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Rarely does a novel engage so quickly as this one. Find yourself in a suburban home 95 miles from LA's epicenter on the cheap, un-ocean side of a coastal range.(1) Our 1P protagonist is Julia, a tween in the 7th grade and the child of an anxiety-laden mother and a pediatric doctor father. Neighborhood characters, kin, and fellow Jr. High students are realized so sharply it's as if they're sitting in the room with you.

This is two stories, really. There's Julia's coming-of- age with the hopes and pitfalls of young life stretching for adulthood, or at least teenage-hood. Then there's the global catastrophe of the Earth suddenly slowing its rotation. During the novel, days go from a 24-hour cycle to a 72-hour one, and beyond. This causes untold disaster upon all life on the planet. Plants—and food sources—essentially go away. Sure, mushrooms still exist, but bananas? Farming becomes managing vast hydroponic fields, using massive amounts of electricity. No grass, most trees die, photosynthesis drops off the map. The whole avian population falls out of the sky because of the change in gravity. The speculations multiply easily; just imagine blistering-hot days intensified by an unfiltered atmosphere. It's called radiation. Then think on those 24-hour and more periods of darkness. For humanity—which doesn't have a clue regarding cause—adaptation lies with the old standards. America and most governments stubbornly stick to the old time, abandoning the rotation cycle parameters. So, things become, ah, further out of sync to the Earth's cycle with days that are without sunlight and nights in blazing radiance. Civilization's footing gets really, really wobbled.

Naturally, there is defiance, as some people try to remain organic and adopt to the new but ever-changing cycles. They are, however, a minority, just as they are now. But in Creeping Along World, animosity builds, then boils toward people who live by a different clock. After all, the tribal law of the Outsider must remain in place so people can identify themselves and each other. This disparate movement separates into colonies outside of civilization, trying live in a hopelessly-changing environment, which, in actuality, looks more like the vision of '60s Hippiedom at the debauchery stage. Trying to sleep 24 hours is almost as difficult as staying awake for the same duration.

Julia's tale progresses in a more anticipated manner. Being the only child of a paranoid mother who is "a peripheral shape of worry"(p.231) with fainting spells, and an aloof father who's affairing with her piano teacher, she's withdrawn with nowhere to go. Her girlfriends are mercurial if not vacuous chowderheads, and she pines—and finally hooks up with—for another lonely child in Seth, poster boy for Troubled Teen with Skateboard. They do things together from good intentions but do no good, like trying to save a small portion of the thousands of whales that wash up on the beach.

As the Earth slows to 72-hour days, 80-hour days, what was sensed at the start of this literary journey fulfills its inevitability. Being sentient, we each live in our own conceived and sensational world, which, as it is considered in a temporal framework, becomes the profound metaphor(2) of The Age of Miracles. And the image left after this unfeigned deluge of lives lived in the most insidious of times is etched in the cement of a sidewalk somewhere.

 

We were here.

—p.269

 

 

1) My guess is Oxnard/Ventura as opposed to San Diego. Ooops, I was wrong (what's new?). See Author's Page.

2) The not-so-profound metaphor here, I think, is ecological disaster via pollution. Too much human stuff, you see, weighing down the Earth's—and ours—correct progression. Ultimately, all things stop. We are ironically speeding toward Pynchon's Entropy (the Grand Cabal with spider monkeys under Antarctica ice in V.), with Yeats' "artifice of eternity"(Sailing to Byzantium) embedded in a sidewalk.

 

text only © copyright 01/18/2015 by Larry Crawford

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