25 July 2017

Hugos 2017: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Trade paperback, 431 pages
Published 2016

Acquired May 2017
Read June 2017
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Like another Hugo finalist I read this year, Every Heart a Doorway, this book plays with common genre conventions in interesting ways. The novel begins with two kids, one of whom could be the protagonist of a YA fantasy novel (she's a weirdo and a witch), the other who could be the protagonist of a YA sci-fi novel (he's a weirdo and tech genius). They become... not fast friends, exactly... but the only solace the other has in a very hostile and isolating world. The novel covers their youth, their junior high years, and then skips ahead about a decade to when the witch has recently graduate from magic school and the tech genius is working with an Elon Musk-esque visionary.

The beginning of the book is great: it very much does feel like the collision of the openings of two different YA novels. It's also very funny; Anders writes well, and is conceptually inventive, and draws her main characters and their insecurities very sharply. With the jump ahead, and the emergence of the actual plot, the novel (like Every Heart, actually) loses something: if I were to keep talking about genre, it starts to feel a bit "new adult" and not always in a good way. There are also some oddities of writing, in that certain key parts of the book are sort of glossed over, in a way not consistent with the deep interiority Anders gave the characters at the beginning of the novel. It kind of felt to me like this part of the novel had actually been written earlier, or revised less, than the first sections.

Still, I did enjoy it in the end. There's definitely a message, but it's one that works in how it reconciles the two genres and promises a future for a world that seems like it doesn't deserve one. Twenty-five pages from the end I was wondering how it was gong to tie up satisfactorily, but it definitely did, and cleverly at that.

In Two Weeks: A very weird space battle saga in Yoon Ha Lee's Ninefox Gambit!

No comments:

Post a Comment