Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Age of Miracles

by Karen Thompson Walker
September 24, 2012

A friend told me about this book. It's an end-of-the-world (or dystopian, as the genre is now called) book that takes place after the earth's rotation slows.  The publisher's description says,
"the world is ending not with a bang so much as a long, drawn-out whimper. And it turns out the whimper can be a lot harder to cope with."
The interesting thing about this book, as with all end-of-the-world books, is how life changes and how people adapt after a world wide disaster.

The first thing that everyone notices is that time goes off kilter. Six o'clock is no longer six o'clock. Hours are no longer sixty minutes.  Things quickly begin to get difficult because life's normal routine must either work by the clock or by the sun's rising and setting.  It's decided that everyone would continue to live by the clock.  Eventually the school day is held completely in the dark.  "White nights" - nights fully lit by the sun - last for hours and hours.
Some people choose not to live by the clock but to continue living according to natures rhythms.  Tensions build and neighbors turn against each other.

As the rotation continues to slow, more problems occur. The earth's magnetic field begins to disappear.  It becomes extremely dangerous to go outside in the daylight hours.  Plants begin to die, animals migration patterns are disrupted.

It's all very interesting, but Walker hasn't really written a science fiction novel. Her book is more of a coming-of-age story for her main character, eleven year old Julia.    Maybe the end-of-the-world is must a metaphor for the process of entering adolescence.  Think about it - sometimes for a pre-teen life is full of disasters. It can feel like the end of the world when that boy you like snubs you or your best friend finds a new best friend.  Julia deals with these and other life problems while dealing with the slowing of the earth's rotation.

I liked the book. It ended a little bit too quickly and too ambiguously. Lots of questions were left unanswered and I'm not sure if that was to keep us thinking or because the author didn't know how to end the end-of-the-world.

This could have and maybe should have been a YA book, but it was cataloged into the adult section of the library and has been marketed to adults by the publisher.

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