The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker – Book Review

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Published by Random House

Who among us hasn’t expressed a wish for more hours in a day? But have you ever stopped to wonder what would happen if you actually got that wish?

Julia is too young to have ever even harbored a wish for longer days when the fallacy of such a mindset becomes apparant. It seems like a normal Saturday morning, at least until the news reports start coming in that the orbit of the Earth slowed overnight. At first not too much changes, but as the Earth continues to slow, things become increasingly complicated. For one, gravity starts to have a great effect, first changing the rhythm of sports, then making movement more difficult for everyone. Secondly, people must decide whether to live by ‘clock time’ or the natural rhythms of the world. Both have their challenges: would you rather try to stay awake for 20 hours and sleep for another 20, or occasionally go entire days without seeing the sun and entire nights in bright sunlight?

The Age of Miracles is one of those books that you can pick up to read for a few minutes and accidentally get stuck in for 70 or more pages. It is a beautifully told story, and works perfectly as either a coming of age story or an apocalyptic one. Walker clearly did her homework on the impact of the Earth’s rotation slowing, many of the negative effects of this change are things that would never have occurred to me, but the science generally seems to make sense once Walker brings them up.

For Julia, a slow apocalypse does not fundamentally change the difficulties of growing up. She must still deal with the growing estrangement of her parents, teasing at school, and her first major crush. Although Julia’s story is about her coming of age, The Age of Miracles is aimed at an adult rather than young adult audience. It would, however, make a good cross-over for young adult audiences.

The Age of Miracles is an endlessly absorbing book with great writing and an even better story. Very highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan – Audiobook Review

The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, narrated by Daniel Oreskes
Published in audio by Harper Audio, published in print by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins

Synopsis:

In this sequel to “The Strain,” New York – and much of the rest of the world – has fallen to the vampires, although many people are still denying exactly what is happening. Vasilly, Eph, Nora, and Abraham Setrakian are still working together to fight this viral vampiric scourge, but their actions are becoming increasingly independent, this Nora trying to remove her mother and Eph’s son from the city, Setrakian working with a gang – literally – of vampire hunters, and Eph bent on his own act of vengeance.

Thoughts on the story:

The more I listened to the “The Fall,” the more I realized I wasn’t really buying the idea, so central to this series, that this form of vampirism is a virus. As with traditional vampires, victims are infected when struck about the neck – although these vampires do not strike in the same way traditional vampires do. While the vampires feed, their blood worms make their way into the body of the victim, which is what then creates a new vampire. I believe at one point it was explained that the real cause of the vampirism was a parasite carried by the blood worm. So if it is a parasite, it clearly is NOT a virus, and you would really think that Eph and Nora, both formerly of the CDC, would get that.  I suppose it really isn’t a major issue, but it was starting to really bother me.

Besides that realization, there was a bit of middle-of-the-series-slump about “The Fall.” I really appreciated that del Toro and Hogan advanced the storyline and took things in a new direction instead of just making this a second book of fighting against the vampires for New York City, but it took me well over half of the book before I got into the story. There was not quite as much action in the first half of the book, which made it a bit slow, compared to “The Strain.” Still, the storyline itself was strong and interesting, and I appreciated more of a look at the mythology of this vampire, as well as Setrakian’s earlier vampire hunting days.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Oreskes did a good job with the narration, I may have even liked him better than the man who narrated the first book (yes, there was a narrator change between books one and two in this series). I did have one problem with the audio production, though, and that is the way that the book switched between different characters’ stories. Most chapters include multiple points of view of different characters, but the editing of the finished product did not contain enough of a pause or any other indication that the setting was changing, occasionally confusing me as it seemed that we were going from Vasilly to Nora almost in the same breath when they were in very different situations.

Overall

Although perhaps not quite as captivating as “The Strain,” still an integral part of the series. It would probably work pretty well either in audio or print. I’m looking forward to the last book in the trilogy next year.

Buy this book from:
Audible.com: Audio
Powells: Print*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound: Print*
Amazon: Print*

Source: publisher
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

The Passage by Justin Cronin – Book Review

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Around the year 2015 or 2020, the United States government begins a new experiment, one aimed to ensure the pax Americana for many years to come. Instead of going through the expense and time of training soldiers just to have them die or be injured in the field, the military was hoping to find a way to modify soldiers to give them incredibly long lives and make them incredibly difficult to kill and injure. The secret seems to be in a virus discovered in the jungles of Bolivia. Of course, soldiers can’t just be injected with an unknown vaccine, so an arrangement is made to allow 12 Death Row inmates to keep their lives if they agree to be part of Project NOAH. Evidently nobody realized that a virus that causes immortality + convicted murderers = not good.

This background, along with the introduction of Amy and the first few years after BAD THINGS HAPPEN, comprise about the first 200 pages of the book. The next 560 pages take place about 100 years after the initial BAD THINGS, and are centered on a small enclave of survivors in what used to be California. I think this fact, that it takes 200 pages to get to the majority of the main characters, is a large part of the reason that “The Passage” lacked the necessary immediacy to be a great apocalyptic thriller.

That’s right, I said it was lacking and, therefore, not great. Minority opinion alert!

I know everyone loved this, but I just didn’t. I liked it, don’t get me wrong. The prose was competent at the worst and really quite lovely in some places. The idea of the story that Cronin created was also quite interesting. Mostly, the book was just way. too. long. Nearly 800 pages for the first book in a trilogy, I think it should have been 200-300 pages shorter. There were 450 pages in the middle during which nothing really grabbed me, and that’s not good. The excessive time it took me to be introduced to the main characters and the fairly uninteresting nature of the early part of their story kept me from really ever caring about them and, thus, detracted from the immediacy and fear that a book like this needs.

I might have been a little more tolerant of the book had a throwaway line early in the book about Jenna Bush being the governor of Texas been excluded. That sort of thing really annoys me, it is just trying much too hard to be clever and it seems very unsophisticated storytelling to me.

Overall a very interesting concept, but the execution left something to be desired – namely a strong editor. I will likely read the next two books in the series, but there’s no way I will be buying them in hardcover – I’ll wait for paperback or a copy from the library – and, honestly , I don’t think that you need to buy this one in hardcover either. If you don’t want to be left out of the discussion about it this summer, get on the library waitlist now.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
.*

This review was done with a book received from a friend.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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