Karen Thompson Walker – The Age of Miracles
Length: 274 pages
Genre: Teccccchnically Science Fiction, but written more like Contemporary Fiction
Started: 15 May 2012
Finished: 16 May 2012
Where did it come from? LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Why do I have it? Thought the premise sounded interesting.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 09 March 2012.
Ever wish for more
hours per day? This book will
convince you not to.
Summary: Even when the world is ending, everyone’s individual world keeps right on going. That’s the lesson that twelve-year-old Julia learns in the days and weeks after scientists announce that the spinning of the Earth is slowing down. At first, it’s barely noticeable, just a few extra minutes, but as the days and nights begin to lengthen, all sorts of things begin to change: birds can no longer fly, plants begin to wither in the heat, even gravity seems different. And Julia’s life begins to change as well: her best friend moves away, Julia becomes more withdrawn, and her parents’ relationship threatens to break under the strain of their slowing world. Being twelve is not easy for anyone, but when everything Julia had thought was immutable – even the turning of the Earth – has changed so dramatically, how can she know whether she’s changed as well?
Review: This book made me realize something very important: I need to stop reading near-future apocalyptic fiction. Seriously, this book is just close enough to plausibility that it made me seriously paranoid – what on earth *would* we do if the world stopped turning? Could we even survive? Walker details a lot of the effects of a slowed rotation, and although I’m no geophysics expert, based on what I do know (thank you, A Short History of Nearly Everything!), she gets most of it right. Utterly, terrifyingly, right. Actually, I think in places she doesn’t go far enough, probably for the sake of narrative convenience; the book has characters surviving 72-hour days and nights and more, but I think three days of continuous sunlight would probably roast everyone inside their metal-shuttered anti-cosmic-radiation houses, air conditioning be damned.
(All of this is why this book should really be classified as science fiction. It does exactly what sci-fi is supposed to do: come up with a premise and then logically, scientifically work through the consequences and outcomes of that premise. I mean, it’s written like contemporary fiction, and marketed like contemporary fiction, and no library or bookstore is ever going to shelve this next to something with a spaceship on the cover. But it’s still science fiction, just like The Time Traveler’s Wife.)
So, points in this book’s favor include the fascinating (and terrifying) premise and well-though-out consequences, the theme of personal disasters not stopping just because of global disasters (see also: Battlestar Galactica), and the beautiful writing. However, all of that is not enough to really carry a book, or make it satisfactory in the end. Part of the problem is that much of the plot was actually just a cataloguing of one catastrophic consequence of the slowing after another, whether globally or in Julia’s personal life. The characters were never proactive, just reactive, and watching things fall to pieces over and over again is not a reading experience I particularly care for. There was also a lot of “little did we know that was the last time we’d ever see each other/taste a grape/have a lawn to play on” prophetic tidbits tossed in, which got really old, especially since all of the future stuff was told in less than three pages at the end of the book, with no satisfying conclusion to the apocalyptic urgency that permeates the rest of the book. I suppose because it’s aimed at contemporary fiction rather than sci-fi, the point was not “the humans save the planet and here’s how,” but as it was, it felt unfinished, like the book didn’t so much end as just stopped, and I was left wanting something more. 3 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Although anything that can sneak a little sci-fi into the diets of people who wouldn’t ordinarily pick it up is a-okay by me, I wasn’t crazy about it. Fans of contemporary “coming of age in troubled times” novels are probably the most likely audience.
Bonus Linkage: The Earth really is slowing down!
First Line: We didn’t notice right away.
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