Ok so as you all know I am very fond of Fantasy and Sci-fi books. Before, I used to buy whatever I could find in the first book shop I could afford to go to, with obvious mixed results. Even before the Internet, the world of the Fantasy and Sci-fi books was quite vast. In more recent times and interestingly, it is still quite difficult to navigate through the oh so many titles. I sometimes try and follow the advice of the Internet and, particularly when it comes to one-off novels, the results are… Varied. I believe Charlie Jane Anders is one of these up and coming writers and I thought “All the birds in the sky” was ok. I now cannot stop thinking that in the photos the Internet provides me she looks a lot like a Spanish comedian guy who does impersonations. That shall not influence my overall mark (if that was the case, it would probably increase it).
What is it about?
Ok, so, the “story”. The story is divided into two points of view, the ones of Sophie (I managed to remember the name by some miracle), who talks in first person, and those of Mouth, who speaks in third person (and so, we know she dies straight off the bat – oops, spoilers). I am gonna call Mouth Apocalypse Susie (that Susie from Mrs. Maisel), since it’s a bit that type of character, except more annoying and less fun, and less everything. Sophie is the candid and stupid person who trusts the massive bitch Bianca, her room mate at university, and ends up thrown in the middle of a frozen tundra, where she is saved by a local “monster” called crocodile. Oh, yes, the setting is a planet where, for whatever reason, there is only super hot sunshine (that boils you) or super cold darkness (that freezes you). So all humans leave on a “dusk” sort of equatorial belt.
The story is all over the place. After Sophie is saved by this local animal, and gets a psychic connection with it, they leave the city where they are, they mix with Apocalypse Susie and her gang, travel to a different city, bladibla. Just talking about it makes me snore a little. The interesting part, the one with the alien thing, is left until the third quarter of the book, and by then my interest is gone. I cannot honestly recall what happens in the end and I do not care.
What makes it good?
See, the premise is interesting. The problems I have are multiple, though. The characters are poor. And I mean, half sketched, very one-dimensional, highly irritating. There is a sort of love story between this Sophie and this Bianca bitch, but it appears that on this planet it is illegal to be gay (no problems with the concept but, same as a lot of other stuff in this novel, it’s thrown there, there is no explanation; this is not an Ishiguroesque way of letting you figure it out, it is just lazy).
I think the idea of the author was that of being “edgy”, but she got too many ideas in too many chapters with too many characters (and there are not that many really, they are just all mismanaged).
I liked the first, I’d say, 50 pages or so and then grew more and more confused and irritated, to the point of just skimming through the final chapters. But hey, the packaging looks great (which amounts to the same as saying to a band who want to do their own thing “You’d be a great cover band” – I actually said this and it did not go down well).
This woman has potential and knows how to write. However, being capable of writing well does not mean necessarily that your book is going to be good. If you want to throw in too many sci-fi concepts and you don’t have a clear idea of where you are going, there is no amount of good writing that will save you.
Try again Charlie Jane.