Chandler Klang Smith’s debut novel, THE SKY IS YOURS (Hogarth; on sale January 23, 2018), is a fantastical literary epic with enough intelligence and imagination to match Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. This book has been eight years in the making. Clearly a young master of her craft, Smith lures us with beloved genre elements: dragons, futuristic technology, and a marriage plot worthy of Jane Austen. But she flips these tropes on their heads with a wry, self-aware bent. While the novel takes place in the future, Smith comments satirically on contemporary culture. She is fascinated with and dismayed by the widening gap between the rich and the disenfranchised, the surreality of modern celebrity, and questions about what’s natural and what’s monstrous as we march into an increasingly Frankensteinian future. And the read is a true delight for the senses; like the dragons in the book, Smith’s language is at the same time graceful and otherworldly.
The world of THE SKY IS YOURS is like our own, except that the passage of time has warped the most poisonous elements of our culture to the point of hilarity and tragedy. The year is 301970 AF. Dynastic families own mansions that take up whole city blocks. Casual genetic modification has led to semi-sentient Apehounds and other animal hybrids being kept as pets. And the prison system has run so rampant that convicts are walled off in a free-for-all death zone known as Torchtown. Two unrelenting dragons circle the ruined skyline of Empire Island, spitting bursts of fire. Down below, most of the inhabitants have fled, leaving behind only the decadent, the mad, or the lost.
Coming of age in these strange circumstances isn’t easy for Duncan Humphrey Ripple V, the playboy scion of the city’s wealthiest family; for his betrothed, the Baroness Swan Lenore Dahlberg, a tempestuous and death-obsessed young woman; or for his girlfriend Abby, a feral vixen he meets after crashing his flying car into the city’s landfill island. When disaster strikes close to home, they are forced to flee everything they’ve known and wander underground toward the scaled underbellies of the dragons. They face fire, conspiracy, mayhem, dragon-worshippers, and the monsters lurking inside themselves. One character they meet, Eisenhower Sharkey, is a conundrum typical of this world: baddest of the bad, born a prisoner inside the walls of Torchtown, he keeps an alligator chained to the fire hydrant outside and brews psychedelic chaw in his basement, all while devouring books with an autodidact’s hunger for knowledge. In this jumbled up reality, Smith’s characters are forced to confront the hypocrisy of their society in whatever way they can. Technology alienates people from one another, money exerts outrageous influence, and the underprivileged are targets for the dragons who pose a constant fiery threat.
Smith has imagined an utterly unique world. Clever and strange, THE SKY IS YOURS is at once faraway and familiar, its pandemonium grounded in the universal realities of love, family, and the deeply human desire to survive. A graduate of the Columbia MFA program, Smith is a powerful new literary voice.
About the author
Chandler Klang Smith is a graduate of Bennington College and the creative writing MFA program at Columbia University. She has worked in book publishing, as a ghostwriter, and for the KGB Bar literary venue. She is serving as a juror for the Shirley Jackson Awards for the second year in a row, and she teaches and tutors in New York City.Share