The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

It was the idea that caught my imagination.

The idea of the earth gradually slowing. Days and nights grew longer. Gravity changed, so that birds struggled to fly, footballs travelled a title less far when kicked. Tides and weather patterns became more extreme. Radiation increases. People fall ill. Crops fail.

And to view all of this through the eyes of a ten year-old girl was a masterstroke. It was quite legitimate to leave all the science, to consider only what affected her.

At first that worked well. Julia’s voice rang true, and I liked her. I saw her neurotic mother, her calmer, more rational father, and the complex relationship between them through her eyes. I saw her strong bond with her grandfather, her awkward dealings with her peers, her evolving relationship with a certain boy …

It was a nice, simply drawn coming of age story, that and it drew me into the big story. For a while I read happily and quickly, watching Julia’s life and considering the changes that ‘the slowing’ was bringing about.

But I was troubled by the ‘clock time’ or ‘real time’ decision – should mankind continue with traditional twenty-four hour days, where there might be daylight at night and moonlight in the say, or should days be allowed to grow, with light days and darks nights becoming ever longer?

I couldn’t accept the decision made by world powers – to keep 24-hour days with all of the practical problems that would involve, rather than adjusting a new reality. And I couldn’t believe the way it was presented, with no debate, no speculation, just as a television announcement.

It was interesting to watch communities fracture, with ‘clock timers’ trying to carry on as they always had, and ‘real timers’ living in a very different way. The two sides moved further and further apart as the earth grew slower and slower.

There were interesting ideas to ponder, but the doubts in my mind were growing. How, in the face of everything that was changing, was so much of normal life carrying on? Water, power, communications, education, law and order …

The big story was being compromised to let the small story play out.

For me that was a fatal flaw, and it was a pity because the human story was engaging and the world story offered much to think about.

The tone had been elegiac, and it was clear that Julia had been looking back from some point in the future. So clearly the world wasn’t going to end quite yet.

It didn’t but the book did.

The Age of Miracles didn’t quite work for me, but I suspect it could work nicely for a younger, less analytical reader.

2 responses

  1. “The big story was being compromised to let the small story play out” – this was exactly the same problem I had with ‘The Testament of Jessie Lamb’ by Jane Rogers, which by concentrating on the teenaged lead, left me frustrated not knowing the big picture. I probably would give this book a go though…

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