All The Birds In The Sky comes with a gold-star pedigree. Universally, our book club looked forward to reading it because of our longstanding respect for Charlie Jane Anders’ work as a science fiction
|Image via Amazon.ca|
While this book — Anders’ first novel — shows promise, it ultimately did not live up to our expectations.
As with many journalists who turn their quills to novel writing, Anders’ fist attempt at long-form writing seems to be an aggregation of vignettes. The prose is more than competent in places, but the structure is uneven, the pace is off-putting and the dialogue left us wondering about the intended audience.
Written with knowledge of the genre
That being said, Anders’ long-time involvement in fandom and knowledge of the genre shine through. Members of our book club praised the magic system she created and the odd applications of scientific technology — particularly the university-based A.I. that is trying to help people find romantic partners.
Many of these ideas may be worthy of development into standalone short stories — a format that Anders has shown skill with in the past (We would particularly highlight her first-rate story The Fermi Paradox Is My Business Model).
|Charlie Jane Anders|
(Image via Wikipedia)
As noted in a previous blog post, our group has a preference for books that have a beginning, middle and end and are self-contained. This book’s large-scale structure — childhood, divergence, conflict, apocalypse — works, and it’s good to see at least one nominated book that fulfills a single large narrative arc.
But the pacing of this arc is choppy and characters disappear and reappear suddenly and without explanation. The assassin — one of the more interesting characters in the book — disappears for long stretches without cause and, when he is written in, seems to act without clear motives.
The book’s exploration of societal dichotomy between nature-based neo-pagan beliefs and technophilia spurred some lively debate in our group.
Given our appreciation for much of Anders’ previous work as a journalist and short stories, many of us are looking forward to her subsequent works. However, this book was not at the top of any of our Hugo ballots.