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Book 38: Life as we knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Book 38: Life as we knew it
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer, 2006.
Genre: Speculative Fiction. Post-Cataclysm. YA.
Other Details: Paperback. 339 pages.

The Moon gets smacked by an asteroid and like a billiard ball ends up being knocked closer to Earth, causing havoc with tides, volcanoes, and triggers extreme climate change. Sixteen year-year old Miranda lives in a small town in Pennsylvania and begins her journal detailing the usual teen concerns. Miranda is more annoyed that all this Moon business is generating extra homework than thinking what might happen to the Moon or Earth. However, after the event, her journal becomes a record of her family's response to the escalating natural disasters and their struggle for survival.

I cannot bring myself to label this novel as science-fiction as the scientific aspects were so appallingly bad they made my brain hurt. Seriously an asteroid hitting the moon would not be visible in the same way as a shooting star would be! It is burning up in Earth's atmosphere that causes meteors to be visible. Ditto the idea that anyone is going to see anything anyway as the object would be hitting the far side of the moon; else what trajectory would it be on? Then there is the size of an asteroid needed to actually knock the Moon out of orbit or the math needed to predict the actual time of the strike. I'd think if an object that big was on a collision course the world's scientists would be more concerned it would hit the Earth and trigger an extinction event! I could go on but you get my drift.

The link below goes into much more detail about how seriously bad this aspect of the book is. I agree totally with Ms. Dyson that when you are writing a book of this nature aimed at young readers, both writer and editor should be looking to ensure that its science is accurate.

Marianna Dyson's Review - A former NASA employee and writer of fiction and non-fiction on space details the 'impossible science' in Life as We Knew It. /end of rant.

On the upside, it did actually made me reconsider my response to The Road, which I had criticised for the author's unwillingness to identify the nature of the disaster that had destroyed the environment and civilisation. I realised that if you haven't the necessary scientific background background that it is far far wiser to skirt around the issue than to stuff your book full of bad science that may end up misleading readers, no matter what their age. Many reviews cited how scary the book was but I did not find it so because of the implausibility of the book's central premise.

The other aspect of the novel that bothered me was its message in terms of community. Although there are obviously people off-stage working hard to restore services and ensure that people don't starve, the attitude expressed by Miranda's mum and passed on to her children is one of entitlement and greed. I found her an appalling character even if Miranda herself was sweet and the journal format offered quite an authentic feel. I am not going to bother with further books in this series.
Tags: weather, young adult
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