Gold Fame Citrus (Watkins)

For a while there, I was sure that the dystopian market was saturated, that agents and publishers were telling authors, “No, for the love of whomever, no more dystopian stories.” But given the state of things in the United States these days, I will not be shocked to find more and more on the market. If they’re as good as Gold Fame Citrus, well, that’ll be a good thing.

We’re out of water. Not in real life, though we’re close to both running out and ruining what we have left. In Watkins’ novel, though, we’re in California, or what’s left of it. And Watkins is wise enough to make a nod to Chinatown.

It seems appropriate, given the way the dunes are increasing and swallowing up everyone and everything, to say that Watkins is adept at shifting the ground beneath our feet. Expectations about genre, plot, conflict are established and not as much upended as they are altered. This is, indeed, a brave new world.

My one criticism is with her depiction of minor characters. There aren’t many, so I was hoping for more depth or nuance with them. The 4 main characters (and I include one here who barely speaks) are wonderful. The others, not so much. Dallas is the most interesting one.

But the story and the imagery are haunting. I may have closed the book, but there is much about the book – from beginning to end – that is staying on my mind.

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