Adrienne Martini Reviews The Sky Is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

Locus Magazine, Science Fiction FantasyThe Sky Is Yours, Chandler Klang Smith (Hogarth 978-0-451-49626-3, $27.00, 462pg, hc) January 2018.

In Chandler Klang Smith’s The Sky Is Yours, Empire Island is falling apart, mostly (but not entirely) because two dragons circle above it. They never land. They can’t be killed. And, just for fun, they randomly set part of the island on fire. Those who could leave have left. Still on the island are the very rich, who don’t want to give up their considerable assets, and criminals, who have all been locked up in Torchtown. Torchtown isn’t a prison, so much as it is a neighborhood that is surrounded by wire and guards and guns so that the prisoners stay put.

To say that Smith’s debut is delightful is sell­ing it short. I mean, it is delightful: you can feel an ebullient energy bouncing throughout the words and the story. It’s weird and it’s creative and it is full of heart as it tells the story of three people shoved together in this future where media saturates every moment of every day and, well, folks have to adapt to death continuously flying above them.

Duncan Ripple, a dim, privileged reality star, is the heir to a fortune. He’s betrothed to Swan Lenore Dahlberg, a naive (and possibly dying) heiress from Wonland, a bucolic suburb of Empire Island. But he is wound up with the near-feral Abby, who saves his life and rebuilds her world around him. Sort of. It’s complicated.

Smith tells their story, which dips and flows and combines in continuously surprising ways. There are bits told through literal poetry, flow charts, and movie scripts – and those transitions are organic rather than gimmicky. She spins and subverts fairy tales, and drops callbacks to cur­rent pop culture conversations without signpost­ing them. Like, this Bechdel Test moment when Ripple is alone with the two women:

“Ripple holds the girls in his spotlight. It’s so weird to see them having a conversation, one that is not about him.”

In so many ways, The Sky Is Yours should be a glorious mess, given all that this writer is doing. But while it is glorious, it isn’t a mess. It is warm and violent and strange and comforting in equal measure, without ever falling apart.

Adrienne Martini has been reading or writing about science fiction for decades and has had two non-fiction, non-genre books published by Simon and Schuster. She lives in Upstate New York with one husband, two kids, and one corgi. She also runs a lot.

This review and more like it in the April 2018 issue of Locus.

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