The Sky Is Yours, by Chandler Klang Smith

The Sky Is Yours, by Chandler Klang Smith book coverGenre: Science Fantasy
Publisher:  Hogarth
Published: 2018
Reviewer Rating: three and a half stars
Reviewer: David L. Felts

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The Sky Is Yours, by Chandler Klang Smith, is an interesting book that defies easy categorization, blending as it does elements of science fiction and fantasy, and liberally seasoned with a dystopian apocalyptic flavor. The result is a sometimes uneven but always interesting tale that can’t be readily summarized.

In some distant future, or alternate future, or maybe some far off planet long, long ago, there exists Empire Island, a once bustling and technologically advanced city now mostly abandoned and falling into ruin. Above Empire Island we have the Dragons, one green and one yellow, who abruptly rose from the sea one day and began to rain fire down on Empire Island. Impervious to harm, the citizens finally gave up trying to destroy that dragons and, like humans are wont to do despite the hardship, went on with their lives as best they could.

This  has been the case for decades if not longer, though the reader is never given a specific number of years. Empire Island is now a shell of itself, with most structures damaged and abandoned, now a sort of a mega-sized barter town a la Mad Max. Many fled, yet many also remain, eking out a living in the  ever-present shadow of the two dragons overhead and the violence and suffering that surround them.

The result is two worlds, one a dangerous underbelly of violence and crime, ruled over by the strong and ruthless, and the other decadent and luxurious, where the rich and the famous live in walled mansions and estates.

Duncan Humphrey Ripple V is a young man from the second world, living in incalculable wealth and luxury with his father, mother, and wheelchair-bound uncle. Duncan–who goes by the self-chosen moniker of Dunk–has come of age, and like the royalty of old earth, a suitable bride has been pre-selected for him. Baroness Swan Lenore Dahlberg–Swanny–and her ambitious mother will soon be arriving at the Ripple estate to finalized the marriage contract.

Alas, while out enjoying a ride in in his hover car, Ripple crashes on an automated landfill off the coast of Empire Island. Injured, he’s found by the feral woman-child Abracadabra–Abby–and nursed back to health.  By the time rescue arrives, Ripple and Abby are a couple in all senses of the the word.

This doesn’t much please Dunk’s family and Swanny’s mother overmuch, but royalty being what it is, the marriage proceeds, details to be worked out later, one such detail being Abby’s new home alongside Dunk (and Swanny?) at the Ripple estate.

And that’s the least complex part of the plot. After that, things get really crazy, and to say more would reveal too much. Suffice to say that Swanny, Dunk, and Abby find themselves challenged to discover themselves and their place in the world, and the role each will play in the future of Empire Island.

In some ways, I was reminded of Michael Moorcock’s Runestaff series, in the sense that what is normal has been moved to the side. Not so much that we can’t recognized it, but enough to render the reader off balance, a position I found myself in for much of the story. Not a bad thing, but it did require that I digest The Sky is Yours in smaller, more manageable chunks, so dense and odd was the story. Chandler Klang Smith’s prose, despite being occasionally uneven, was up to the task, fleshing out this imaginative and inventive world and characters.

Dunk is immature and infantile, ignorant and lacking in common sense, much less confident in himself than appearances would indicate.

Swanny, by contrast, is the way she was raised to be by her overbearing mother: smart, practical, and prepared to be the wife of wealth. Nevertheless, she’s as uncertain and bumbling as she goes about attempting to discover who she is versus who she is meant to be.

Last of the main characters is Abby, the woman-child, as strange as she is sweet, totally lacking in sociability due to the extended isolation she endured while stranded on the landfill island. There’s much more to Abby than she or anyone else knows. Discovering it might be the key to the salvation of Emerald Island.

As with real people, at times you will root for them, while at others you’ll curse their ignorance and stupid choices. Their very strangeness and the strangeness of the world they live in did often make them hard to relate to.

Creativity and density are the story’s greatest strengths, but at the same time its weaknesses. There was so much packed in I was unable to keep track of (or appreciate) it all. Science fiction, fantasy, dystopian apocalypse, coming of age, quest, and more, I often felt overwhelmed. There’s are no heroes, just sometimes likable, sometimes unlikable, sometimes infuriating, characters trying to figure things out and making a lot of (necessary) mistakes along the way.

Just like the rest of us.

If you’re looking for something different, something challenging, then The Sky is Your will be your huckleberry.

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