“An imaginative and thought-provoking look at life in California 16,000 years in the future after a global pandemic and environmental catastrophe in 2021.” –San Francisco Chronicle “A remarkable … see full wiki
This entry in the post-apocalypse genre has a slight twist. The story traces the "world after" for several millennia, describing not only the devastation of the collapse and its immediate aftermath, but the healing process that the planet and its human population go through over a span of ten thousand or so years. Contemporary authors tend to make plague the cause of their sci-fi collapses, rather than the standard 1960s nuclear war, and this is the case in The Great Bay. Coupled with plague is the fact that humans have overpopulated the earth, which is in a downward spiral of decline for the first thousand or so years covered by the novel. Decline is followed by a very gradual recovery that begins to gather steam in the second half of the book.
The novel is actually a series of connected stories and short news bulletins. Some periods of time are covered by diary entries of an itinerant monk. Others are relayed through individual accounts by average people struggling to get by. Some are short news items that presumably come from local newspapers. All of the pieces purport to be items in an archive at UC Berkeley, which has survived the collapse but in greatly decentralized and reduced form.
There are some nice touches that add interest to the story line(s). For example, the term used for the lost, high-tech civilization is Precle (pre-cull), a combination of the longer term Pre-Collapse, which is used for the first few hundred years until it is elided into its blended form. The people of the lost civilization (as in you and me) are called Precles, and we are in many ways disparaged more than admired. The novel's characters ponder the merits of capitalism and wonder why we emphasized private property over more human treasures like love and sharing. This subtext is well done, and gives pause without being preachy.
Overall I would recommend this novel to lovers of the genre, but for readers of more general fiction who venture into dystopia-land only for standouts such as 1984 or Brave New World, The Great Bay is probably not a book for you.
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