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Summary

From the author of the award-winning Mars trilogy comes a vision of a radically different alternative future, where every day is a fight to survive.

North America, 2047. For the small Pacific Coast community of San Onofre, life in the aftermath of a devastating nuclear attack is a matter of survival, a day-to-day struggle to stay alive. But young Hank Fletcher dreams of the world that might have been, that might yet be - and dreams of playing a crucial role in America's rebirth.

Kim Stanley Robinson's first novel, The Wild Shore, is an epic tale that will appeal to adults and young adults alike.

©1984 Kim Stanley Robinson (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc., and Skyboat Media, Inc.

What listeners say about The Wild Shore

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Odd coming of age story. Talented writer but dated

This is an odd book to review. It is written by a very talented writer, who uses poetic language without becoming flowery. He is also fantastic at characterization. I honestly think I could love this book if the premise -what I thought it was when I started listening- had gone in a different direction.

So, I thought I was getting a futuristic novel about a community surviving after disaster (war) struck. What I got was a coming of age novel written from the perspective of a teenage boy. This teenage boy is infuriating in many ways, but also deeply sympathetic. He is very, very naïve and self-centered, and makes terrible decisions that cause the deaths of others. Other than feeling guilty about it he doesn't really get held accountable for that. He seems introspective and gets sympathy points for a lot of things. But after finishing the novel I don't think I liked him very much, even though he is clearly written as the person you are supposed to root for. So listening to an entire book from his perspective was not all that satisfying in the end. The other two main characters are another insufferable teenage boy, who is clearly bullying and dominating the main character, but is still written as his 'best friend'. The last is an old man, Tom. That one was he most interesting one. It's hard to explain why without spoilers. But all three characters have in common that they are written incredibly well. They really come alive. It is just too bad (for me) that two of them are insufferable in my eyes.

So in the end, even though I very much recognize the skill of the writer, I did not enjoy this novel all that much. I also suspect this novel reads very differently based on whether you are an American or not. I think in the end we are supposed to have sympathy for all the patriotic hoo-ha, but as an European that just reads like MAGA not realizing they lost. I think there could be parallels drawn between the North/South, civil war aftermath as well.

The narrator is a professional and has a very comforting, deep voice. I speeded it up a little, but would absolutely listen to another book read by him.

One last word of caution:
This book was written in 1984 and has some racist and sexist tropes as well. They are not overt and I think it is easier to give two examples to explain what I mean. 01: There is for example a non-ironic description of the population of an island off the coast where a character ends up that goes like this: (quote) "There were Mexican faces, Asian faces, some Black, but I could see no American faces." Another one is that the only two women that feature more than a few lines in the book are 01: a conniving seductress who is a love interest for the protagonist and betrays him, and the girl next door who ends up as his other love interest. That's it. Plus the usual comments about how men are all cool and unproblematic (despite unleashing war and such), while women need to gossip and are all emotional. No LGBTQ representation at all, in any way. So yeah. I knew going in that this is an 80's book and I've read far worse, but this is clearly a white guy in the eighties perspective, when his existence was the default. I think if I had been that man, reading this book when it came out, I would have found it FANTASTIC. Because like I said, the storytelling skill is very clearly there. I may seek out more recent material of this writer to see if he has improved with the changing times.

2 people found this helpful

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Not a patch on the Mars Series

Very disappointed, didn’t even finish it! Wanted to believe it wasn’t more disaster movie than SF but gave up. Too political but at least the English aren’t the baddies for a change but I suppose it was written in 1984 when the Americans were still obsessed with the Reds!

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A beautiful and hypnotic story

Stefan Rudniciki performs a beautiful melancholic poem of a story. Compelling from start to finish.

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  • Carl
  • 12-01-16

Needs 6 stars

This book redefines great sci-fi, it is a great story and good literature. It has lots of ringing truths and it punches through similar books with a rich inner life expressed in terms of the New World lost in the ruins of the old.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Jeff Koeppen
  • 27-03-21

Impressive Debut Novel

The Wild Shore is the impressive debut novel by Kim Stanley Robinson. It is part of the Three Californias Triptych, and all titles were free on Audible last time I checked. The Wild Shore is the dystopian novel of the three. The triptych covers three possible futures for California.

Written in 1984, it's not surprising then that the dystopian setting was caused by a nuclear war. The war takes place in 1987, and the book is set in 2047. The reader is never really sure what caused the war, rumor has it that neutron bombs were detonated in vehicles in the 2,000 largest cities in the USA as a surprise attack by the rest of the world who wanted to put the US in its place. The novel is set in Orange County, California and focuses on a village of about 60 people struggling to get by. The story is told through the eyes of a young man, Hank, who, like everyone else, isn't sure what is going on in the outside world (although rumors abound). Japan has blockaded the West Coast (and other countries guard the other borders) and no one is allowed in or out of the country. The Californians have no technology and any advancements, such as railroad track repair, are met with bombs from unseen satellites. Hank's friend Tom is the oldest person in their village, supposedly over 100, and tells stories of what life was like in the modern world before the bombs.

The plot involves re-establishing contact and rail travel with their southern neighbors in San Diego, and the ongoing debate in the village whether to try to fight back against the Japanese, who occupy Catalina Island and whose boats patrol up and down the coast.

The pace of the novel is slow and steady, and the tone is melancholic, which was right up my alley and why I liked it so much. Kim Stanley Robinson can really tell a story, and the characters are really well developed in this one. I'm looking forward to reading the next two books in the triptych.

3 people found this helpful

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  • enya keshet
  • 20-10-18

a child story

unlike other Kim Staniely Robinson books it seems this one is aimed at young readers.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Adam Wright
  • 31-08-16

Extremely boring...

I kept waiting for the story line to pick up the pace, but it never did. The plot is definitely interesting, but the characters and story telling is dry.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 28-10-21

Interesting

Worth a listen but probably not to everyone’s taste. I liked it, the descriptions were fabulous, characters were flushed out.

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  • Stephen Smith
  • 24-09-21

Excellent Read

This author is extraordinary. The books reads as if it were written yesterday. He has carefully examined what it means to be human and to lead a fulfilling life. The characters face the same kinds of challenges that humans have been faced with for millennia—food, shelter, relationships. The main character has known only this life, yet he is able to stitch together the various parts of his limited experience to figure out what is important, what will define his existence. The book made me stop and think long and hard about what I give importance to in my own life. It also challenges our place in the world as the richest country on Earth and what this means to the rest of the world. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves great writing, beautiful language, and thought provoking narrative.

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  • Squeak
  • 03-08-21

Notable for its first person perspective

In fact, it reads much like a coming of age novel. The narrator is a young man who must learn to negotiate his provincial post-nuclear holocaust life with a nostalgic patriotic movement to restore American sovereignty. The question he must answer: is it worth it? Is the life they live now better than the America of old? And if so, can one still honor the past? It’s not a complicated plot, and as others note, it peters out towards the end. But KSR contributes a solid first person perspective, not terribly common in sci-fi, that breathes life into his book’s central theme: whether it is set in a dystopian future, or whether we are living in a dystopia now.

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  • victoria
  • 29-05-21

Story peters out

I’m not sure what this book wanted to be. There were some interesting details, good characters and lovely language (inspired no doubt by long walks along the West Coast). But the story got lost and evaporated.

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  • Rico de Pico
  • 31-03-21

Beautiful first novel

Robinson’s auspicious debut novel has an ideal reader in Rudnicki. It’s an excellent audio production of a moving book.

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  • Steven Grise
  • 11-03-21

Home Depot

The narrator sounds like the voiceover artist in Home Depot commercials...5 stars, soothing voice.