All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Genre: Science Fantasy / Apocalyptic
Publisher: Titan Books
My Rating: 4/5
Synopsis: Patricia is a witch who can communicate with animals. Laurence is a mad scientist and inventor of the two-second time machine. As teenagers they gravitate towards one another, sharing in the horrors of growing up weird, but their lives take different paths…
When they meet again as adults, Laurence is an engineering genius trying to save the world and live up to his reputation in near-future San Francisco. Meanwhile, Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the magically gifted, working hard to prove herself to her fellow magicians and secretly repair the earth’s ever growing ailments.
As they attempt to save our future, Laurence and Patricia’s shared past pulls them back together. And though they come from different worlds, when they collide, the witch and the scientist will discover that maybe they understand each other better than anyone.
I first discovered this book when I saw a poster for it whilst rushing through the London Underground to catch my train from Waterloo Station. The subterranean tunnels were heaving with people and I was hurrying after my boyfriend Mark when an advertisement caught my eye. The cover was what initially drew me in – I think it’s really beautiful – but what intrigued me most was the snippet of a review on the poster that described All the Birds in the Sky as ‘apocalyptic’. That was it, I was sold. I was gonna buy this book. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know I can’t resist anything apocalyptic.
When we got to Waterloo, we had some time to kill before our train, so I dragged Mark into the bookshop and what did I see on the first display? All the Birds in the Sky. It was like fate. I bought it immediately.
That was quite a few months ago now, but I’ve only just devoured this book. And devour it I did. I really enjoyed it. Witty and weird, Anders’ writing is smooth and original and so are her two main characters of Patricia and Laurence. They’re both deeply flawed, and not always nice to each other, but they are the only ones who can understand their flaws and quirks. Patricia has the biggest quirk out of the two – she’s a witch. Thankfully, however, there was no sudden ‘oh, I have superpowers, I am all-powerful!’ kind of revelation. It’s much more complex than that and deeply affects both Patricia and Laurence, and their abilities to be accepted by their peers.
Anders has weaved science with magic extremely well. It seems a little weird at first, the two of them mixing, especially because Anders isn’t one to mollycoddle the reader and explain the ins and outs of the magic world, or the scientific discoveries. But this overall makes for an extremely unique story and I really enjoyed that Anders didn’t try and explain everything; it enhanced the wittiness of her writing and the complexity of her strange characters.
I’m actually struggling to put this novel into words. It’s one of those that is too odd and unique to really describe; you have to read it to believe it. The only reason I didn’t give the novel 5/5 was that I felt the climax was rushed and didn’t make a lot of sense. If you’ve read the book, I’m not talking about Patricia’s answer to the question that plagues the novel (you know the one I mean), but the seemingly psychotic actions of two members of the Ten Percent Project. I know the novel is apocalyptic as nature starts going a bit mental, but the actions of these two characters made no sense. Their response was irrational and unbelievable. That’s where I think Anders fell short; the climax of a novel is often the most crucial part, where the protagonist is in the most danger and the conflict is resolved. However, I think the ‘danger’ just didn’t add up with the rest of the story.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed this novel and the characters of Patricia and Laurence. There is an essence of their destinies being star-crossed and I loved that aspect. Will they ‘save the world’? Will they end up together? Can magic and science be one? Who knows. You’ll have to read the book to find out.
Have you read All the Birds in the Sky? What did you think? Do you enjoy Science Fantasy as a genre? Let me know in the comments!