When 13-Year-Olds Take Charge

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Cixin Liu's Supernova Era begins with an intriguing premise--radiation from a supernova hits Earth, and everyone on the planet who is over 13 is dying. For some reason, the 13-year-olds might have a chance, and the children 12 and under will survive mostly unharmed. That is, if they and their older siblings can raise them into adults.

I admit I had difficulty understanding how this would work; however, the premise is the point, not how it happens. The adults have about a year, in which they are getting sicker and sicker, to train the brightest of the older children in disciplines ranging from medicine to engineering to politics. They build a sophisticated second internet as a gift to the children. They hope that the children will at least be kinder and less prone to war than themselves. Then they die, and the action really starts when three Chinese 13-year-olds take the reins of their country, whether they're ready or not. But hey, most 13-year-olds think they know everything, right?

Supernova Era has been compared to Lord of the Flies on a macro scale. The comparison is justifiable. World-running, even world-maintenance, is hard work for anyone, let alone children and teens. Some of the children see no reason to consider anything the adults told them anymore. Others get exhausted, bored, and ready to give up.

Liu's tone is a bit dispassionate, but conveys what is happening to both individual children and the world. The writing is stilted in places. However, it has been translated from Mandarin Chinese to English, so I am not certain whether Liu or the translator is at fault here. The technological and political aspects also seem a bit dated. Supernova Era was originally published in Mandarin Chinese in 2003 and written years before then, so that makes sense.

This isn't my favorite sci-fi novel, but Supernova Era does have interesting insight into human nature and Chinese culture. Give it a go, then give it to your favorite 13-year-old when they're being a pest.

Thanks to BookishFirst for a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.