All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
|All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: A dazzlingly brilliant tale, Charlie Jane Anders mashes Science Fiction and Fantasy together, and comes up with an intimate epic on the importance of both individuality and friendship – and one that will stay with the reader for a long, long time.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: January 2016|
|Publisher: Titan Books|
|External links: Author's website|
All of us have awakenings as teenagers, but Patricia's is more extreme than most – discovering that she is a witch who can speak to animals. Classmate Laurence's awakening is less disturbing but no less impressive – a scientific genius, he creates a two-second time machine. Growing up together, the mutual weirdness between the two bonds them, but life gets in the way, and they end up on very different paths. Meeting as adults in San Francisco, Laurence is an engineering genius trying to save the world, whereas Patricia is a qualified witch, working hard to prove herself and cure those on the planet. As the two are drawn back together, and the fate of the whole world threatened, Patricia and Laurence are forced to consider the fact that maybe they know each other better than anyone…
I'm a big fan of Charlie Jane Anders, and was before reading this – she's editor in chief at io9, a site I frequent several times a day, and where her articles are constantly immensely readable, and endlessly entertaining – whether recapping episodes of Game of Thrones or examining the impact of HIV Truthers – an article which left me with my jaw open for a very long time. Anders has also won a Hugo award for one of her short stories, and an Emperor Norton award for Extraordinary invention and creativity unhindered by the constraints of paltry reason – which I can't deny I'm rather envious of. So, to cut a long story short, it's safe to say I went into this book with high expectations.
They were surpassed. I raced through this in two days – a brief bath turned into a long, long wallow with this book for company, and work was cast aside in order to concentrate on reading this over my lunch hour. I'm not sure I can put my finger on why exactly this book is so brilliant, but I'll certainly give it a good try. Anders is not afraid to contemplate big issues. Life, love, friendship, environment, science versus nature, nature versus nurture, fate, choice…All are touched upon in fascinating fashion, but none ever feel like issues – rather natural moments that the characters reach, and deal with in ways that feel completely familiar and understandable. They mess up and they stumble to solutions, and it reads far better than many genre books, where the hero defeats the bad guy and lives happily ever after.
Genre here is an interesting thing, as All the Birds in the Sky takes the magic from Fantasy novels, and technology and near future setting from Science Fiction, and blends them into a book that is a joyous celebrations of both genres – with witch battles and doomsday machines and supernatural assassins. It's incredibly impressive then, that these elements are blended and crafted even further, making this a moving coming of age story, a love story, and an intelligent fable. The characters hog the spotlight, and rightly so – the two leads are so immensely three dimensional that you leave the book feeling like you're saying goodbye to friends, and supporting characters are allowed opportunities to breathe and thrive too, and all seeming surprisingly autonomous rather than directed by an author, ending up in places and situations one would never guess upon first meeting them, and somehow making them charmingly real and full of colour.
Thrilling, moving and fantastically well written, All the Birds in the Sky is a book that revels in its own geekiness, and transcends it to create an immensely satisfying tale about people, the planet, life, witches, robots – don't walk to the bookshops for this one, RUN!
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
For further reading I would recommend Bitter Sixteen by Stefan Mohamed, a tale of a teenager coming to terms with his superpowers, aided by a talking dog. Funny, moving and massively relatable, it was one of my top reads of 2015 – and All the Birds in the Sky is already one of my favourite, if not the favourite read of 2016.
All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders is in the Top Ten Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels 2016.
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You can read more book reviews or buy All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders at Amazon.com.
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