on June 16, 2013
Like other reviewers, I really wanted to like this book. The four star rating encouraged me to read. But this is the saddest, most depressing, downer story I've read in ages. I only finished because I kept expecting a miracle actually would happen, but it was all downhill, doom, gloom, fear and sadness for everyone - the character, her family, her friends, the entire earth. Not that books have to have a happy ending, but the title seemed to promise hope of something... Well written, but I felt let down at the end.
on May 9, 2013
I give the author credit for coming up with an interesting premise: the slowing of the earth's rotation. The novel proceeds to examine the effect this has on a young teenager, her friends and her family. However, the book is short on science, big on playing on the fears of our new reality as our earth is in fact changing. The characters are largely stick figures since we are not privy to their thoughts, just their behavior. At best this is a good coming of age novel and the most poignant relationship is that of the protagonist and the boy who is becoming her first love, just as their future is so clearly in jeopardy. Other relationships are unexplored and unexplained. This is a quick read, with enough mystery to keep you going. The prose is largely uninteresting and the ending unsatisfying. Nevertheless because of the well-described relationship between the two teenage characters and their growing empowerment, I think this would appeal to a young adult audience.
on April 23, 2015
I give a LOT of credit to author Karen Thompson Walker's imagination. Part sci-fi, part coming-of-age tale, "The Age of Miracles" is based on the (impossible) fact that the Earth's rotation is slowing. On the first day this happens, it slows by 56 minutes. By the end of the book...well, I won't spoil it.
With that premise and the bizarre effects caused by such a thing--all plant life dying, super radiation from the sun, a shifting magnetic shield--the main story is about 11-year-old Julia who is at that most awkward and painful of ages: sixth grade. This is the story of Julia making friends, losing friends and falling in love as only a middle schooler can.
It is the age of miracles--when the boy does notice you, when you figure out who you really are and you learn what friendship really means. But this is no ordinary coming of age for Julia, since she is living in a time when life as we know it on Earth is irreparably changing in ways no one ever anticipated.
The writing is excellent, but even more important is that Walker made me suspend all rational, scientific thought to believe the impossible could happen--at least in this terrific story.
on August 8, 2014
4.5 stars, actually.
This book is a slow burn. Even though its about Catastrophes (both global and personal) and the surviving of them, don't look for any last minute heroics or scientific breakthroughs-- this is all about the ways we survive on a day to day basis, slowly adjusting to the terrible things around us.
Julia lives in Southern California, so she's no stranger to the ways the Earth can shake things up. But even Julia and her family aren't ready for the gradual slowing of the rotation of the Earth, and the lengthening days and nights, off-balance magnetic fields, and dying birds.
The world's governments deal with this catastrophe piecemeal, reacting with "clock time" when the days lengthen too far, giving up on the astronauts trapped in the space station, and turning off all nonessential power so that dwindling energy can be used for UV lamps to grow food.
Meanwhile, Julia is dealing with personal catastrophes of her own in the same, slow-reacting way. She's lost her best friend to Mormon retreat, her grandfather's disappeared, and her parents are falling away from each other. And there's this boy, Seth, she keeps blurting out awkward things to.
For me, the slow death of society as we know it was tied up with the emotional and social awkwardness of Julila's personality. All the catastrophes play out in a slow, sad, downward spiral. It's the small details of Julia's mother buying emergency peanut butter, and 'real timers' abandoning society for supposed Utopias in the desert, and the social perils of waiting for the school bus in the dark that layer together a delicious, slice-of-near future-dystopia life for the reader to enjoy.
It doesn't quite make the 5th star for me because the pace slowed down just a bit too much for me sometimes, and I felt like the promise of several characters (and their ultimate fates) were never quite fully fulfilled or explained.
Still, my 6th grader said she enjoyed the book as well. (Romancey bits are quite tame). For a literary-flavored near future meditation on weathering emotional and global catastrophes, this is your book.
on May 11, 2013
The author writes well, but I'd advise her to stick to subjects that she knows something about, like teenage love. Although well-written, the story was so depressing I nearly gave up on it.
It reminded me of Nevil Shute's On The Beach.
