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Anna North

Hachette/Virago (2011)

ISBN 978-1-84408-696-2

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

America Pacifica is set in the future when North America faces annihilation from a new ice age. Presumably the rest of the world is also suffering, but the global situation is not of concern here. Rather, the big freeze is the catalyst and the backdrop to the events of the story. It was the freeze that sent boat loads of American environmental refugees, or settlers, led by the domineering Tyson, across the Pacific Ocean to an island. The island has no topography to speak of, but it’s big enough to take a population of around 20,000, though it’s a case of out of the blizzard and into the freezer for the citizens of America Pacifica, who quickly manage to stress their new world with the pollutive ills of the old.

This battle, between adaptation to changing environment against a determination to recreate the existing industrial complex, underpins the social stress that further informs the novel’s setting. America Pacifica is a society of extremes, from the rich elite to the abject poor. Occupying one of the lower rungs is Darcy, a teenage girl, and her mother, Sarah. The pair enjoy a largely self-contained existence in their drab apartment, but the mundane routine of working to eat and pay the rent is thrown into chaos when Sarah fails to come home one night. Darcy must make her way through the strata of her society, seeking clues to Sarah’s whereabouts, the facts of which are buried firmly in life back on the mainland. There is comment along the way about consumerism and hedonism and environmentalism, but the core is a daughter’s quest for the mother she comes to realise she barely knew at all.

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