Reading With Fakename: The Age of Miracles

By Katherine Thompson Walker.

The main character in the book is Julia, an 11 year-old girl who is in the sixth grade. An only child, Julia lives with her mother, a teacher, and her father, a doctor.  Julia plays soccer and takes piano lessons, has a crush on a boy named Seth, and is painfully sensitive to acceptance or the lack thereof by her friends.  She is lonely.

In the midst of this adolescent trauma, something happens:  the earth begins to slow its rotation.  Rotation refers to the rotation of the earth around its own axis.  The earth continues to revolve around the sun at the same pace.  “The slowing”, as they will come to call it, lengthens the days.  At first, no one notices.  By the time someone does, a day has lengthened to 25 hours and 37 minutes.

This is actually happening.  A day is now 1.7 milliseconds longer than it was 100 years ago.  It will take hundreds of thousands of years, if not millions, for Earth to stop revolving altogether.  But in the book, the process is dramatically escalated.

Most countries, including the U.S. decide to remain on “clock time” with a day that is 24 hours long.  “Time” becomes unhinged from “day” and “night”.  You can wake up in what seems to be the middle of the night to go to work or school, and the sun will “rise” at maybe 2:00 in the afternoon.  It’s very disorienting.  Unlike what you think might be the case, prolonged periods of darkness aren’t the problem.  It’s the prolonged periods of light.

The first thing that happens is that birds start dropping out of the sky.  It’s assumed that gravity is increasing.  People are getting sick too, and it’s initially called “gravity sickness”.  Eventually they just call it “the Syndrome”.  It gets worse.

This book is hard to categorize, as all the best books are.  It isn’t science fiction exactly, it isn’t apocalyptic exactly, it isn’t a coming-of-age story exactly.  It’s provocative, and makes you think, What if you really WERE living in the “end times”?  The best explanation is from the book itself:

“It still amazes me how little we really knew.

We had rockets and satellites and nanotechnology.  We had robot arms and robot hands, robots for roving the surface of Mars.  Our unmanned planes, controlled remotely, could hear human voices from three miles away.  We could manufacture skin, clone sheep.  We could make a dead man’s heart pump blood through the body of a stranger.  We were making great strides in the realms of love and sadness–we had drugs to spur desire, drugs for melting pain.  We performed all sorts of miracles:  We could make the blind see and the deaf hear, and doctors daily conjured babies from the wombs of infertile women.  At the time of the slowing, stem cell researchers were on the verge of healing paralysis–surely the lame soon would have walked.

And yet, the unknown still outweighed the known.”

A very powerful and haunting book.


11 responses to “Reading With Fakename: The Age of Miracles

  1. I was eying this book for weeks in the local bookstore before purchasing it, reading what was reading on the back and deciding whether to get it or not. In the end I did, because I thought the synopsis sounded really intriguing but unfortunately I have to say I ended up being a bit disappointed after reading it… It somehow fell short of what I wanted it to be.
    I do have to agree with you, though, that it does really make you think.

  2. Thanks for dropping in, Nina, and I have to say, that happens to me a lot 🙂 Books I think are just stunning must-reads sometimes leave people cold. What other books did you find better?

  3. You noted that the author said, “It’s assumed that gravity is increasing.” The author should have done their homework, gravity is a function of mass not velocity, Gravity would not increase at all. I am very anal about bad science.

  4. Jeff, the author didn’t say that, nor do the scientists in the book. That’s an assumption made initially by the general public, as an explanation for birds dropping from the sky. As if they could no longer maintain flight and resist the pull of gravity. Later in the book, Julia says the problem is centrifugal force. When she tries to kick a soccer ball, it feels heavy on her foot. Baseball is severely impacted. And remember…this is a work of fiction.

  5. One wishes that the Julia had boned up on her physics, as it would be centripetal, not centrifugal force creating the phenomena she described.. But I can’;t hold it against her as most people call all angular forces centrifugal. Incidentally, centrifugal and centripetal are basically opposite. A good way to look at the forces, Centripetal force is directed toward the center of rotation of an orbiting body or object following a curved path. Centrifugal force is the apparent force, equal and opposite to the centripetal force, drawing a rotating body away from the center of rotation, caused by the inertia of the body. But there’s never an excuse for bad science, even in fiction. As I earlier said, I’m very anal about science.

  6. I had to go back and look to see that I didn’t misspeak. Julia says “centrifugal” for real, which is in fact, incorrect. I kinda knew that. When I think of a centrifuge, it’s something that flings things outward. She should have been able to kick the ball farther.
    I bet you’re a real drag to read science fiction with 🙂 What if there’s a place where gravity doesn’t apply? (You know, like space.) And isn’t gravity a theory, really? Based on our (human) experience? What if there are beings to which our rules don’t apply? It’s interesting for me to argue that we may not know everything, considering you’re the religious person and I’m not.

    • I might be spiritual, but I’m certainly not religious…..But I do enjoy the wine and cheese parties at our church:) And gravity does apply in space, after all the earth orbits the sun, held in orbit by the gravitational pull of the sun. And there is space between the earth and sun. You’re confusing weightlessness with the lack of gravity. They have gravitometers on the International Space Station, and have proven that although there is weightlessness, that gravity still exists in space. Gravity is a function of mass, is instantaneous, yet is the weakest of all of the 4(some argue 5) forces. Gravity is a theory, just like our existence is a theory, As far as knowledge,is concerned, we’re just at the tip of the iceberg. But then again, a wise man realizes what’s important it’s not how much he knows, but what he doesn’t know that’s important.. And you are right about sci-fiction. I cannot read it, as most sci-fi is written by out of work English Majors who don’t have a clue about science, or the scientific method. As I said, I am real anal about science, and use science in my testing of the markets on an everyday basis.

  7. Jeff…just a guess, but I bet you would hate this book 🙂 Too bad you are so concrete about science, since sci-fi writers like Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke predicted situations far beyond their times. If no one had imagined these scenarios, previously thought to be impossible, we would not know as much as we know now, because no one would have tried to see if it could really happen.

  8. I am concrete about science, because I was trained to be a scientist, you know scientific method etc.. Not just sci-fi writers have imaginations, real scientists do too. Plus most of them are pretty smart. Speaking of which, this science video simulation ought to blow your mind.

  9. Too bad you weren’t an English major 🙂 That and your knowledge of science might have made it possible for you to communicate better.

  10. Touche, but if I need to communicate by writing with clarity, my able assistant Jill has a degree in English, and she fixes my official correspondence. I have no problems communicating verbally. I never heard of a Physical Science/English major crossover. That combination beyond a BA/BS would be as rare as the Yeti, as the physical sciences are very rigorous and one does not find too many problems requiring an essay answer, they demand a correct answer..

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