high in the air. On the upper levels of the highways a driver can find maintenance stations, fast food, stores, and the other things we’re used to seeing as we travel. The cars themselves now run on tracks with only minimal driver intervention usually needed. Jim McPherson is nostalgic for the Orange County from before his time – when there was still land and open spaces.
The Gold Coast is a depressing look at another possible future for Southern California, yet there is hope offered by the end of the book. I believe the reason I find this book depressing is because of the three books in this series, this is the one that appears the most possible as of now. The other two depend on some major, even catastrophic events. In this one Kim Stanley Robinson shows what can happen if we keep going as we are now.
I found The Gold Coast to be slow reading, but I was caught up in the characters and couldn’t not finish it.They are caught up in their own life events that get out of their control. Sandy had come close to quitting when his father became ill and needed major medical treatment. Tashi’s long time partner is pulling away as she goes higher on her company corporate ladder. Abe sees too much on each run and has to learn to grow a shell around himself so he can do the job. Dennis McPherson is the head of a team making a new missile for the Air Force that has time overruns and political back back biting. Jim – the character with most of the focus – has a meaningless life. Then he finds something that will help validate him and his opinion of the government. One, if not all of these men, could easily crash and burn.
Robinson has written a cautionary book for our near future. It looks grim yet salvageable.
Notice: Non-graphic violence, Suggestive dialogue or situations