Book Review

Book Reviews: Charlie Jane Anders

While browsing my local library, I noticed Six Months, Three Days, Five Others and between its small size and strange cover art, I had to know what it was about. The sci-fi collection appealed to me, but I noticed the note about a short related to another of Anders’s books, All the Birds in the Sky. I didn’t want to feel like I was missing anything so I borrowed both.

All The Birds in the Sky By Charlie Jane Anders
Not My Edition: Hardcover – 316 pages – 2016 – Tor – ISBN: 9780765379948

This book is about…well…I don’t even know. I have little idea of what happened. There’s technology and magic and two people who are in love but keep being jerks to each other and also the world is ending due to limited resources because humans suck and all that.

How’s that for a blurb?

This book started out absurd, in a fun way.  Patricia discovers she has magic powers and there’s no lengthy explanation about the rules. She just has magic. Laurence is a little science genius who builds a time machine that lets him jump forward 2 seconds in time. Again, no crazy explanations of how or why this works. It all felt a little dreamlike, in a way that worked for me. There was even an order of assassins. I felt like there was a lot of humor at the beginning that sadly didn’t carry through the rest of the book.

As Laurence and Patricia grew up, their friendship got rocky and so did the story. Their parents are a bunch of checked-out, unfeeling assholes and it felt too ‘all adults are clueless and uncaring’ which YA or MG books sometimes suffer from (or are successful, in the case of Roald Dahl.)

As the two characters grew up, my dislike for them grew. They both treat the other like crap and at times they felt like unrelatable jerks. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be rooting for them to be together. I wanted more sci-fi and magic. At times they felt like very real people…but I could never really get behind either of them.

The plot was… ???

I couldn’t begin to tell you what happened. I was equal parts bored and curious about what would happen. There was a sudden surge of action at the end that left me even more confused about wtf was going on. I also expected more of an apocalyptic feel. I think maybe this was a more realistic version of the future of where we could be headed, but I didn’t get a good sense of what was wrong with the world other than that we’d probably run out of resources so people wanted to move off-planet.

This book just didn’t work for me. I basically immediately forgot the ending and I don’t even care. I think there were a lot of messages here that I wasn’t getting. Or like, commentary on our current times.

That being said, Anders’s writing is great and very readable. I can’t quite recommend it because I’m feeling like I was too stupid, but I’ll leave you with some quotes I enjoyed:

“He was Laurence of Ellenburg, and he was unflappable. Laurence had just figured out that ‘unflappable’ did not have anything to do with whether people could mess up your clothing, and now he used that word as much as he could.”

“’You know,…no matter what you do, people are going to expect you to be someone you’re not. But if you’re clever and lucky and work your butt off, then you get to be surrounded by people who expect you to be the person you wish you were.’”

From the acknowledgments: “I really hope you guys enjoyed this book. If you didn’t, or if there was stuff that didn’t make sense to you or seemed too random, just e-mail me and I’ll come to your house and act the whole thing out for you. Maybe with origami finger puppets.”

I think I need to take her up on that offer!


Six Months, Three Days, Five Others By Charlie Jane Anders
Not My Edition: Hardcover – 188 pages – 2017 – Tor – ISBN: 9780765394897

From the back of the book: Revealed – The terrible truth about why humans were created – and why we’ll never discover aliens; A tale of three wishes, after the end of the world; A family reunion in which some of the attendees aren’t human any more – but they’re still family; TFW you try to solve a problem with time travel, and now you have two problems; The love affair between a man who can see the one true foreordained future and the woman who can see all possible futures; and a coda to Anders’s bestselling All the Birds in the Sky, answering the burning question of what happened to Patricia’s cat.

The back of the book describes each of the stories better and more succinctly than I ever could, so here are my thoughts:

The Fermi Paradox is Our Business Model – For those of you, who, like me, had no idea wtf the Fermi Paradox is, I’ve Wikipedia’d it: The Fermi paradox is named after Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi and refers to the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence for and various high probability estimates of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations elsewhere in the Milky Way galaxy.

My initial notes mention that I feel like I missed the point. Now that I’ve gone and looked up the meaning of FP and also reread the story description on the back, I get it. Hahaha. In retrospect, this one was good.

As Good As New – This was my favorite. I really want to watch the play they mention, about a man who wants to break up with his girlfriend and hires a male prostitute to seduce her but she’s on to him and the guys end up seducing each other. Also a unique play on the genie in a bottle theme that I really enjoyed.

Intestate – I also had to look up intestate, which means not having made a will before one dies. Good to know. I felt like this one ended before it really began. It seemed like the intro to a larger story and there was zero resolution so I was bummed, because I was interested in what was happening!

The Cartography of Sudden Death – I liked the world-building here. It felt sort of Egyptian somehow, but with advanced tech. I would definitely read a novel about Jemima.

Six Months, Three Days – My second favorite tale. Who wouldn’t want to read about two people who can see the future, yet in different ways, meeting each other and falling in love?

Clover – The very reason I borrowed All the Birds in the Sky and it turns out I really didn’t need to. You don’t really need to know anything about Patricia and her cat to understand this story, as the important bits are reiterated. I liked this well enough.

This collection was a mixed bag for me. I think I enjoy Anders’s short fiction more than her full-length work. It makes me feel less stupid, but also still a little like I’m missing the point. I like her style, it’s just her content that doesn’t quite work for me, if that makes sense.

~

Overall, the shorts collection was much more of a success for me than the novel. Looking back, I don’t think it was worth it to read the novel, as the short set in that universe was pretty self-sufficient. If you think the shorts collection sounds good, you don’t need to read her novel first. If you think her novel sounds good, go read it! It just didn’t click for me. If it clicked for you, maybe you can come to my house and act it out, because I’m lost haha. If Anders releases another shorts collection, I’d give it a shot, but I’ll probably avoid her novels in the future. 

6 thoughts on “Book Reviews: Charlie Jane Anders”

  1. I really loved the beginning of the novel but began to get confused once they started to be grown up. So I abandoned it. I tried to read that book because I adored the six months three days story back when I read it. I don’t know if I will try anymore of her novels but I would be willing to read more short stories. Arrrr!
    x The Captain

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed the review Milliebot! It answered a few questions for me, as I had (fairly recently) read CJP’s Six Months; because I liked the cat story I was considering reading All the Birds to see who Patricia was! I like CJP’s style and humor quite a bit but I’m a little heistant about her novels. I’ll probably read at least one of them at some point . . . . but I might try a different one!

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    1. Yeah it’s tricky because I enjoyed her writing…yet I was so bored. I think that this is definitely a novel for those who enjoy maybe more thinking…or more…I don’t know. I can’t even describe it. Glad I could help!

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  3. I guess this answers my question about All The Birds in the Sky from your August Wrap Up post lol I’ve heard it is really weird… I laughed out loud at the author acknowledgments though… I guess it’s good she realizes its weird 🙂

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