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California

A Novel
Narrated by: Emma Galvin
Length: 12 hrs and 26 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
3 out of 5 stars (399 ratings)

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Critic Reviews

"Stunning and brilliant.... A wholly original take on the post-apocalypse genre." (Dan Chaon, author Await Your Reply)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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    42
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    111
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    155
  • 2 Stars
    50
  • 1 Stars
    41

Performance

  • 3.5 out of 5 stars
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    71
  • 4 Stars
    102
  • 3 Stars
    101
  • 2 Stars
    48
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    35

Story

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    40
  • 4 Stars
    89
  • 3 Stars
    136
  • 2 Stars
    55
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    39
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Not Worth the Colbert Bump

I think like most people, I was directed to this work because of Stephen Colbert. But also because this is a genre that I read a lot of.

First of all, the narrator sounds like Lisa Simpson. She did a tolerable job, but I don't think she should make a career of narration.

Second of all, this doesn't really deserve to be categorized as dystopian. Although that is ostensibly the story background, it's really a juvenile romance. Although the characters are supposed to be in their 30s, they act like they are still in high school...except maybe for the psychopathic serial killer.

Not recommended.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Joel
  • NEWPORT BEACH, CA, United States
  • 07-24-14

Not Deserving of The Colbert Bump

I'm not sure California by Edan Lepucki deserved the Colbert bump. The book was featured a month before its release on The Colbert Report, when Stephen Colbert was reporting on the Hachette v Amazon dispute. The concept sounded fascinating. A husband and wife in California after the world has been desecrated. You never do learn what happened but it sounds like a combination of war, global warming, and society just breaking down.

So what's wrong with California the novel? Pretty much everything. The book doesn't really have the necessary elements of a good story. Like a beginning middle or end. The book is just there. You meet the focus of the book Cal (short for Calvin and also his nickname California) and Frida who are living in the wilderness after escaping Los Angeles. Without going into too much of the plot (or the minor resemblance's of a plot) its about their survival and the survival of those around them.

I was listening to the audiobook and kept looking at the time left in the book and was wondering when something was going to happen. Yet nothing ever really happens. Frida complains and Cal consoles, and their characters switch roles a few times, but in all honesty nothing happens in this book. Both characters come off flat, and just have little to no redeeming quality.

I guess that's my biggest issue with California. Where in a book like The Road you've got the main protagonists to root for in this bleak existence, I found myself not necessarily caring about what happened to any character in California. And then the book just ends. Rather abruptly going ahead briefly in time and then just ends. I listened to the ending a few times hoping that I missed something. Nope the book just ends and thus ends my review on California. An interesting concept that led to a lackluster book.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

why did I bother?

What disappointed you about California?

it turned out to be a story about "not much at all" by the 6th hour into the book it became painfully obvious that nothing exciting was going to happen other than just the same old dull chatter. and by the 11th hour I was just finding myself watching the timer hoping the end would come soon.

Would you ever listen to anything by Edan Lepucki again?

probably not!

Would you be willing to try another one of Emma Galvin’s performances?

definitely not!

What character would you cut from California?

maybe the question should be "what character would I add to the story?"...the story really lacked anybody exciting I could connect with!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • G. A.
  • New York, NY United States
  • 07-30-14

Could not get past the horrible narration

What didn’t you like about Emma Galvin’s performance?

The narrator consistently emphasized the wrong words in sentences, mainly verbs, e.g. He WENT (pause) to the river. She WALKED (pause) to the house. Also a lot of super strange pauses for no reason.

I listened to Divergent by the same narrator and thought the narration was fine, not great, but certainly passable. I'm not sure if she didn't get a chance to read the book ahead of time or what, but it became too frustrating to listen to the horrible narration. Once you begin noticing it, it's impossible to focus on the story.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good Story, Very Poor Narration

What made the experience of listening to California the most enjoyable?

The story managed to be both charming and gripping. I listened almost non-stop and didn't lose interest until the last fifteen minutes. The ending was anti-climactic, at best, and left me wanting more of the relationship dynamics and the tension among the inhabitants of The Land.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Emma Galvin?

Actually, the narrator's voice would have worked if she had read well. It seemed as if she didn't even look over the book before she begin narrating. Some of the poorest reading I've ever heard, her misplacement of punctuation and the halting way she spoke, was ultimately detrimental to the story.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Much ado about nothing

What disappointed you about California?

