I am a connoisseur of the post-apocalypse novel. But what I like about the genre is the idea of the desperate struggle to preserve civilization and save the people you can, or, after the disaster, to re-create civilization from scratch. I am also a sucker for stories of disparate groups of people banding together and finding unsuspected heroism when faced with a situation where they must find more strength than they ever knew they had, or die. I like this, I suppose, because I figure that if I made it through the first hit, I'd be in that group, testing myself to the limit and risking everything because I've got nothing left to lose.

This is not that kind of story. It has absolutely no onstage violence, no corpses littering the streets with rats eating them or anything like that, and yet it's one of the most disturbing, plausible, and haunting apocalypse stories I've ever read.

It's the diary of Miranda, an ordinary teenage girl in a small town in Pennsylvania. One night a meteor hits the moon, knocking it into a lower orbit. Immediately, tidal waves drown coastal cities. Her mother is a writer, and when lists of the dead go up, her agent, editor, and half the writers she knows are on it, because everyone in New York City is dead. The President gets on TV to recite platitudes about the spirit of America. Gasoline goes up to ten dollars a gallon. School goes on, then gets cancelled. Everyone tries to keep life going on as usual, as much as they can, but environmental catastrophes begin to snowball...

It's the small scale of the story that makes it so easy to identify with, and the little details that make it so chilling. People start leaving, looking for a better place. A letter arrives from one of those, a month late but before all mail stops, to say that borders are closed and they're stuck in a refugee camp. Miranda tips off a friend that food is being handed out, and her mother goes into a fit of rage, screaming that she is never to do that again, that she risked her family losing food for the sake of a mere friend, and that she is only to think of her family and no one else, ever, or they're all gonna die! Two months later, they're digging up and eating tulip bulbs.

spoilers )


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