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All the Birds in the Sky

4/5. She's a witch; he's an engineer. They find each other in the pressure cooker of junior high, lose each other, then come together again as adults in the weird petri dish of San Francisco on the brink of climate? Apocalypse.

My pick for the Hugo. (The Jemisin is also great, but it's middle-book-of-a-trilogy great, so). This is just weird and not quite like anything else and prickly. And surprisingly sincere. I tried to describe it and was deeply irritated to hear myself saying "it's sort of about genre," which is true in only the least interesting sense of this book. I mean, yeah, she lives in a fantasy novel and he lives in a science fiction novel, and their stories bleed together, but whatever, that's not interesting. And yeah, this book is slippery as a fish – it eels through a sort of grimly humorous A Series of Unfortunate Events phase, and then does this incredibly and specifically San Francisco twenty-something romance thing, oh and then there's an apocalypse, but whatever, lots of books change their spots. So then I asked myself what exactly I meant by "genre," and.

This book is about different modes of not just nerdiness, but of freakishness. And it's about different ways of approaching the big problems of humanity. Those are both pretty good definitions of genre, in this instance.

Date: 2017-05-01 02:18 am (UTC)
ellen_fremedon: overlapping pages from Beowulf manuscript, one with a large rubric, on a maroon ground (Default)
From: [personal profile] ellen_fremedon
This is the first review I've read that makes me want to read the book. (Others have mostly made it sound like a literary novel with genre trappings without making it clear that the genre elements are integral.)

Date: 2017-05-19 09:41 pm (UTC)
cahn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cahn
HOLY COW I just finished reading this and I thought it was excellent. Also beautifully written and I have no idea how I would describe this to anyone else. I need to think about this a lot.

Definitely my pick for the Hugo.

Date: 2017-05-20 02:54 am (UTC)
cahn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cahn
It kept surprising me, too! Which is, I guess, what you were saying about genre. I mean, it wasn't surprising plotwise (e.g., it was pretty clear what the Caddys were pretty early on, and I'm not convinced it wasn't supposed to be obvious, and while I didn't guess the ending, it was mostly because I wasn't thinking about it at all), but, like, even thematically -- at first I thought, oh, it's a book about the particular hell that's middle school, and how it's not actually much more implausible than magic -- which itself would be a sufficient theme to hang a book on -- but then it turned out to be a book about a very San Francisco city romance, and how we change the narratives about ourselves, which would also be a good theme to hang a book on -- but then it was about how differing modes of thought can screw people over, apocalypse style, and maybe it was always about that from the very beginning -- and, just, wow. I mean, you note that lots of books change their spots, but I'm used to generally just one major change in genre (like, from mystery to SF, or something like that), and not also the deep thematic underpinnings also changing, or transforming, or something. Really just -- yeah, like you say. Never read anything quite like it.


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