Reading GOLD FAME CITRUS feels like a privilege. I first heard about it way back in March when I started researching for Muse Monthly, looking for books that were being released this year and might suit the needs of the company. I can’t tell you what it was about GOLD FAME CITRUS, I really can’t. There was just something about it, something magic, something that told me that this book was the book. I needed it, I coveted it, I became obsessed even before I’d read the first page. And it did not disappoint.
The thing about GOLD FAME CITRUS is that on the outset, it seems like another near-future dystopian novel. In a sort of ripped-from-the-headlines tradition, Watkins’ desolate California is a waterless wasteland, with rationed soda and government-ordered evacuations to the East Coast. The few that remain are dubbed Mojavs, and are surviving in a place that is less Hollywood glitz and glamour and more run down slum. The story focuses on Luz, former model and poster child for the Bureau of Conservation in California (a symbol of California’s perseverance and survivalism despite the terrible drought), and her partner Ray, a former military man turned surfer. Luz and Ray have, as anyone would, find an abandoned Hollywood mansion to stay in, and are living life as renegades. One night at a desert party, they find an abandoned child and take her, Luz’s survival instincts taking over, to raise as their own. When the child, Ig, enters their life, they begin to think of building a better life for their sudden family, and venture forth to escape California and find, quite literally, greener pastures. However, the trip away from their desert sanctuary proves more difficult than imagined, and results in the separation of Luz and Ray, the spread of the mystical Great Dune Sea, a band of survivors lead by wannabe water prophet Levi, government conspiracy, and above all else, the search for human connection in a land where everything has died.
GOLD FAME CITRUS is absorbing, thick with beautifully constructed sentences, complete and detailed world-building and mythology, and characters that blur the lines of morality. At the end of it, this novel does what every good novel should do – it holds a mirror up to humanity, humanity at the very ends of it’s threads, humanity when it has nothing else but it’s humanness to rely on. At the end of things, what kind of people are we? What do we do when faced with the extremes of life, when faced with impossible choices? Does humanity deserve to be punished for it’s sins? GOLD FAME CITRUS explores these questions, challenges our idea of goodness, and does it all with thoughtful and elegant prose. It was a privilege and an honor.