The Wild Shore – Kim Stanley Robinson

February 10, 2008

The Wild Shore is the first volume of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Three Californias Trilogy. I read the book because, perhaps because after reading The Long Emergency I was in the mood for dystopia. What was a wonderful surprise, though, was that The Wild Shore tells a beautiful, sad story of life in 2047, after the US has been attacked and isolated by the other world powers.

Although Robinson wrote the story in 1984, other than a few references to the Soviet Union and the Cold War, it feels very contemporary and new. The book tells the story of Henry Aaron Fletcher, a teen-aged boy who lives with a handful of other survivors in a small fishing village in what is now San Onofre, California, as he and the others are contacted by a larger settlement in San Diego, and have to decide whether to join with the San Diegans in uniting in an American rebellion and facing the other countries, or continue by smaller measures.

There is real beauty in the story. The most compelling character is Tom Barnard, the oldest person in town, and one of the few who remembers the world before the fall of America. Tom is a teacher in the town, and tries to guide his community in a better way. At one point he realizes that “[y]ou can’t teach what the world has taught you,” that, despite trying to help his villagers preserve the literary and cultural heights of the old America while living peacefully and pastorally, he can’t convince them not to rail against the rest of the world for their poor plight.

There’s a sadness in the inevitability of such a realization, and a real sadness in the events of the story. But there’s also a hope in seeing the world persist, seeing people band together and survive, seeing love and community and deliberate living succeed on even a small level. I was surprised how much I liked this book, and look forward to reading the rest of the stories in the trilogy.


One Response to “The Wild Shore – Kim Stanley Robinson”

  1. Orodromeus Says:

    Came across your entry while searching for KS Robinson material. Glad you liked “The Wild Shore”! Drop by the relative forum at or the wiki project at, we sure could use some activity!

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