cover image The Waning Age

The Waning Age

S.E. Grove. Viking, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-451-47985-3

Emotions have dried up in this stripped-down sci-fi noir novel by Grove (the Mapmakers trilogy), in which people “wane”—lose their ability to experience feelings—around age 10, a benchmark that keeps getting younger. Natalia Peña, 17, has been taking care of her younger brother, Cal, almost 11, since their mother died. Nat works as a maid at San Francisco’s Landmark Hotel, where she occasionally rubs elbows with the very rich, who can buy calibrated emotions, or “synaffs,” from manufacturing conglomerate RealCorp. Without feelings to guide them, the populace must follow strict rules to maintain law and order (“Know what harm is. And cause no harm. Know what need is. And help those in need”) to keep from becoming violence-seeking “Fish.” But Cal still responds to the world empathically and emotionally. When he is identified as a late waner and taken to RealCorp for testing, Nat determines to help her little brother, even without the ability to feel traditional love. Logic and reason are king in Grove’s rich near-future world, where a Raymond Chandler-style narrative meets questions of ethics and technology. This fast-paced novel provides readers with a deep range of emotions while highlighting the importance of empathy, attachment, and emotional intelligence. Ages 14–up. [em]Agent: Dorian Karchmar, William Morris Endeavor. (Feb.) [/em]