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review 2018-11-21 01:25
Profound questions about what makes us human come up in this alternate present-day San Francisco in 'The Waning Age'
The Waning Age - S.E. Grove

It's present-day San Francisco, and ’The Waning Age’ is 10 years old. This means that at that age, it's expected that you will lose your ability to feel emotions. You will lose not only lose the ability to feel sadness, but also joy and everything in between.

 

Natalia Peña is the main character in this engaging novel, written as dated entries in a journal, and she has already waned. But her younger brother Calvino, who she calls Cal, has not, and he doesn't seem to show any signs that he will. Since their mother died tragically they have been living with foster parents, and while they show close bonds, it's only Cal who shows what would be recognizable as normal human responses to events around him, so much so that a company called RealCorp takes Cal to do tests on him to find out why he isn't waning.

 

 

They are also a major manufacturer of ’synaffs’ which are synthetic drops that basically only the wealthy can now afford in order to feel whatever emotion you choose. Ones that are bought on the street could be made of any unknown dangerous harmful chemicals causing the wrong emotional reactions. Most people instead choose to go through their lives feeling nothing, having forgotten what it felt like to have an emotion.

 

At the center of this illuminating book, beyond the fight that Natalia goes through to get her brother back from RealCorp, is a look at what humans are without their ability to feel. The absolute best sci-fi writing can feel so frighteningly real and believable, and this conversation about what humans are without - most importantly - being empathetic towards each other, touches on a nerve.

 

 

As someone who has always been emotional, having dealt with depression and anxiety and being the sort of person who has even lamented about how much easier life would be if I wasn't so empathetic (in contrast to others around me), this was eye-opening.

 

What has supposedly separated us from other beings is our ability to have emotions, to be ’sentient’, so what are we when we can't feel?

This is at the core of the characters in the book called Fish: they make me think of those who can commit baseless crimes without remorse or motive, they're basically psychopaths.

Questions came up in my head about how is this different from the thinking of someone who shows no emotion toward the victim and can commit serial murders.

 

 

What's the difference between thinking and feeling? How do we express emotion without feeling it? How do we have relationships without showing emotions? Is our own society going in the direction of where people aren't able to show or feel emotions? How have technology and social media contributed to this?

 

All of these questions come up and it really had me thinking!

 

I personally feel like one of the most essential problems today is that most people lack the ability to be empathetic towards each other. ’The Waning Age’ really made me sad (*emotion!) at the prospect of emotions disappearing altogether, good and bad, and how that would obliterate compassion completely.

 

Author S.E. Grove has managed to write a YA sci-fi novel that not only recognizes the bond between brother and sister, but she has also done some brilliant world-building, with just the right amount of action, and has brought some big ideas to the table. I will be thinking about this one for a long time, and I have already told a few other sci-fi authors about it.

 

'The Waning Age' is more profound than initial impressions would let on. And I have to say, this would make an excellent movie!

 

RELEASE DATE: February 5th, 2019 (add it to your TBR now!!)

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/40057886-the-waning-age
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review 2012-10-01 00:00
Blueberries for Sal - Robert McCloskey Nice artwork though the encounter w/ bears do scare me
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review 2012-05-05 00:00
Blueberries for Sal - Robert McCloskey Since this book was originally published in the 40s, it's impossible not to think of family history and the passage of time while reading it. There is humor, because Sal and a young bear switch places, to their mothers' surprise. There are also opportunities for lots of interesting conversations with children of many ages, not only comparing the past and the present, but also about our symbiotic relationship with animals and nature.
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review 2012-02-08 00:00
Madeline's Rescue (Viking Kestrel picture books) - Ludwig Bemelmans Great Madeline book that tells the story of the girls adding a dog to their family. It has nice colorful illustrations throughout and a great storyline that will make you want to keep reading. It's a classic for a reason.
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review 2012-01-21 00:00
Madeline's Rescue (Viking Kestrel picture books) - Ludwig Bemelmans Since a dog plays a major role, Sigourney had plenty of opportunities to practice her canine-related vocabulary - "puppy!" "doggie!" "woof woof!" and "rowrrrrrrr!" Bemelmans' drawings never fail to delight her. At 17 months, she's obviously much too young to comprehend Bemelmans' dark side, but it's there again, though expressed with a lighter touch than in "Madeline and the Bad Hat." Madeline's fall from a bridge provides the best example:

[Madeline] knew so well
How to frighten Ms. Clavel -
Until the day she slipped and fell.

Poor Madeline would now be dead
But for a dog that kept it's head,
And dragged her safe from a watery grave.

Maybe I need to start preparing my dad-to-daughter talk about death sooner than I'd anticipated.

Again, the drawings are fantastic. The first drawing of the girls fighting over who would get to sleep with the dog; Madeline looking out the window onto darkened Paris streets wishing for the dog (Genevieve) to return; and the entire sequence of the girls and Ms. Clavel searching high and low for Genevieve - all are terrific. Just look at the drawing of the girls scouring a famous cemetery to find Genevieve! Such amazing detail of the headstones down the the inscription on Oscar Wilde's grave - "And alien tears will fill for him pity's long broken urn. For his mourners will be outcast men and outcasts always mourn." Clearly Bemelmans intends parents and children alike to enjoy his works.

The ending is intensely sweet. Siggy squealed with delight when the litter of puppies came on the scene. That's all I needed to give "Madeline's Rescue" a 5-star review. No chicken guillotines, harangued cats or predator/prey encounters in this one. A really enjoyable read!
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