Friday, November 16, 2012

Book Review: The Age of Miracles

Finishing a book in the genre of "apocalyptic science fiction" does not usually inspire the emotion of gratitude or wistfulness. But for this book it does. Most sci-fi books I've read don't celebrate faithfulness, or sensations, or growing up (2001's version of the human race growing up definitely does not count, I mean truly growing up like all of us have to).

Part of the sign that The Age of Miracles is a different kind of sci-fi book (if it really can be shelved there, it's arguable that it can't) is that it's told unflinchingly from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl. The apocalypse in this case is a quiet one, in which the Earth's rotation slows down from its precise 24-hour tick and then stuff starts to go wrong accordingly. The genius of Karen Thompson Walker is that she couples this kind of not-a-bang-but-a-whimper setting with the gradual and sudden changes of adolescence, and does it with a perfect tone, not sentimental but elegaic, never overstepping her narrator's voice. The subtle realism of this book insinuates itself into the listener to the point that I caught myself occasionally thinking of the book as real. A truly bittersweet, simple joy of a book.

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