11 February 2012

Book P(Review): The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

This is the story of how we begin to remember.  Well, no, not really. But that particular Paul Simon lyric has been swirling in my head this morning and I was just itching to use it.  This is actually the story of the day the earth stood still slowed down. And the days after that, and the days after that. Nobody knows why the earth's rotation has slowed, but Julia is eleven the day this discovery is announced on the news, with varying degrees of panic.

At first the effect is subtle, resulting in a few extra minutes each day, but before long there is a worldwide dilemma on how to handle the growing length of days--and there is much debate whether to follow the 24-hour clock time of old, or to establish "real time" that coincides with each new solar day.  "Clock timers" declare dominion over the "real timers" and marginalize them in society in much the same way all minority groups have been marginalized through the ages.

The first indication that the world might be headed for end times is the birds.  The new gravity from the slowed rotation has crippled their ability to fly and navigate.  Next, the magnetic field changes and weather becomes unpredictable.  Crops wither under 24 straight hours of sun followed by an equal period of darkness. Newly erected greenhouses powered by sunlamps deplete the energy grids.  Clearly it's only a matter of time before all food sources will disappear.

In the meantime, Julia is just trying to make sense of what is happening in her personal life amidst these larger world turmoils. Her best friend's family moves away to join a desert Mormon collective in Utah. Her unrequited crush finally approaches her. Her mother succombs to gravitational sickness.  Her father may or may not be having an affair with a "real timer." In other words, a typical adolescence. 

In other, other words, this is a coming-of-age, pre-apocalyptic novel.

I think I just coined the word "pre-apocalyptic."  If I didn't, please don't disabuse me of the notion just yet.

The book is, overall...pretty good.  I liked it.  I didn't rock my world; there were no profound insights into the human experience; and at no point was the prose so spectacular that I wanted to read something a second time in order to savor it. It's simply a quick and easy read with a moderately interesting premise, but I'm a little perplexed about the pre-publicity buzz surrounding this book.  The manuscript created a bidding war in the publishing world and word on the street is that the author walked away with a cool million from her US publisher and another $500k each from her Canadian and UK ones.  Since this is a debut novel and not a particularly brilliant one I that, I just have to wonder if the publishing world's head is up its collective arse. You can't read a major newspaper these days without coming across an article touting the demise of the book world as we know it.  And it's moves likes this, which are questionable at best and asinine at worse, that makes me doubt both publishing's business acumen and sense of value.

Which of course means that this book will probably be a raging bestseller and a major motion picture and I am just the lone voice in the wilderness who isn't in on the joke questions it all.

I received a bound manuscript of this book from my lovely sales rep Michael Kindness.  It will be published this summer by Random House, and it happens to qualify for entry #6 for the New Authors Challenge, hosted by Literary Escapism


  1. It does sound like an interesting premise, but too bad the execution is only okay. I know much less about the publishing world than you do, but does it seem like their heads are turned by the gimmicky? It seems the stuff that gets the most buzz has some kind of incredibly unbelievable and unpredictable twist. It kind of annoys me, because I quite like stories that are about the boring things...being married, raising children, having a job. Books are not like movies...they are not just escapist. I'm stopping before I launch into all-out lecture mode.

  2. I've heard a lot about this title as well, and thanks to NetGalley, have it but haven't read it.

    I'm a little shocked that a debut author walked away with that much money. Makes me a little nauseated, actually.


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