Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Age of Miracles or Mayhem?

The sun exploding, a meteorite crashing into the Earth's surface, a blast from a Death Star ray--these are relatively quick apocalyptic scenarios that would mean the end of human civilization as we know it. But what if it happened slowly--like the gradual slowing of the Earth's rotation? That's exactly what Karen Thompson Walker's upcoming debut novel, The Age of Miracles, imagines. In the year of the supposed prediction of the end of the world by the Mayan long count calendar, it's only fitting that we'd see more stories about the apocalypse. I think this one, however, will stand out.

Julia is a normal 12 year old girl. She goes to school, plays soccer, and has a secret crush on one of her classmates. This normalcy stops when she and her family awake one Saturday morning to find that something has happened to the Earth's rotation: it has begun to slow. As both daylight hours and nighttimes stretch to unimaginable lengths, the effect of gravity increases, birds begin to die off from a mysterious disease, and the people in Julia's life begin to change--and maybe not for the better. Struggling to understand herself anyway, Julia must adapt to these catastrophic changes in her already turbulent life.

Though Julia is the central character, Walker addresses issues beyond the adolescent coming of age story. How would our nation and the world react to the slowing of the Earth's rotation and the resulting discrepancy in our time keeping systems? Would we keep to clock time, or would we be like what Julia refers to as the "real-timers," who adapt their active and inactive schedules to that of the sun? How would governments respond to the damage caused to coastlines as tide levels increase, forcing beach side citizens to relocate? And how would humans acclimate as certain plants and animals begin to die off?

An engaging and powerful portrayal of a dystopian not-too-distant future, this novel is definitely going to be at the top of my favorite books of 2012. The Age of Miracles will be available June 26, 2012 from The Random House Publishing Group, but you can place a hold on the Lawrence Public Library's copy by clicking here.

-William, Reference

This blog post also appears on William's personal blog,

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