Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Book review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

I have a flurry of book reviews waiting in a line to be published. I chose The Age of Miracles to go first as it pushed its way to the front wearing a sparkly feather boa, tapping its watch.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: June 2012

I enjoyed this book so much that I let friends borrow it, and they in turn told their friends, and so the ripples of reader recommendation slowly widened like the hours of the day in this apocalyptic novel.

What would happen if the day grew longer than 24 hours? This is the question at the heart of this novel, and it is a very clever, original concept. I especially like the way the author told the story from a 12-year old child’s point of view, as in a way a child has to be more accepting – they have to fall in line with however their parents have chosen to deal with the situation. So we see life from our narrator’s narrow angle – how school would continue, how those all-important first romances still blossom, how the adult world strives to keep control. Perhaps using a child protagonist saved the author some headaches – as a child isn’t expected to understand or explain the scientific realities of such an event – and so we never know why this happened, what caused it, or how it can be solved, either. Like the child, we have to also fall in line with the part the author wants to focus on – the actual event, referred to as ‘The Slowing’.

As epic dystopias go, or even disaster fiction, The Age of Miracles is surely up there on a grand scale. I realised that halfway through I couldn’t remember the protagonist’s name – but it didn’t matter, really. This is one of those stories where the idea eclipses the characters. There is a part where the narrator feels the need to mark her name in wet concrete to show she was there – and this to me is allegorical of her character’s part in the story – I as a reader need to remember she’s there, too, despite my fascination with discovering how civilisation adapts to a precarious situation. But the author understands this, and so she gives her characters compelling but quiet parts to play – from skateboarding pragmatic Seth to Sylvia, the hippy pianist trying to continue on clock time.

There is page-turning build up of tension throughout this novel, although the inevitable ending swiftly becomes apparent – an idea so rooted in reality cannot conceivably support a fantasy conclusion. The movie rights have been optioned by River Road Entertainment (Brokeback Mountain, etc) so it will be interesting to see how they approach it, as there isn’t a hero, or a satisfactory Hollywood finale. Instead we are left to imagine what happens after, and as such the premise lingers for a very long time.

As a debut, this was a fantastic read, and I’ll definitely be looking out for the next story from this author.

The author's website:


snafu said...

Sounds interesting and readable. It can sometimes ruin a story if a too glib explanation is given for the events around which the story is based. The underlying concept is not entirely new, many SF writers have tackled the problem of how humans can live on another planet with a different day night cycle, but I have not come across the idea applied to the Earth. I must stick it on my pile of must read books.

Old Kitty said...

And so the ripple continues!! Now I want to read this too! Yay!!

Take care

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

What an interesting book this sounds like. You really made me curious to read it.

The Golden Eagle said...

I read on io9 that Random House supposedly paid one million for the book rights of The Age of Miracles. Publishers aside, it sounds like a great book from your review! I'll have to put it on my TBR. :)

KarenG said...

Fascinating concept! Thanks for the review, as I hadn't heard of this one.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I've heard other good things about this book, and I do trust your recommendations!
I will add it to my teeter-totteringly tall pile!!

Out on the prairie said...

Sometimes I just roll through names in a story, as maybe you did with the protagonist.This sounds like a fun read.

On the leaf shot in my last post it is sunlight reflecting on a small brown leaf floating on the water. Each shot was different , but I chose my favorite to use today.

Mise said...

I would have found the title off-putting, but having read your review I'm inclined to read it - the 12 year old viewpoint is particularly attractive.

Julie Dao said...

I keep seeing this book everywhere but haven't had a chance to pick it up! Thanks for the thorough review. It really sounds like something I'd love. Adding to my list :)

Debbie said...

This sounds like a book I'd read. Will add it to my list.