The Casket of Time, by Andri Snaer Magnason

More books are published in Iceland per capita than anywhere else in the world. A disproportionate number seem to be indistinguishable gloomy thrillers, but a few stand out. Admittedly, Andri Snaer Magnason's The Casket of Time is both thrilling and frequently gloomy, but in an impressively idiosyncratic way.

The story is divided between two timelines. In the first, Sigrun's parents are completely obsessed with “the situation” (an undefined economic collapse). Unable to handle the constant stream of bad news, they finally insist on shutting the whole family up in TimeBoxes®, machines that seal out time, until things are resolved. But when Sigrun's box opens early, she finds herself in an abandoned world, alone apart from a handful of children and woman named Grace. Grace tells her young charges a story that parallels their current plight: the world is under a curse. There was an ancient king who wanted to ensure that his daughter's life was perfect. In an effort to protect her, he sealed her away in a casket made of spider silk woven so tightly that time couldn't penetrate it. But the rest of the world continued on at a normal pace, and the princess, who was only allowed out on “perfect” days, became more and more disconnected from it.

There are children's books that I think have a stronger impact on adults, and this is definitely one of them. The Casket of Time is a little Alice in Wonderland, a little political/social commentary, and a lot fairytale. It's tempting to focus on overarching themes—climate change? Hubris? The perils of avoidance?—and literary references, but it's quite possible to enjoy this book on its own storytelling merits: it is equally creepy and fascinating, and while I'm not totally sure I enjoyed it (it was a bit of a nightmare inducer, to be honest), I'm definitely not going to forget it.
Posted by: Julianka


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