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The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles

by Karen Thompson Walker

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Showing 1-5 of 244 (next | show all)
I read this book twice. The first time was several years ago when it first came out and I flew through it and thoroughly enjoyed it. Recently I read it again and I was somewhat disappointed by it. There were too many things that brought me up short. The least of it was the lack of panic among the middle schoolers, and the almost non-existent role that the internet played when people were trying to figure out what was going on. I assume that Walker was trying to show how people adapt and carry on even in things fall apart, but the things that people in her story had trouble with seemed to be the least of their worries. Whole segments of society currently live with their days and nights mixed up, and there are places in which days and nights go on for months. However, it was a terrific book club selection and it provoked a lively discussion. ( )
  eapalmer | Feb 14, 2015 |
The earth begins to slow. While the story has gaps in its believability ably described by other reviewers, it shines through the voice of the key character, a pre-teen girl. While the setting is the backdrop and the vehicle of the story, her coming-of-age made the story for me. ( )
  wareagle78 | Jan 5, 2015 |
meh. Interesting concept. ( )
  leahsophia | Dec 30, 2014 |
This is a dystopian novel that hits eerily close to home. She has taken our reality and thrown one wrench into the works and shows how it would not only effect our society but something as base as growing up.

The story isn't one that will have you gasping with its twists and turns, but I know once I put it down I was left with many questions to ponder and with some new outlooks on human nature. A thoroughly enjoyable read. ( )
  plaeski | Dec 16, 2014 |
Julia is an ordinary middle school girl living an ordinary life, until the day when everybody's definition of "ordinary" changes: a 25-hour day. It turns out the Earth's rotation is mysteriously slowing, and each day from then on is longer than the last. Which is not good news for humanity, although Julia and her family carry on as best they can.

Let me start by saying, this is a pretty good book. Honestly. It's very well-written (especially for a YA novel, which I think is how it was marketed), it captures the feel of those awkward middle school years well, the characters are believable, and it hits some nice, poignant emotional notes. And yet... Well, I think I was precisely the wrong reader for this one.

My biggest problem was that I kept getting hung up on the science (or the lack thereof). I told myself I wasn't going to, that I could just accept the premise for what it was, but I simply could not help it. The more details Walker threw in about what was happening, the more I felt compelled to question it all. So I spent a lot of the novel with this voice in the back of my head that went something like, "OK, if something magically increased the gravitational constant, that could account for most of this, including increased gravity and the slowing of the Earth's rotation due to tidal effects. Hey, maybe Q from Star Trek did it; he mentioned being able to once. But... But surely to account for a slowing this dramatic, it would have to be an increase big enough that it would cause way more havoc than is being described here. Hmm, I could dig out my old physics textbook and try to calculate it... No! No, my physics is too rusty, and I do not have the time to waste on that! Anyway, I'm sure it would turn out to be entirely inaccurate. But... But maybe..." And then the whole thing would repeat again. Eventually that voice faded a bit, but it was hard to concentrate on much else while it was nattering on.

And even aside from the science, I had some plausibility problems, including the fact that for ages I was trying to figure out what year this was, when every middle school kid has a cell phone but the internet doesn't exist. Eventually I decided it must be some kind of alternate universe. And then, 150 pages in, the narrator casually mentions something about blogs. So everybody was getting all their information from the newspaper and CNN and nobody ever found out anything about anything until they saw it on TV or heard if from a neighbor because...?

In fact, this lack-of-characters-being-aware-of-things-quickly-enough issue led to the book managing to inadvertently put me off with the very first sentence. The sentence is "we didn't notice right away," which by itself is a great first sentence. But what it's talking about is people not noticing that the day had increased by 56 minutes. And... OK. I work at an astronomical observatory. Every day, Thanksgiving and Christmas not excluded, we run a project for the US Naval Observatory designed to carefully measure the difference between rotation-of-the-Earth time and atomic clock time. They use our data to calculate this value down to, I believe, a hundred-thousandth of a second. And we pay attention to the results because if we don't, all our other observations will be a little bit off. The point is, we would notice. Long before the day slowed down by 56 minutes! And so would every amateur astronomer with a backyard telescope, for that matter. I think I almost felt personally insulted by this. Later, I decided this may have been unfair, as she seems to maybe be implying the 56-minute slowdown happened essentially overnight, rather than gradually, as I'd first assumed. Which, of course just takes us right back to the "I'm nearly certain that ought to have had even more dire consequences than it has in the book" problem.

And then there's the scene where the government announces -- reasonably enough, I thought, given how rapidly the days are lengthening -- that things are going to stay on 24-hour clock time, regardless of day or night. The protagonist is aghast. How can they possibly be expected to adapt to such a schedule?! Now, I work rotating shifts, and have for a very long time. I know all too well how badly being out of sync with the sun can screw with you, and probably I, of all people, should be sympathetic. But instead, all I could think at that moment was, "Welcome to my world, bitches! Now you'll see what it's like!" And then I started speculating about how maybe the slowing was actually the doing of some supervillain shiftworker who wanted to force the rest of the world to understand. Which, needless to say was not the effect the author was going for.

Indeed, none of that is remotely what this book is about. It's about a girl and her family living through difficult times. It's about the experience of early adolescence, and the fragility of everything, and a bit about humanity's relationship to time and to nature. And it doesn't do a bad job of being about those things, in a somewhat lightweight kind of way. I tried to appreciate it on that level, and I succeeded to a certain extent, but it was still hard for me to get past my various issues.

So. Basically, I think I would not recommend this book to people with physics degrees, people who have anything at all to do with astronomy, people who read a lot of hard SF and expect good scientific explanations for things, people who work night shifts and have some degree of resentment towards those who don't, or people whose suspension of disbelief snaps immediately when nobody in a modern-day story seems to have Facebook. For everybody else, if it sounds like your sort of thing, go for it! ( )
5 vote bragan | Nov 30, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 244 (next | show all)
What sets the story apart from more run-of-the-mill high-concept novels is Ms. Walker’s decision to recount the unfolding catastrophe from the perspective of Julia, who is on the verge of turning 12. Her voice turns what might have been just a clever mash-up of disaster epic with sensitive young-adult, coming-of-age story into a genuinely moving tale that mixes the real and surreal, the ordinary and the extraordinary with impressive fluency and flair.

“The Age of Miracles” is not without its flaws. There are moments when the spell the author has so assiduously created wobbles, and moments when a made-for-Hollywood slickness seeps into the story. Some minor plot developments feel as if they had been created simply for pacing, and Ms. Walker sometimes seems so determined to use Julia’s circumscribed life as a microcosm of the larger world that the reader has to be reminded that “the slowing” is supposedly a planet-altering phenomenon.
added by ozzer | editNYTimes, MICHIKO KAKUTANI (Jun 18, 2012)
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Here in the last minutes, the very end of the world,
someone's tightening a screw thinner than an eyelash,
someone with slim wrists is straightening flowers...

Another End of the World, James Richardson
For my parents and for Casey
First words
We didn't notice right away.

We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin.
Sometimes the saddest stories take the fewest words...
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, twelve-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow.  Amidst this altered environment, Julia also faces a new kind of transformation – growing up.  Coping with the normal disasters of everyday life (the loss of friends, struggles in her parents’ marriage, and the anguish of first love) she grapples to find her way on a changing world.
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Imagines the coming-of-age story of young Julia, whose world is thrown into upheaval when it is discovered that the Earth's rotation has suddenly begun to slow, posing a catastrophic threat to all life.

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