cover image Pacific Edge

Pacific Edge

Kim Stanley Robinson. Tor Books, $18.95 (326pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85097-5

An outstanding achievement, the concluding volume in Robinson's Orange County, Calif., trilogy again takes place in the middle of the next century. The books are not strict sequels, providing instead several versions of an alternate world. While The Wild Shore depicted a postnuclear holocaust society and The Gold Coast reflected a period of uncontrolled technological growth, this novel is set in an ecological utopia with a reduced population and rational use of renewable resources. Because utopias can be boring, Robinson generates action through several intertwined conflicts, combining the political and personal lives of his characters. The introduction of the newly hired town attorney provides a fresh insight into the community of El Modena and an external viewpoint on its citizens' ``usual array of Machiavellian battles,'' as do excerpts from a diary writtten in the past. The characters are fully developed and individually motivated; the reader identifies with them easily. Robinson's writing ranks in the highest levels of the genre, and the last sentences of the book generate a soaring optimism. Taken together, the books of the trilogy invite interesting comparisons or their several worlds, but separately each is a completely independent, excellent story. (Dec.)