Summary: The end is nigh- isn’t it always?– in these two novels that deal with the apocalypse. In The Age of Miracles, Julia is living in a world dealing with the slowing of the earth’s rotation which has disastrous consequences for the population and her family dynamic. Everything Matters follows Junior Thibodeaux, who has known since birth exactly when a meteor is going to strike the planet and kill all mankind. Womp womp. Talk about a messed up childhood.
Assuming no alien overloads have landed on earth to rule over us, no volcanoes have overflowed, no one was raptured and floods didn’t overtake the planet you are reading this review of two books from the apocalyptic genre post-apocalypse. Or rather, in a world still awaiting their eventual demise/angry that Jesus is such a flake. Stop rushing it society, just wait until the sun implodes. Regardless, we should probably thank the Scoobies, the Winchesters or the Doctor for our continued survival.
If however the apocalypse did occur, how are you still reading thing? Does this mean the afterlife has the internet!?!
Despite what did or didn’t happen, I spent the time leading up to 12/21/12 reading some awesome apocalyptic novels, my favorite being: The Age of Miracles, which deals with the slowing of the earth’s rotation and Everything Matters which details the importance of it all as a meteor hurtles toward earth. If you’re looking for an uplifting read, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend these two novels.
On the surface, both books seems to be about their various apocalyptic elements, but they’re more about family dynamics and the importance of appreciating life than how to survive the end of the world. Although there’s a great deal of that too. For how to survive a zombie apocalypse, please read World War Z.
The Age of Miracles follows 11-year-old Julia through the end of days as the world goes through a process referred to as the slowing. Basically, the rotation of the world has begun to slow and the days begin to get out of whack. On October 6th, the days have an additional 56 minutes. In response, the tides stop functioning and earth’s magnetic field wreaks all kinds of havoc. As daylight and nighttime change, it gets harder to grow food and electricity has to work overtime to feed humanity. It’s the end of Tumblr forever. FOREVER.
Gravity also gets effected, as it becomes harder to kick a ball or throw objects, birds begin walking on the ground and pilots have to be retrained to fly. Even worse, there are astronauts are trapped in space, afraid to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere. People begin getting diagnosed with gravity sickness, which includes nausea, dizziness and fatigue. Also they become bat shit insane. Probably because the world is ending and they’re eating bat poop.
Two factions quickly break out in the world: real-time versus clock time. Clock time is mandated by the government and still follows the typical 24 hour day that we’ve known all our lives. Real timers go against this convention and instead follow the new days, rising with the sun and sleeping through the night. This is particular difficult as days stretch out to 40 hours and the earth continues to slow. Of course, people in Hollywood latch onto this fad and begin practicing real time because they become convinced you age slower on real time. ::facepalm::
Regardless of the environmental changes, Julia finds the most changes to be taking place within her own family. Her obsessive mother and workaholic father start to fracture and her grandfather is convinced a conspiracy theory to distract from the Middle East is at play. Meanwhile, Julia is desperately trying to get the attention of her high school crush Seth Moreno. No: this is not a young adult novel.
The world may be ending, but life continues as always. Schools still have hierarchies, people fall in love, families are weird, there’s just a little bit more apocalypse. It’s more about life than death, and just how hard people fight to continue their lives. Most importantly, to leave behind the message: “We were here.”
Everything Matters is a much different novel. It’s told from multiple perspectives of the Thibodeaux family: worrisome mother, workaholic father, drug addicted brother, insane uncle, savant Junior, the love of Junior’s life Amy and the omnipresent 2nd person narrator(s). I have yet to find a second person perspective so well written and so relevant to the narrative style since this book. Although Junot Diaz comes a close second, particularly in his newest short story collection This Is How You Lose Her.
Whereas Age of Miracles follows the characters from the first apocalyptic event through the apocalypse, Junior is the only person in a good deal of the novel who knows the world is going to end when he turns 36. He discovers this in utero when an omniscient voice tells him all about it. Did I mention this book is also slightly less believable in terms of plot than Miracles? Well it is, there, I told you. The government eventually catches on and super genius Junior is brought in to help save the world. Like you do.
Even though it’s less realistic, Everything Matters has a more uplifting if more depressing message: everything matters. You probably got that from the title.
There are poignant points scattered throughout the novel where the omniscient narrators explain how the smallest thing could have the biggest impact. Think the butterfly effect, but on a more social level. This happens to person A which effects person B who does this to person C, etc. These were perhaps my favorite moments. I could have read a whole novel with this singular narrator, but it was an interesting change of pace to read the other POVs as well. Especially because if one sucked you didn’t have to read it for very long (coughBRANCHAPTERScough).
As with Miracles, the main focus is on the importance of family over the end of the world, as in the end of the world should conceivably put what’s important into perspective. Junior ends up (without giving too much away) doing everything for his father, working to save him. In a giant plot twist toward the end of the novel (no, Junior is not Dan Humphrey), and a spectacularly depressing conclusion the whole purpose of the novel finally comes into perspective.
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry… Just kidding, you’ll cry out all your tear ducts and you won’t laugh unless you’re a horrible, horrible person. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper. The whimpering of you as you cry yourself to sleep.
Just remember, in any apocalypse: Keep calm and carry on my wayward son.
-Extremely well written, family-focused take on apocalypse genre
-Intriguing characters you feel for, only want the best for them
-Love the multi-narrative perspective in Everything Matters
-BOOK COVER PORN, check out The Age of Miracles hardcover in person
-Slightly depressing read, worse than Les Mis (spoilers: everyone dies, literally)
If this post were just about The Age of Miracles, it would have totally been called Ways to Get Cassie-la to Read a Slice-Of-Life Novel: Stick An Apocalypse in it. Seriously, this is the only way to get me to read about the everyday trials and of tribulations of a family unit, adding in a supernatural element. Also see: The Radleys by Matt Haig, which is a slice-of-life novel plus vampires.