I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Published by Titan on 26th January 2016
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.
As they each take sides in a cataclysmic war between science and magic, Laurence and Patricia find themselves trying to make sense of life, sex and adulthood on the brink of the apocalypse.
I genuinely have no idea how to summarise what I’ve read in this book. A sci-fi, coming-of-age, magical realism, apocalyptic mash up perhaps? Honestly, no idea! What’s important though is that I express how much I enjoyed it. It’s quite unlike most novels I’ve read but that just makes me love it all the more.
By the end of this book I couldn’t believe it was the same book I started reading. Which I guess explains why it’s split into four ‘books’, but it also is a huge credit to the author – I’ll try to explain why a bit later.
Our central characters, Patricia and Laurence, are social outcasts. They are both kids at high school with no friends to speak of, and both have difficult lives.
Patricia’s parents are high flyers with no time for her or her oddities. Her elder sister torments both her and the living things around her. When Patricia discovers one day that she can talk to birds, her weirdness begins to soar to new levels.
Laurence is a science geek. He’s built his own portable two second time machine, works on building his own computer and wants nothing more than to see a rocket launch, and to achieve something with his life – unlike his parents. His Mum and Dad are worried that he spends too much time indoors alone, so they force him to do outdoor activities.
When Patricia and Laurence’s paths cross, Patricia is enlisted to convince Laurence’s family that he’s spending time with her outdoors. A friendship sprouts from this arrangement and soon they are sharing their darkest secrets.
I enjoyed this part of the book, the story of two teenagers trying to find their places in the world and laying the foundations of friendship. I also enjoyed watching these two characters form, influenced by the cliques and bullies that surrounded them in school. But their secrets take a toll on their friendship and soon they lose touch with one another.
That is until years later when Laurence is an engineering genius and Patricia now a fully-fledged witch. It seems that both the magical community and the science community have their own plans for saving the world from its impending doom, and the reformed friendship could be tested once more.
There’s so much to this book, it’s incredible. Central to the story though are Patricia and Laurence and the relationship between them.
It’s not often that I’ve read a book about characters in childhood and followed them through into adulthood. It’s interesting to see where the characters come from. I think it definitely gave me a stronger connection with them. This is what I mean about feeling like I was reading a different book by the end of the novel. Charlie Jane Anders absolutely captures the voice of the two as kids, their struggles, their issues and their dreams. I became so invested in their childhood characters. Yet by the end of the book we are following them as adults, with the responsibilities, emotions and stress that an upcoming apocalypse brings. For me, that is an incredible achievement, particularly in just over 400 pages.
As I said, I just can’t explain this book or even attempt to do justice to it. It’s hard to believe it’s a debut novel, both in terms of the incredible content and the writing style.
My only complaint was that I felt the ending somewhat rushed. I would have liked more…but maybe that was just because I didn’t want Patricia and Laurence to leave my life?
If you’re looking for something a bit different, a story that will keep you hooked from the outset, then look no further. It’s well worth the read.