Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Full disclosure, I was sent this book as an advance review copy (of the book being re-released) for free.

I had quite a bit of hope for this book once I started reading it. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I found myself very intrigued with the premise, aka the apocalypse. The apocalypse in this book is that the Earth’s rotation is slowing down, so the length of each day is ballooning. No real explanation is ever give, which is fine, that’s how these books sometimes work, especially if we’re not with some government department or something with scientists. Sounds like a really fascinating idea, and is a bit different to zombies or hurricanes or tsunamis. Instead, the book came off a little dull. But I think that was the intention, it is soft dystoptia mixed with YA coming of age. It isn’t intense, there isn’t death and destruction, it’s very uncatastrophic. Whilst of course the outcome of the days getting insanely long is catastrophe you don’t feel that way reading it.It’s probably not helped by the fact that we’ve got the narrator reflecting on her life as they learnt of this ‘slowing’. So we already know that she has survived because otherwise she couldn’t be there narrating the story. Significant consequences were brushed over, for example the beachfront homes were evacuated, as if that was inconsequential. Mention of other countries just said ‘they didn’t have the resources to adapt’ or ‘rioting’. And only slowly was foot becoming an issue, but then, they fixed that simply with greenhouses, and became hardly a problem at all.

So I was a little underwhelmed and disappointed on that front. But I understand that it obviously wasn’t meant to be full on dystopia and apocalypse, it was intended to not be too dark, and appeal to a younger audience. Which I think it does. The ‘past narrator’ is only 11 years old, and she’s finding out the joys of approaching adolescence, with boys, bras, and finding out about your father’s affair. So that’s the story that takes centre stage, how does Julia deal with this almost minor inconvenience (the schools are still open, the shops don’t run out of food, electricity stays on, life went on). The worst that happened for ages was that some food items disappeared, and of course that they had to adjust to living during the dark nights. Worse effects do trickle in eventually as ‘the slowing sickness’ spreads for unknown reasons, and Earth’s magnetic field starts being disrupted, allowing radiation to come through.

At first they just deal with the additional minutes in the day and ignored the clock, but it became all too confusing,time is essential for modern world functioning (not life), how would you know when to meet someone, when does the train run, and when does school open? So the governments decided to just stick to the regular 24 hour day, and just deal with the consequence of having days of full darkness and full light. Of course there were those who didn’t want to do that, and became ostracised as weirdos, who eventually had to leave to try and live elsewhere. Just imagine trying to live on a different timezone to everyone else, all the stores, work, your friends (guess it’s like shiftwork really). Not easy.

Despite all this, I did enjoy it, and I didn’t find it annoying to read or boring. I was hooked and wanted to see where it was going, perhaps more to see if it was going to become apocalyptic. But, it didn’t, and I do think that that is okay, it went away from the stereotypical paths from this genre, and did something a little bit different. While things were brushed over, perhaps that’s how it would go down from a teenagers perspective. But it was a little odd to find this coming of age mixed with apocalypse.

Overall, I think it’s a reasonable book. It’s not one of my favourites, I want more apocalypse focus, I did appreciate the story. The coming of age was interesting, and even removing the apocalypse aspect, I think there was more action and intrigue compared to some literature. So, it was a nice experience, and something different to what I expected, and that’s a good thing.

Side note: How was ‘gravity’ increased? It said gravity per se was unchanged (cause the mass of Earth hadn’t changed), but why were things falling faster? I didn’t get that, and this is coming from someone with a science orientated brain, I kept thinking about centripetal force being reduced. So I was perplexed from the science perspective.

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