West Coast fiction weighs development, destruction

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Everyone who lives on the West Coast of North America knows that it’s only a matter of time before the earth shakes and the ocean rises. Despite this ticking time bomb, West Coasters go about their daily life, pushing the knowledge of the coming Big One to the back of their minds.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/12/2021 (241 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Everyone who lives on the West Coast of North America knows that it’s only a matter of time before the earth shakes and the ocean rises. Despite this ticking time bomb, West Coasters go about their daily life, pushing the knowledge of the coming Big One to the back of their minds.

In his debut novel Last Tide, Vancouver’s Andy Zuliani examines the concept of life on the edge of time and the world. His characters are driven by an end-of-days mentality. Zuliani mixes this dystopian view with the granola and patchouli lifestyle of the longtime residents of Peliatos, the West Coast island on which his story is centred.

The book opens with Ana driving through the empty streets of an abandoned industrial park in an unnamed city. She’s capturing video of the surrounding landscape for her employer to market to would-be real estate developers. The bleakness of this urban desert matches Ana’s state of mind. Once she finishes filming, she and her co-workers digitally scrub the video, thereby blurring any human faces she’s inadvertently captured. Like many young university graduates, she’s under-employed in a job that brings in a paycheque but doesn’t engage her true talents.

Last Tide

Ana’s friend Win works for the same company, but what brought the two young women together as friends is Win’s willingness to help Ana through her occasional severe panic attacks. Both young women seem to be treading water — waiting to have their future come to them. Win takes a step that will change their lives when she convinces Ana to join her in a temporary assignment surveying Peliatos. The government is on the verge of allowing more commercial and residential development on the island, and the film the women record will spur on developers’ interest.

Soon after arriving by ferry, Ana and Win are injured in a car accident. Ana has severe whiplash, while Win’s leg is badly broken. They were pulled out of the damaged van by Lena, an oceanographer who has lived on Peliatos for years. She allows the young women to stay with her while they recuperate. Lena explains her ongoing research into seismology and tidal action to Win, talking about the certainty of a tsunami large enough to batter coastal islands and swamp cities lining the West Coast.

Win asks why those who know about the danger want to risk their lives by living on Peliatos. “I don’t know. It is difficult to explain, but the people who live here, many of them at least, feel like they’ve made a choice in coming to this island,” Lena answers.

Forces of social and economic change on the island, which could potentially cause as much damage to the islanders’ current way of life as a tidal wave, are depicted through Kitt Feldt. Kitt is a business tycoon who grew his surf wear company into an international success. Now he’s looking for an isolated place to hunker down and direct his company remotely. Peliatos seems to be the perfect spot, and he has designed his new house overlooking the ocean. However his dream turns into a nightmare when a group of local anti-development protesters spend a night amidst the foundation of his new home.

In Last Tide Zuliani examines the ongoing conflict found on Canada’s West Coast between those who want to preserve this ecological wonder and those who want to turn it into a profit generator. Kitt finds that his money isn’t enough to buy his place in paradise, and Mother Nature plays the trump card as the book ends.

Andrea Geary is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer who also loves the West Coast and sometimes eats granola.

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