Still, I was curious enough to finish it, but I was hoping for more solid science. One other reviewer claimed Walker did no research on the slowing; I think she did some research, but she needed to delve deeply into the science before publishing with such glaring mistakes. For example, on page 256, Walker writes "As the months passed, it had gotten less and less satisfying to kick a ball through the air, harder and harder to make it fly across a field--it wasn't really gravity that was increasing but centrifugal force." I think even fifth graders know that gravity WOULD INCREASE if the earth's rotation slowed, and centrifugal force WOULD DECREASE. That got me thinking about the need to write this review in the first place, and about the other mistakes like this that pepper the book. Not only would centrifugal force decrease, but so would the Coriolis Effect, and in turn, global winds and thus weather would change drastically.
The slowing would be much more gradual than Walker would have us believe. But if one can suspend disbelief and imagine that it did slow by half its current rotational rate within eight months, the results would be catastrophic. Everything would be affected including air and water. Mountains would collapse under their own weight, structures would fall to the ground because they couldn't withstand the stress of increased gravity, the tires of cars would flatten, electronics would fail. The human body would suffer the most as the heart struggled to circulate blood, breathing would be severely labored, in fact, all the organs would be hard-pressed to do their jobs. Spinal columns would compress and break, and people would find it hard to even get out of bed, much less walk. That's assuming the bed would not have already collapsed under its own weight.
I could go on, but I think I've said enough. Based on the scientific inaccuracies in the book, I can't even recommend it to teenaged readers.
on January 9, 2013
With a title like "Age of Miracles" you do expect a miracle to show up somewhere, but this novel grinds through the slow and unrelenting end of the world from the viewpoint of a 12 year old to the unsurprising end. Or maybe I should say surprising end, as I expected a miracle somehow to give us a satisfying ending. Instead the "miracle" is that the girl finds a boyfriend for a few months who leaves and is never heard from again. This book gave me bad dreams while reading it and worse dreams when I read the ending, which was one short chapter of "I'm still alive but going to die soon and I am still miserable." Where is the fight? The excitement? The charge that makes a book a heroic story? If you want a book to support your misery, read this. If you want upliftment, don't.
on July 7, 2013
Have you ever read something so beautiful that you wish more than anything that it was a human so you could hug it for a long time? That's how I felt the entire time I read Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles. This may be some of the most well-crafted prose I've read in quite a while, with each word dripping with poetic mastery. Every sentence felt like it should be inspiration to write in some girl's scrapbook or something of the sort. Most of my way through the book was such a free experience, like I was in a haze, and by the end of the book, I barely felt like I had been reading for long at all. So, kudos to Walker for knowing how to write the perfect sentences.
However, that may also be part of the book's downfall. I often found myself wishing for more story, and while it was beautiful and the premise captivating, many of the chapters were "fluff." The book is not a long novel by any means, coming to around 270 pages. It wasn't until halfway through, though, that I began to feel the story actually grab onto something and the novel picked up quite a bit. It's unfortunate that the first half of the book couldn't have tapped into that storytelling. It's actually in that section of the book that catastrophe occurs, but I felt no sense of urgency or crisis from the writing. Everything was so passive, and I believe the book would have benefitted greatly if Walker had been more active and thrilling in her writing.
My feelings towards the characters was like a roller coaster to say the least. At first, I enjoyed our main character, Julia. She was calm and mature for an eleven year old, but after a while, I began to think she was too reserved to be the main protagonist. She never stepped out and did anything noteworthy at first, and as a star of the book, Walker really should have given her more action. Don't worry, though. I liked her by the end. It was actually astonishing how many characters I despised but ending liking them by the last page. The mother was a worrier, but she was always a great mother (and reminded me quite a bit of my own mother!). I swore I would never like the father, but as things turned for the worse, his character seemed to do the exact opposite, so I gave in and appreciated him. And Seth. I was so happy for the friendship that blossomed there. Julia and Seth together always made my heart happy.
