Emily Crowe's Reviews > The Age of Miracles

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
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Jul 07, 12

Read from January 15 to February 08, 2012

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, uhh, 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 demise of 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 succumbs 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 questions it all.
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Comments (showing 1-12)

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message 12: by Michael (new)

Michael Taeckens I love your reviews.

Emily Crowe Thanks, Michael. I like reading yours, too!

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Emily, You changed your rating. Yes?

Emily Crowe Yes, I think I took it from 3 stars down to 2. I say "I think" because I've definitely changed a few ratings lately, but I can't specifically recall if this was one of them.

message 8: by Steven (new) - added it

Steven Gilbert Great review and I haven't even read the book (just added it though a day or two ago after reading about it in Bookpage). Your dismay with the industry sounds spot on.

message 7: by Jill (new)

Jill I understand your dismay with the industry but judging from this book's ratings on Amazon, it seems that the industry is simply giving the masses what they want. I just finished Dog Stars, an apocalyptic book that deserves its hype. Your review is insightful and makes some very important points.

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" ", it seems that the industry is simply giving the masses what they want

Too true, Jill. I enjoyed this book well enough, but my dismay comes with the fact that it's billed as an adult book when it so clearly belongs in the YA category. I too, have looked at the reviews on Amazon, though, and plenty many adults are raving over it, so their marketing strategy was successful.

Emily Crowe I am so intrigued by the discussion here of whether this book should have been billed as a YA instead...I'd love to know why y'all think that. Because the protagonist and narrator is only 11 when the book begins? Because it's a coming of age novel? Because you think the content has been soft-pedaled and would have been different for a true adult audience? All of the above?

I actually saw it more as an adult book with little to interest most teens because the book was so quiet, and the "action" mostly of the interior variety.

message 4: by Scribble (last edited Jul 28, 2012 05:53PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Scribble Orca This is an interesting discussion. The excerpt I've read (trying to make up my mind whether to invest in buying the Kindle edition or not) made me first think of middle grade! If there is a lot of internal reflection wouldn't it appeal to YA girls, and because it is supposed to be thoughtful, perhaps adults?

Given that the author is a S&S editor might account for the amount of marketing money (and royalty arrangement) put behind the book - ie better to bet on someone already proven (to some extent) than an unknown. Besides, it is pretty much well established that if you market hard enough you'll at least break even and I read somewhere the odds are something along the lines of 2 books in every ten will make a profit, and the remaining will split roughly equally between breaking even and making a loss (so the profit has to be greater than the losses to stay in business). Just from a betting point of view, putting the marketing money behind this book means most likely either a winner or break even.

My major reaction from the excerpt was that there wasn't enough scientific basis for this book. Not having read it yet I could be entirely wrong. Any thoughts?

Emily Crowe Interesting comments, G N. I've since learned (after writing my review, before reading your comments) that the author was a fairly important editor, and you're right--I'm sure that is why the bidding wars escalated. I'm sure publishers were also happy to have a book to market to adults AND to YA readers, and why not jump on the post-apocalyptic bandwagon while it's hot? (though tecnically it's pre-apocalyptic)

There was not much scientific basis in this book, but I think she could get away with that since it's more character driven than plot driven. the author's emphasis never seemed to be on what was happening, but on one girl's inner, coming-of-age turmoil while it was happening,

Jason The science in this one is totally messy and lacking. This Holt in the story, however isn't covered cleverly or explained. If for instance it was hammered home that it was the narrators age of dev age that influences the scientific explanation then this would be valid, but its not

message 1: by Austin (new) - added it

Austin Carpentieri Love the Paul Simon reference!! :)

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