The Orange County Trilogy Critical Essays

Kim Stanley Robinson


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Orange County trilogy (also called the Three Californias novels) is a unique creation and one of the most interesting extrapolative works in science fiction. Each novel presents a consistent vision of the future of both Southern California and the world of which it is an integral part. The Wild Shore features pastoral innocence in a world determined to keep America from ever again exerting influence, The Gold Coast shows technological extremes in a world dominated by American military might, and Pacific Edge posits ecological utopia in a peaceful and prosperous global village. The thematic interplay among the novels makes the trilogy a profound treatise on the future of humanity, a coherent whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

As with all of Robinson’s novels, place and character dominate plot. Each novel consists of numerous intertwined subplots whose importance is in showing character development, illustrating the innate beauty of landscapes both natural and artificial, and developing themes. It is clear that Robinson loves the landscapes of California but also that he loves all of his diverse characters. Even minor characters come alive as well rounded and sympathetic, never reduced to mere caricatures. All the protagonists have flaws, and even the antagonists are sympathetic, motivated by what they believe is right.

Robinson’s stated intention was to write a dystopia (The Wild Shore), an extrapolation of current trends (The Gold Coast), and a utopia (Pacific Edge). It is a testament to the...

(The entire section is 657 words.)