we just tell you what we like
I’m coming out of writer’s block and not even to write in my writer’s blog but to review, so to speak, a novel I just read. And because this blog site on which I write is a review of local happenings, it makes even more sense, because when I saw the book at the top of the New Fiction shelf at Pegasus, it had magnetic appeal because of Charlie Jane Anders’s aura in San Francisco. She’s famous for Writers With Drinks, of which I may just talk briefly here, trying not to aggrandize it too much because I want to be able to go to Writers With Drinks without having to join the early birds who line up at the door to grab the prime seating spots.
That word, “aggrandize” I now use daily since I read it in All the Birds in the Sky, which is the book I intended to talk about here. It’s used to warn Patricia, the number one protagonist, not to display her witch powers around. It’s used by the group she has joined after surviving the early ostracizing exercises of school and family when you’re not quite part of the mainstream. The number two protagonist is Laurence, who would be the archetypal nerd, at the other end of the Ying to Yang spectrum. They grow to be allies, fully aware of their differences, and painfully throwing each other under the bus when faced with the too real mainstream bullies. They take separately liberating career paths and end up finding each other again in San Francisco, Laurence one of the heroes of the tech industry, Patricia on a mission.
I like them very much, they’re my Ying and Yang, and they care deeply about San Francisco. The novel takes you into the changing city, the madness brought by the latest gold rush of Tech, the temporary trends, fortunately fictionalized so you won’t have to recognize any of it existed next year when you’re into another age category. What happens to Patricia and Laurence is significant of individuals who find themselves to be different from the mainstream, join and lead groups in which they thrive, to arrive at a point where the groups are going way too far. It’s like Tech companies that start with a nice simple idea, but, with the massive injection of venture capital, become unstoppable monsters.
I can’t judge All the Birds in the Sky for, say, the science-fiction, because I rarely read science fiction. But I know enough about technology to appreciate the inventiveness and the humor that this novel carries throughout. The true geeks make their own gadgets and computers, one of which learns to grow itself into a desirable and essential consumer product without its inventor’s knowledge. They make a device to save humanity by transporting them to another planet, but the first tester gets stuck in a weird state of mind and the scientists have no idea how that happened, and especially not that witchcraft helped save the test subject. There isn’t a moment when I’d think the author took shortcuts in making fiction seem real, and the various locations of the Valencia Street Corridor (a local irony) are just too funny. I’d want to visit them, except that as in reality they would have closed and morphed into the next thing by the time you read this.
“A page turner,” I should say, as I returned to reading the novel every day after whatever daily life, eager to learn what happened while I was away. There was just the right amount of entertaining narration, and the action is fast paced.
You, gentle reader, could write in the comments and we’d start a book discussion, 21st century style (it’s probably too early in the century to talk about a style being it, by the way).