So You Want to Save ‘A Swiftly Tilting Planet’

Nuclear war is pending as Madeleine L’Engle opens A Swiftly Tilting Planet, book 3 of her Wrinkle in Time Series. When the youngest of the Murry clan, Charles Wallace, shouts an ancient rune taught by a crazy mother-in-law, he is visited by a flying unicorn that takes him on a trip through time in the hopes of saving the world from apocalypse. If that synopsis sounds bonkers, well, that’s just the tip of the ice berg. In spite of this, Tilting Planet was the most enjoyable L’Engle book I’ve read so far and also walked away with the least to talk about.

There’s usually some theme or lesson I can draw out of a book, no matter how shallow it is. I mean, I found things in Tarzan books worth writing about. But with this one, there wasn’t much there. The book was interesting and entertaining, but it offered nothing by way of mental meat. The biggest thing I could eek out was a lesson about not underestimating a person’s value in your personal life but also their potential effect on the course of history. You might think that a forgotten tribe of Native Americans have no possible connection to a South American dictator, but L’Engle will show how you can be wrong. We as humans are connected and our lives collectively move history forward even if our names will never appear in records.

Thus, L’Engle seems to be saying, if we want to avoid nuclear war and save humanity, we should befriend time traveling unicorns…or simply be kind to our neighbor and show them love. It seems like a simple, trite message, especially compared to the themes she tackled previously. Yet, somehow, that blip of a message sounds loudly on a cultural radar otherwise bathed in blood red. Most people today want to avoid their neighbor at all costs. Perhaps, instead, we should love our neighbor. That may have great historical implications we may never see, but love is better than hate and we desperately need more love today.

Quick Critique:

I wasn’t too impressed with the first two books of the series, but this one fared much better and made me want to read more. The plot is still the weak spot and gets pretty bonkers (especially keeping track of the same family in different periods of time since they all have similar names), but at least no one spends chapters of dialogue fretting over a universe-altering decision. At this point, my favorite of the series.

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