Chandler Klang Smith is currently on a book tour for her new dystopian novel “The Sky Is Yours.” During her tour around the city, she will make two stops in Brooklyn. The first was on Jan. 23 for her Book Launch at Books Are Magic, and the second will be at Brooklyn Commons on Apr. 3. The last venue is important to Smith, as she attends a New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series there each month, and has read in it too.
“I’ve had a lot of incredible experiences with art and culture in the borough of Brooklyn” she says, “off the top of my head, the now-defunct Morbid Anatomy Museum, the Coney Island Sideshow, and the outdoor summer movies at Prospect Park accompanied by live music have all sparked my imagination in important ways over the years.”
It is not hard to see how these offbeat and beloved Brooklyn institutions may have inspired Klang Smith’s writing. Her debut novel “The Sky Is Yours” mixes several quirky genre elements: dragons, futuristic technology, and a marriage plot worthy of Jane Austen. She manages to flip 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 and dismayed by the widening gap between the rich and the disenfranchised, the sur-reality of modern celebrity, and questions about what’s natural and what’s monstrous as we march into an increasingly Frankensteinian future.
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 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.
Klang 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.