Posted in Reviews

Review: The Age of Miracles: A Novel by Karen Thompson Walker

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As a middle schooler, life can be pretty difficult. Between your body doing odd things that seem impossible (random erections or suddenly bleeding for a week at a time) and the sudden interest in other members of your species as potential mates, tweens need little outside influence to make life more trying. Unfortunately for Julia, the world is starting to stop spinning.

As you all (hopefully) know, Earth rotates on its axis. A complete rotation takes approximately 24 hours, which gives us our handy cycle of day and night. It also influences the weather, distribution of oceans, habits of animals, and magnetosphere (that last one is pretty darn important). I was interested to read about living through the experience of the Earth slowing down, so I grabbed The Age of Miracles from my local library’s ebook service.

Life is pretty awesome for Julia. She plays soccer, she has good friends, and her family is pretty happy. One day, however, scientists realize that the spin of the Earth has begun to slow. As such, new hours bleed into every. Over time, the spin keeps slowing until days and nights are long affairs and humanity can’t naturally keep up with them. Soon, every part of life is thrown out of balance.

Overall, the book told a decent speculative fiction story of what might happen if the rotation of the Earth began to slow. I enjoyed the perspective of a middle schooler for these events. When you are younger, the world isn’t the same as it is when you’re an adult. You don’t always have all the facts and most of your world revolves around your parents and your close friends. Though unfortunate for Julia, it was interesting to read about her comfortable world falling apart.

The science in the book seemed a bit odd at times. Though the author cites that she had her work checked over by an astrophysicist who deemed it all “plausible,” I felt like there would be more of a noticeable difference for the characters in the story. It may have been a result of the point of view. Some aspects were there, like plants having difficulty with longer days and nights, as well as the magnetosphere being in danger. Other points weren’t as noticeable, like the fact that the world’s oceans would start to reallocate at the poles. It also seemed a bit odd to me that it took a somewhat substantial amount of time for people to realize the days and nights were longer. When everyone finally notices the slowing, it is staying dark until around 8:00 am in the summer (northern hemisphere). I feel like that would have been a pretty obvious occurrence.

The writing style is interesting. I specifically enjoyed the way the author described some things in an almost abstract way. It seemed fitting to what you notice when events occur—the glint of American flag pins, dark suits, and red ties rather than the names or faces of the politicians speaking. One aspect of her style I didn’t enjoy was the use of the “Little did I know this would be my last…” tactic. It seems that she relied too heavily upon the use of “I was wrong about that” or “I would later find out I was right” to make the story suspenseful. Used tastefully, this can work out fine, especially in memory-based fiction. I felt it was overdone here, though.

The novel ends with an overwhelming sense of melancholy. I do think the book did quite well in establishing the sense of impermanence and lack of control that humans go through when they are adolescents. The Earth’s spin slowing down was an interesting take on the story, but the same story could have be written about a middle schooler without that inclusion. Granted, if it hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have been drawn to pick up the book.

This is another READ WITH CAUTION. I was impressed by several parts of the novel, but there were also a few parts that seemed lacking. As such, I can’t get fully behind everyone needing to read this book. It was a decent speculative fiction novel, and a pretty good story about being a teenage girl in the midst of confusing times.


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