Tag Archives: science fiction

The Age of Miracles

theageofmiracles

cover image via Goodreads

“Later, I would come to think of those first days as the time when we learned as a species that we had worried over the wrong things: the hole in the ozone layer, the melting of the ice caps, West Nile and swine flu and killer bees. But I guess it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different — unimagined, unprepared for, unknown.” — Karen Thompson Walker

I would be hard pressed to name a better book among my recent reads than Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles. When I finished it, my breath was caught behind a giant lump in my throat and I was for once thankful that the Josh Duhamel lookalike seated next to me on the plane I happened to be on was oblivious to what I was doing or whether I was, in fact, trying not to cry. (And that’s not a spoiler, because what makes me cry is a perfect ending: a story that knows when it’s told and ends in just the right way, with the right words.)

The Age of Miracles is the story of twelve-year-old Julia. She plays soccer, along with her best friend Hanna, and the last time that Hanna slept over at Julia’s house before a soccer game, the world started to end. That morning, before the soccer game, scientists announced on television that the rotation of the earth on its axis had begun to slow, perceptibly, and that just as there was no known cause, there was as yet no known solution.

And what comes after that? A beautifully-written, keenly observed story about growing up: the friendships that fall apart, the first loves, the loss, and the countless disappointments, against the backdrop of an impending catastrophe, in some ways not that different from the changing, uncertain world you and I grew up in.

“It was that time of life: talents were rising to the surface, weaknesses were beginning to show through, we were finding out what kinds of people we would be. Some would turn out beautiful, some funny, some shy. Some would be smart, others smarter. The chubby ones would likely always be chubby. The beloved, I sensed, would be beloved for life. And I worried that loneliness might work that way, too.”

There are so many examples of Karen Thompson Walker’s prose that I could share with you to try to incite you to read this book, but I’d be cheating you of the distinct pleasure of discovering it as you read, and a collection of quotes doth not a blog post make (generally speaking). Just…read this book. If there were some hallmarks of the first novel, if the foreshadowing felt, at times, a little heavy-handed, I ended up forgiving it.

In Which I Venture Into Space

You guys! An asteroid almost hit Earth last week! Separately-but-relatedly, a meteorite did explode and hit Earth last week!

And it all makes the perfect introduction to the book I finished reading a few weeks ago…because, that book was set in space!! Maybe that seems like a reach…bear with me! The characters were frequently reminding the reader that one didn’t even need bombs – all that would be necessary to wage war from space on planetary life was dropping rocks. The meteorite last week brought this powerfully to mind.

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Cover image via GoodReads

One of the books I included in my dad’s Christmas booklist was an adventuresome-sounding space tale called Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey (pseudonym for a writing team composed of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who is George R. R. Martin’s assistant). It was one of those situations where I read the book description and instantly thought of someone, in this case, my dad.

I was speaking to my mother on the phone last month when I heard my dad laughing in the background. “He’s really enjoying his January book,” my mom says. “He’s been laughing a lot.” My curiosity had been piqued by this story, too, and as part of my ongoing efforts to broaden my reading horizons, I decided to read this book “with” my dad.

Although I’m a huge fantasy nerd, I’ve never really been a huge reader of science fiction. I watch science fiction movies happily, but when it comes to going to other worlds entirely inside my own head through a book, I’ve gravitated away from the spaceships and lasers of science fiction and toward the magic wardrobes and wands of fantasy. (I realize that my describing science fiction in terms of spaceships and lasers will be offensive to some readers of science fiction, and I apologize. I agree, it’s a gross generalization.)

Leviathan Wakes is set in the indeterminate future: the human race has colonized Mars and many moons and the Asteroid Belt, but hasn’t ventured any further. Tensions abound between Earth and Mars (the inner planets) and between Earth, Mars, and the “Belters”, represented by the Outer Planets Alliance (or the OPA). Told in the alternating viewpoints of James Holden, the XO of an ice mining ship, and a detective named Miller who works on a space station, the action starts pretty much right away, and doesn’t really stop until the story closes.

This is a story about a search for a missing girl, a search for truth and justice, and about an alien particle; but maybe all you really need to know is that it is very similar in a lot of ways to Joss Whedon’s television show Firefly – and I think can safely say that if you enjoyed Firefly, you should definitely check out Leviathan Wakes. There was not a lot of science, but there was action, mild horror (one reviewer cited the Amazon-identified statistically-improbable-phrase “vomit zombies”), character development, and lots of suspense…cf. this conversation with my dad:

For the record, he didn’t tell me anything. He can be so irritating.

It was super-exciting, y’all, and really a lot of fun imagining a life in a time and place so different from my own. Reading outside your comfort zone can be really rewarding. If you haven’t tried it lately, there’s no time like the present!