Thursday 3 August 2017

All The Birds In The Sky — Book Club Review

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

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.

Uneven pacing

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.

1 comment:

  1. As the group outlier, I wanted to add that I thought of the book as an allusion to climate change and how a small human action could have helped early in the book but because she (we) didn't understand what was needed or believe anything was needed nothing was done until it was too late. (This theme fell apart a bit at the end as the human answer was not an answer and the majority of the 'fix' was back to the science as savior technophilia which was against the book's main portrayal of science as either dangerous or vapid.)