All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Age Of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

on July 9, 2012

The Age Of Miracles
Karen Thompson Walker
Simon & Schuster AU
2012, 369p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Julia is 11 when it is first announced. It has been happening so slowly that people barely notice at first and when the scientists announce it, it has already made a change to the day. In what has been called ‘The Slowing’ the Earth’s rotation has slowed, adding time to the day. First it is minutes, but then it gradually becomes longer until daylight lasts 24 hours and then so does the dark of night.

No one knows why and no one knows how to stop it. How do you stop the world from doing something that it has been doing since the dawn of time? The rate at which the Earth turned had been steady but now it is not and people scramble to deal with this and adapt. The government announces that they will stay on ‘clock time’, following the same pattern of 24 hours, getting up and going to bed at the same time as ‘before’, no matter what the light is like outside. Julia finds herself going to school when it looks like the dark of night and attempting to sleep when it’s bright as day outside. There are some in the neighbourhood that don’t want to stick to ‘clock time’ and instead adjust to the new days and nights. They begin staying up while it’s light and going to bed while it’s dark and sleeping longer, changing their circadian rhythms to suit these new times of daylight and darkness.

Julia’s once simple life is becoming more and more complicated as she faces a mother who cannot cope with ‘The Slowing’, falling prey to a mysterious illness that affects a portion of the population who don’t adjust well with the changing of the Earth’s rotational speed and the change in gravity. She’s also discovering that her father may not be the person she’s always thought him to be. Everything is changing and all they can do is try to survive it.

The Age Of Miracles is one of those books where the buzz is strong and steady. I knew I immediately wanted to read it so I definitely couldn’t pass up an offer of a review copy from the Australian publisher, Simon & Schuster AU. The idea of it was something that fascinated me – it was such a simple thing. No meteors, no nuclear disasters, no huge catastrophic moment… just a simple scientific slowing of the Earth’s rotation that changed everything. At first it’s only adding a half hour to the day, barely noticeable. But then ‘The Slowing’ increases and soon the days and nights are double their previous length and that begins to have huge effects on well, everything. Plants and crops cannot cope with that amount of light withering and dying (or conversely, that amount of darkness). The population is divided on how to cope personally, some sticking by the government mandated ‘clock time’ and keeping their previous hours, going to school or work whenever the clock tells them to. Others choose to try and live a different way, regulating their bodies by the movement of the sun and this creates friction within communities, leading to some people heading to more remote areas and creating communities where they can live the way they choose unmolested.

The entire book is told by Julia who is really just a child when it begins, which adds to the simplicity of the core story. Before ‘The Slowing’ she was just a girl who liked playing soccer, having sleepovers with her friend and crushing on the quiet skater boy from her school that she caught the bus with. Now she’s having to deal with her paranoid, often hysterical mother who hasn’t coped well with The Slowing at all and the fact that she’s caught her dad out somewhere that he should not have been. She’s also lost the friendship of her closest friend, who has seemingly dropped her without a word, further adding to her confusion. Julia is a loner (and lonely) and has almost no one to talk to until she is befriended by Seth, the quiet boy she has a crush on. Together they explore the new world, trying to help whales beaching themselves, risking their health when they fail to understand the new threat of the powerful sunlight and the destruction of the synthetic field that had shielded Earth from the sun’s radiation. What should be an exciting time, a budding first juvenile relationship is overshadowed by the increasing level of disaster, everything they do revolving around The Slowing and the altered way in which they must live now.

I loved this book! I loved the quiet thoughtfulness of it that even though this disastrous thing is happening, the book isn’t filled with rioting, looting, 42 car pile ups on the freeway as people scream out of town. It’s much deeper than that, it’s a story of people trying to go about their lives despite this thing happening, just trying to keep on the best way they know how even though after a while it basically seems like they’re on their way to impending doom. The days keep getting longer (up to around 70ish hours I think) and the solar flares and the radiation are really thought-provoking. I’m a redhead who is basically albino so I couldn’t help but shudder at the thought of that sort of strong sun – I would be rendered a hermit in this world. I like how much attention was paid to the effect the changed conditions would have on food and crops and to the animals, with changing gravity affecting flocks of birds as well. Power is also very important, with appliances working for longer (such as air conditioners during the long hot summer days etc) and it results in hours of black outs as the grid gets overused. It’s about facing the adversity and getting through it.

I think it says something that even though the world seemed on a one way path to total destruction, I wanted to live within the pages of this book and experience it firsthand. I think it’s a fascinating book, simply and well written with the sort of character who just imparts what is happening. Julia’s age means we don’t get her theories, or her politics, or her panics or her cynicism. It’s just the story, the facts as they happen and it’s utterly gripping from start to finish.


Book #129 of 2012

12 responses to “The Age Of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

  1. Mish says:

    Wow I really like the sound of this book – unusual but I’m intrigued!

    It makes you think how you would function with too much daylight. I must say I don’t think I could cope well at all sleep wise. I find it hard to sleep as the best of times let alone during daylight – That would be impossible for me.

    Great review Bree – I will definitely keep an eye out for this book. 🙂

    • This book made me think about so many things, including that! I need dark to sleep (and the characters do get blackout curtains, etc) but I can’t imagine having 24 or more hours of daylight followed by 24 of darkness! I wanted to experience it though, just to see lol.

  2. I’ve heard a bit about this book as well – sounds very interesting.

  3. Danielle says:

    “I loved the quiet thoughtfulness of it that even though this disastrous thing is happening” – YES! Totally agree!

    I almost think it’s better that this one was written for an adult audience. I can imagine that if it had followed the YA dystopian trend, then it would have turned into a novel in which the young protagonist was somehow at the hub of the disaster and had to save the world etc, etc, etc. I loved how she wrote a slow, day-to-day of disaster. It was all the more terrifying for coming in drips and drabs.

    Wonderful review of an incredible boo (this one’s actually going on my 2012 favourite’s list!)

    • I agree, not everyone is Katniss! This is totally what I’d be like if I was caught up in something like that! Often when I read stories like this, the day to day is lost in favour of the grand scale and it was nice to read something quiet and thoughtful that dealt with average people just trying to adapt.

  4. VeganYANerds says:

    This sounds fantastic, Bree, I loved your review. This is also the most positive review I’ve read of this so far, and I want to read it now!

    • I think it will disappoint people wanting a traditional apocalypse story where it’s all disaster and explosions and secret societies and saving the world. But I think it’s very realistic and very well done. Hope you enjoy it!

  5. That’s a much nicer cover than the one we got here.

    I’m planning on reading this too so I didn’t read your thoughts just now, but I’m happy to see you rate it so high, as some people have been a bit disappointed by it.

    I saw a bit of the author interviewed on the news last night – they put together a short “news story” on apocalyptic stories in popular culture – as if this was a recent thing! But I guess their point was that it was still very popular. When they showed a clip from the new film Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and the screenwriter, some young woman, said how she wanted to tell a story about the end of the world from a personal, human everyday angle, Adam got all incensed because it sounds like a direct rip-off of a Canadian film from the 90s called Last Night (a pun). Basically same plot.

    • Yes, I love this cover…it’s the UK one I think. Do you have the cover which is blue with the stars? That doesn’t strike me as being as powerful or even giving you a clue what the book is about.

      • Yeah that’s the cover that’s available here, but I don’t actually know what cover I’ve got personally yet – I ordered it but there was no cover shot available, so I guess I’m in for a surprise! (oh I hope it’s a good surprise!)

  6. Danielle says:

    This sounds really interesting! I’m going to check it out. Thanks for posting the review!

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