25 years after its print publication, Pacific Edge finally has an audio edition, thanks to Stefan Rudnicki and Skyboat Media. Skyboat is the studio where Wil Wheaton recorded the audio editions of my books Homeland and Information Doesn't Want to Be Free. Last summer, I met with Stefan and his partner, director Gabrielle De Cuir, and talked about which sf novels have been overlooked in audio adaptation, and I made sure to mention Pacific Edge, because no other book in my collection has the power to uplift me with hope and optimism like this one.
Stefan and Skyboat acquired the audio rights and produced an outstanding audio adaptation. I love the experience of listening to favorite books. Something about the one-word-at-a-time nature of audio means that bits that you skim past get a chance to sink in, and things you've never noticed leap to the fore.
Pacific Edge is a utopian novel about small-town politics. It deals with a town council fight over a zoning change over a hill in a small Orange County town. But while that provides unlikely and ample drama to pull the novel along, what it really serves to do is give us a tour of Robinson's wonderfully plausible and human tomorrow, a vividly imagined world where people are an asset, not a liability; where greed is a vice, not a virtue; and where generosity is a policy goal.
Robinson's book is a story about the confusing American character, everything that makes the country great and terrible. The American promise that every person is deserving of rights and respect, regardless of nobility and birth; the American reality that condemned whole populations at home and abroad to misery and terror in the service of profits for an elite who considered themselves to be nobility, albeit a self-made nobility.
It's also a story about stories, about how the post-Reagan era has crowded out any kind of plausible narrative about people being fundamentally good and worthy, replacing it with a story about people being the competition — every migrant and every worker a drain on your taxes and a drag on the bottom line. Pacific Edge is a reminder about what a pathological state that is to live in, and takes as its theory of change that once you show people that there might be a way to live without your happiness being someone else's misery, they will leap to it.
But it's also a story about what happens when that all breaks down. It's a story about utopia's discontents, the way that a utopia accommodates (or rebuffs) people who don't agree with it.
Pacific Edge is an inspiring story about inspiring stories. It's even more relevant now than it was a quarter century ago. It's a novel for people who find their thoughts returning to Capital in the 21st Century and Debt and A Paradise Built in Hell.