Friday, 28 December 2012

End of the World Dystopian Read - The Age of Miracles

I wanted to like this book. I had heard so many good things about it. The unquestionable Jennifer Byrne had it even listed it in her top 5 reads for 2012. So I was sorely disappointed when I just did not care.

The premise for the story is that the Earth is slowly beginning to stop rotating. And then the book was supposed to look at the consequences that then occurred because of the lengthening of the days. Such as crops being unable to grow, how to make society function to a time, etc.

When it was first announced that this was occurring  the days had already extended by 90 mins. I'm not sure how no one had noticed this yet, unless it had occurred incredibly suddenly. But this book does not let science get in the way of a story.

Explanations? Pfft!
Physics? Not needed!

Let me list the issues:
1. Earth slows down rotating. No one knows why. At least they seem slightly perplexed about this.
2. Gravity changes. While not scientifically inaccurate, no one seems bothered by this, except soccer balls and birds.
3. The Magnetic field buggers up and disperses somewhat. Life carries on and no one cares. Well... we would be stuffed. Dead in fact. We could not go out in the sun full stop. The kids getting a nasty case of sunburn is ridiculous. They would have extreme radiation poisoning closely and quickly followed by death. And it's not just the sun people. Cosmic radiation anyone? But we will conveniently forget all about that. Also, without the magnetic field, the solar wind would strip away the Ozone layer. You know. Just minor inconveniences.
4. The Auroras are everywhere. Lies. You can't have an aurora with no magnetic field. It's the solar wind charging particles in the field! How can you... just... nevermind.
5. Things are better in Mexico at the equator. No. Just no. It would be the opposite, at the Poles things would be better, but as highlighted above, I actually just think you're fucked no matter where on Earth you are.
6. Trying not to spoil here, the book goes for about 9 months when the day goes from 24 hours to about 60 hours. The last couple of pages suggest either something has been fixed, or a reality which could not exist. With nothing mentioned at all. Suspend critical thinking people!

Now do not get me wrong. Science fiction you have to break some rules. Obviously. However, I want you to explain it to me. Even if it is "we have this thing but it means everything works". I can deal with that. But don't break the laws of the universe willy-nilly and don't explain anything. Or don't not understand physics and hope that no one notices. And don't do it repeatedly! To quote Terry Pratchett "the rule in science fiction is you are allowed one impossible thing," If you do more, and do it badly, you look like a knob.

You know what though, I could overlook some if not all of the scientific cluster-fuck that is above if the story or characters were likeable. They weren't. Julia, the girl who is our narrator, isn't too bad. And her love interest Seth too. But I just could not care. It was a young adult novel with a cataclysm involved, but it didn't really matter. It was ridiculous. The world is ending and I'm listening to an 11 - 12 year old worrying about whether a boy likes her or not, or why doesn't she get to go to the popular girls party. Seriously?

It wasn't a good coming of age story, it wasn't a good dystopian apocalypse story. It had a decent idea that was not all that terrible to read, just frustrating. I again feel like it was a young-adult book as she didn't have the knowledge or the story for an adult one. So lets write it half-arsed, and publish it as a young adult book. Gosh that makes me angry.

It also had a self-indulgent section at the back of the book that explained the type the book was written in, which just opened itself up to more criticism, as it wasn't the lively read the type was supposed display. All in all, Jennifer and I will be having words.

Lexx says that if you all want to read a good sci-fi dystopia with well based science in it, we should all go read Anathem. While debriefing to him before posting, he was adamant I gave you all a good book to read.

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