About the Book
Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.
But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.
A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.
This book was sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
All the Birds in the Sky is… something else. It’s one of those books that doesn’t really fit anywhere, and it kind of fits everywhere. It’s a book that really hinges on relationships – relationships between people, and relationships with the world around us. It’s fantasy, but its science fiction, but it’s contemporary, but it’s… really, it’s whatever.
This was a book I was highly anticipating, and when I got a review copy I felt like sending Tor a letter of gratitude. Despite the fact that I was really looking forward to reading this one, I honestly didn’t know what to expect from it. I’ve never read anything that Charlie Jane Anders has written before, and I honestly didn’t know much about it before I read it. That was part of the thrill. It’s very rare that I go into a book knowing next to nothing about it, and that makes an interesting reading experience. Therefore, it is why I am trying to preserve my ignorance more and more these days. I like being surprised.
I liked how All the Birds in the Sky surprised me.
This book is told from two perspectives, and it’s rare that two people are this different. Patricia is sort of a dreamer, head-in-the-clouds type of girl. Laurence is a computer genius, a sort of prodigy. He figured out how to build a two-second time machine. He built an AI in his bedroom. Whereas Patricia is learning how to talk to animals and trying to figure out what it means to be a witch. Both of these protagonists meet up in middle school, which is a horrible time of bullies and misunderstandings for them. Their relationship is more out of convenience than actual friendship.
Throughout the years, they run into each other again and again, and each time their relationship changes and evolves. Regardless of how different they are, they never stop caring about each other, and their differences help each other see the world in different ways. They influence each other, and force each other to grow and evolve in some unexpected ways. It’s truly marvelous how Anders worked the constant evolution of their relationship. In fact, their relationship was just as interesting as the plot.
In middle school, the two grow apart. Laurence gets put into military school, and Patricia runs away and enters a school for witches. They meet again after they both graduate and are living adult lives. Patricia is healing unsuspecting people through her magic, and Laurence is working as a high profile science guy doing various techy things. They meet up again, and their friendship starts over, a little different now that they have age and life experiences behind them. They fall into a sort of warmer thing, and easily talk about their science and witchery.
They are opposites, so much so that they almost belong in different books – fantasy and science fiction, but it’s interesting how they work together and grow from one another as the book progresses. When all the things that are slowly boiling under the surface come to light, and things get down to the wire, their relationship evolves again, and they almost become the yin/yang to each other.
The writing is fantastic. Anders doesn’t waste words. Her sentences are direct and to the point, almost so much so that you don’t really realize how much she is packing into her novel with her sparse sentences. That’s half the genius. She tricks you into thinking that you’re reading what you’re reading, and you don’t realize how much is going on along the sides and below the surface until it’s too late. So, it’s direct, but it’s also cannily subtle and absolutely brilliant.
This book won’t be for everyone, but really no book is. This is hugely character driven, and not everyone will like the characters that drive this. It’s also incredibly different than just about everything else, a true mashing of two very different genres. It works beautifully, but I can see where it would put some people off. It’s clever, and it’s intriguing, and plenty interesting, but this is a formula that might end up not being interesting enough for some readers. There is a lot going on, but so much of it is under the surface, and if the two protagonists don’t grab you, then it might end up not charming you nearly as much as it charmed me.
That being said, All the Birds in the Sky was incredible. It was well worth my anticipation, and the sort of book that I think I can read numerous times and interpret it different each time. Anders is an incredibly clever writer, and her book is so incredibly human and genre bending at the same time, I couldn’t help but be amazed.
This book is something different. This book is remarkable.