GOLD FAME CITRUS
by Claire Vaye Watkins
A book review by weird fantasy & speculative fiction author Ted Fauster
Among the future devastation of a California being slowly gobbled up by enormous dunes of sand, two survivors (Luz and Ray) are squatting in the bones of a Hollywood mansion when they happen across a toddler in need. They rescue the child from the gang of addicts doing little to nothing to care for it, and take her along on an odyssey into the dune sea known as the Amargosa in search of some kind of a meaningful life.
The language in this novel is bleak but powerful, if not overwrought in some areas. I remember the term wickered being used to describe the structure a dead desert bush, which works brilliantly. There is, however, a shroud of doom and gloom that hangs heavily over this novel some may find hard to digest.
That said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the language. It serves the book very well, and while some have cited this specific attribute as the reason they disliked the novel, I have to wonder if the cover had contained the name Vandermeer if some of these reviews would have been so harsh.
GOLD FAME CITRUS is not for everyone, which IMHO is precisely the way a literary novel should be written, and this is very much a literary read. I can, however, list two factors that I did not enjoy
The first is the tempting inclusion of a kind of “ecology handbook” of the new desert, which includes allusions to all sorts of imaginative creatures that have arisen in this post-apoc world. But they turn out to be just that — imagined.
The second is the ending. I won’t give it away, but it just felt a little rushed and lackluster. Having endured (in a very pleasant way) the intentional dreariness and isolation, I found myself wanting so much more for our heroes. But, perhaps there was no other way for such a book to end.
GOLD FAME CITRUS was an enjoyable read, and a fine addition to any reader’s climate fiction shelf.