As I said, much ado about nothing. Not to mention the narration is terrible. Totally wrong cadence.

What didn’t you like about Emma Galvin’s performance?

Awful

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Read "The Road" instead.

I really wanted this book to be so good. I think I fell for the pretty cover and the fact that it’s a genre I am known to love. BUT, the book really was lacking in details about the plot and the characters were rough around the edges, not as refined as they could have been. Also, this book had about the worst narrator that I have listened to in over 35 books. When a narrator is good, it enhances the book and when the narrator is bad… well you get the picture. She sounded too young and had terrible inflection. She also paused too much. If you decide to read this book, do just that, read it and don’t listen to it.

The plot had a good premise. I liked the way that L.A. and the rest of the country disintegrated due to weather extremes, energy depletion and sickness. Gas was too expensive for everyday use and medicine and food became hard to get. Frida lost her job and people could not rely on the normal means to stay safe and secure. The rich communities were able to close themselves in and the rest of society had to fend for themselves. Cal and Frida decide to go out into the wilderness and try their luck at surviving. This works… until it doesn’t. They find themselves a shack to live in and later find people nearby to befriend, but their luck soon goes south. Frida becomes pregnant and her and Cal decide to see what’s beyond where they live. They find a community that has more secrets than the secrets that Cal and Frida keep from each other.

Frida’s character was very mousey and both Cal and Frida were emotionally inward. They didn’t communicate with each other. They never seemed to be on the same page. This didn’t seem to work in the community when they were so unsure of their future and whether the community would agree to keep them. There were many details that seemed too quirky for me (i.e. the turkey baster and the color red) and this made the book awkward. There were also many characters that were unlikable and others that weren’t developed enough. The ending was somewhat abrupt and I felt like both Frida and Cal resigned to their fates. I could have used more information here. Maybe 5 more pages to explain what was going on. The ending, even though it was interesting, was kind of a let down in my opinion.

The best part about this book for me was that it got me thinking a lot about what I would do in a scenario of society’s breakdown and what exactly might lead to this.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Just okay...

Okay, don't let the 3 stars fool you. There is a lot to like about this book, but a lot NOT to like. It has a real Cormac MaCarthy feel as you are slowly introduced to a world where it is obvious that things have gone terribly wrong. You are never told exactly what took place to put everything in a tailspin. Instead, you are given nuggets as the narrator weaves the story through the eyes of Frida.

One of my issues with this book is the lack of a character to actually like. Nobody has any charm about them, and Frida makes the same mistakes over and over, including at the very end to the point of frustrating the reader to a point of distraction.

Perhaps you will enjoy it. But go in with reservations. Heed some of the other reviews that are less than glowing. I think this title remains obscure without Stephen Colbert's "bump".

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

My Rating is Solely for the Narration

I gave up on this book at chapter 7, 3-1/2 hours into it. I just can't take the narration. It's distracting and it's impossible to follow the story. Emma Galvin sounds too much like a teenager for a story featuring a woman in her late twenties. She also pauses too long for commas and periods. One should not be able to hear the punctuation. She's probably a good narrator for a young adult novel, but not for this. I've listened to over 300 audiobooks and this is one of the worst narrations I've heard.

I gave the story three stars. I think I might like to read it in print someday. It seems like it might be good, but not in audio.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

I guess since it is fantasy, anything goes . . . .

Would you try another book from Edan Lepucki and/or Emma Galvin?

Overall, the characters' behavior is too illogical and impetuous. They behave in inexplicable ways and in the end, the novel falls apart because you have to think, "No, she wouldn't do that" or, "He wouldn't say that"


I thought Emma Galvin was one of the more successful readers I have heard.She is consistently clear and doesn't try accents or "voices". You can easily follow a conversation that different characters are speaking, but it isn't because of "ACTING!".

Has California turned you off from other books in this genre?

I am not a huge fan of speculative fiction. This novel had received such interesting notices in advance, that I was intrigued. Having completed this, I am less likely to attempt more of it.

Have you listened to any of Emma Galvin’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No

Do you think California needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

I was too happy to leave California in the dust. And I live here. There was a lot of potential that was left unfulfilled. I kind of feel that the novel was rushed and could have used more time to have been developed and the characters to be fleshed out/ made to behave consistently.

Any additional comments?

Honestly my problem is with the book, not the recording

2 of 3 people found this review helpful