Finally, it's worth mentioning the science of the book. I must admit, science isn't my forte, so I rarely read hardcore science fiction books because they mostly confuse me. I know enough science, however, to know that there were quite a few off things about this book. Walker gave this book a great premise, and I'll give her credit for keeping me up at night thinking what Earth would be like if it actually did slow down. Her error, though, is that she never goes into full detail with anything scientific. There's no explanation for anything, and a lot of times, it felt as if she didn't want to do the research to see what the actual consequence would be for such a catastrophe, so she just wrapped it up by saying, "The scientist still don't know the cause for..." I may not be scientific, but I know enough to realize the sloppiness to that approach.
Overall, while it's very beautiful in both aesthetics and literature, Walker missed an opportunity with this book. The book isn't long, so there was plenty of room to open the story and scientific explanations a bit more. Combined with the great prose, the book would have been an absolute showstopper. Instead, I can appreciate the end result and would recommend it to others, but it's still always going to leave me wanting more.
on October 13, 2013
I really hate it when a book carries me along only for me to be thoroughly unsatisfied when I reach the end. Age of Miracles offered a great set up and an integrating premises that I thought would result in a great plot. However, in the end it was more of a character study than anything else (I should say characters study). The earth's rotation slowed resulting in long days and nights. This was obviously a world-wide problem of epic proportions but the author never took us out of the the little neighborhood (or head) of a young girl narrator. The story was really about the relationships she had with her parents and friends, and her first love, a boy named Seth. The story was beautifully told, but in my opinion it could have been so much more. I think most of my discontentment was caused by the title, "The Age of Miracles." I thought the word "age" meant age as in the age of Aquarius. this lead me to expect an epic story. Only after reading the book did I realize it probably refers to the age of the young girl telling the story. Also, there were no miracles that I could see, only slow death. Again, the writing was superb. It was the plot that lacked substance for me.
on September 4, 2015
This is a beautifully written book with a dystopian aspect. The story is slow moving with numerous sub plots. YA dystopia/sci-fi is not my favorite genre, but I read along. The author was coming to town and I was determined to adjust my reading bias before the lecture. That accomplished, I found this to be a very interesting, enjoyable, coming of age book.
on December 26, 2012
My bookstore friend had a book for me--"imaginative premise", she said, "I dreamt about it all night." Then the suggestion that I just might want to consider it as a read-aloud for my classes. And she was right. Even the New Yorker raved about this debut novel in their August 6 issue, saying author Karen Walker "creates lovely, low-key scenes to dramatize her premise"--and it's that premise that is so compelling. Imagine if the earth slowed on its axis, days growing longer, nights stretching on, magnetic field bending and twisting.
It was called "the slowing." The world's top scientists had no explanation, no solutions. In the beginning, all that could be done was to carry on. So eleven-year-old Julia--friendless, flat-chested, and still in so many ways a little girl--continued with the hell that was sixth grade. Her school adjusted start times by the day, trying to maintain the status quo; some neighbors slid into a new rhythm, gardening at midnight and sleeping at noon. Birds died in pairs or by dozens on lawns. Her mother began to stockpile food and suffer "the sickness": fainting, insomniac, nauseated. Weather shifted and crops withered.
Finally, when light stretched on to nearly thirty-two hours, the president announced that Americans would revert to a twenty-four hour clock. And so Julia tells us, "light would be unhooked from day, darkness unchained from night"-- clock time was enacted. Blackout curtains became an essential and sleeping pill use skyrocketed. Not everyone fell into step and "real-timers" began to slip away into the desert, building "shadow communities" that followed a circadian rhythm for this new age.
Through this chaos, Julia lives out her own age of miracles--she becomes fast friends with her crush Seth, watches her parents' love ebb and grow, and always takes in the dying beauty around her. Karen Walker presents the unimaginable, the idea that the home we call Earth could come to a horrific end, through the eyes of a girl standing on the edge of promise and hope. It is Julia who just might give us a glimpse of why we are here: Though the pace of the slowing had slackened over the years, it had never stopped. The damage had been done, and we had come to suspect that we were dying. But ... we carried on. We persisted ... we told stories and we fell in love. We fought and we forgave. Some still hoped the world might right itself. Babies continued to be born.