As the weather turns colder, I’ve been itching to try a new vibe of fiction. I was reading historical fiction over the summer and while I enjoyed both books–The Sunne in Splendor and When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman–I felt like something different. I say vibe because I can’t think of a better word–but it’s the feeling that comes over you when you’ve been absorbed in a book for thirty minutes or an hour or however long you have–the feeling of the book’s world that you just can’t shake off. And since it’s fall and things are crisp and golden but also growing darker and more somber, I was drawn to The World As We Knew It.
I’ve read it two or three times before and have been haunted by it each time. There’s a worldwide catastrophe when an asteroid hits the moon and knocks it out of its orbit. The book focuses on Miranda, a 16 year-old who keeps a diary to document how the catastrophe impacts her family and community. It’s a YA book in a post-apocalyptic mode. I generally have little taste for zombie or post-plague post-apocalyptic stories–too much violence and too many decomposing bodies and I’ve always thought zombies are boring anyway. (I don’t get their cultural moment right now.) But I’ll try a book or movie out if the catastrophe is from climate or technology and sometimes aliens, as long as there’s not too much violence. This book fits the bill. (Although it’s sequels–I’ve read two of the three of them–have a bigger body count and a little more fear in them.)
The moon changing its orbit has a catastrophic impact on the world’s weather so much of the book is about Miranda and her family trying to survive amid ash and an early and unusually harsh winter caused by volcanoes going off continually all over the planet. They end up isolated from even their neighbors.
It’s a good book to read on a cloudy fall afternoon when I’m by myself at home with the dogs. (I can pretend it’s getting cold because it looks cold, but it’s really like 70 degrees Fahrenheit.) It’s a harrowing and somber novel, but it ends on a hopeful note. (That hopeful note changes in the sequels, though.)
Of course books like this always make you think of yourself and what you would do in this scenario. I’m thinking that we need to get those solar panels we always talk about getting put on the house immediately. We need to get that well re-dug. We have to figure out how to grow food. I go over the food stores in the pantry and how much medicine is in reserve. But then I think, I’d rather just die in the first wave of the catastrophe. I wouldn’t want to live for very long without anti-antibiotics, hormonal birth control and my Gabapentin.
It makes for a gripping read to see how characters deal without all of life’s modern conveniences, though.