Next Hugo nominee up is Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky.

Tonally, this is a kind of weird book, because it’s a bit all over the place. One moment, it’s hyper-naturalistic, with people behaving like regular ol’ people and events that are wholly mundane; the next, it’s using archetypes straight out of fairy tales, with people acting in completely unrealistic ways. It’s not quite doing the hysterical realism thing, although it dabbles in that at times, too.

At its best, the book is telling the stories of its protagonists, who are interesting people doing interesting things, and who are sometimes jerks, but mostly pretty decent, in a way that rings true. At its worst, the book is delivering a crashingly unsubtle message about the need to balance technology with humanity. Most of the time, it’s doing those two things together, and the result is something that ends up being readable and interesting, but falls well short of greatness.

Compared to the other nominees I’ve read, it’s more ambitious than Chambers, but less well-executed; and lacking in both ambition and execution compared to Lee or Palmer. But I don’t want to be too critical here, because this is a really strong slate of nominees, and this is ultimately a perfectly fine book, even if it’s not one that I’d vote for to win the Hugo.


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