All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Published by Tor Books
From the publisher:
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.
There were things I liked about this book and things I disliked, but overall I have to say that I was not wowed by All the Birds in the Sky.
In short, I liked the beginning of the book and the end but not so much the middle. The beginning is set during Patricia’s and Laurence’s childhoods, and it reads almost like a YA book. Like a really dark and sad YA book, I guess, as there is abuse, bullying, and a general feeling of darkness that runs alongside the story. There were certainly moments of fun and humor, but neither of the two really had great childhoods, and Anders doesn’t shy away from showing the reader just now not great things were for them. I liked the two of them as kids – they were both awkward, shy, basically two nerds who really connected with each other. Something that bothered me about the beginning, even though I generally liked it, was that the abusive and destructive behavior of several characters was never discussed in-depth or dealt with in any way. There were some scary things that happened to these characters, stuff that was pretty much ignored and never talked about again. It did not ring true for me at all.
The transition in the book from their childhoods to adulthood felt shaky and really took me out of the story. And once we got into adulthood, I almost put the book down several times. It felt to me like it wasn’t going anywhere, like it was rambly and not much was happening and I was just, frankly, bored by it. But there was one point where THINGS start happening, and I drew back into it, and I did really like the last third of the book.
The end of the book really shows the world falling apart, and it was scary but I loved how Anders described the slow unraveling of everything we know to be necessary in modern life. That part reminded me a little bit of Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven. I liked the clashing of science and magic, and I liked how Patricia’s magic wasn’t this huge fantastical thing, but rather a minor element of her personality that came in handy sometimes and in some major ways. There’s also a particular element of the book, it’s a minor plot point but quite a spoiler, that I absolutely loved. One of those connection things that you go “ah!” as you read it.
So overall – not my favorite book, but I did enjoy parts of it. I’m glad I read All the Birds in the Sky and would still consider reading something else written by this author.