All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
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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 of 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.
I’m not really sure where to start with All the Birds in the Sky, probably because it was always changing. It started out as a kind of quirky sci-fi/fantasy mash-up, but quickly got dark and deep into adolescent bullying, abuse, and neglect. Then it lightened up again, exploring the possibilities of magic and science in the near-future. Eventually it turned into an apocalyptic battle between science and magic. The changing kept me on my toes, but it makes it hard to talk about the book as a whole.
I THINK I really enjoyed it… I loved the mix of fantasy elements with science fiction elements. At first they were very separated, and the individual chapters were true to their respective genres. But as the book progressed they started to interact in ways that were interesting and thought-provoking. In the end they work together to solve problems, while also being pitted against each other for unknown reasons.
All the Birds in the Sky seemed to be about distrusting something you don’t understand. What seems impossible and frightening to you might be a normal part of another person’s day. And perhaps the best way for us to all get along and work together is to TRUST those who work with whatever it is each day, rather than making decisions based on our limited and incomplete information.
This was also a lovely story about the importance of friendship, and about empathizing with someone, even if you can’t really understand them. As the old song goes, “No man is an island,” and sometimes trying to be one can be disastrous for you AND those around you. Sometimes you are excluded by others and forced to be an island, and even a single friend can help you stay above the waves. (How am I running off with this island metaphor? No islands in this book, to be clear.)
Overall I enjoyed All the Birds in the Sky, but I’m not sure I 100% understood everything Anders was trying to say. And I think I would have enjoyed it more if she would have carried over the whimsey that permeated the first few chapters into the middle chunk of the book, which was a little ironic for my taste. Still, I would definitely recommend to those who love both fantasy and sci-fi. And apocalyptic scenarios. It’s got plenty of those.