Thursday, July 27, 2017

Book Review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

The award-winning fantasy sci-fi by Charlie Jane Anders crosses genres and makes for an incredible work of fiction. On top of these two genres, a powerful romance between Laurence and Patricia centers the novel. Patricia is a powerful witch who can speak to birds and Laurence is an ingenious inventor creating things like a two-second time machine. The couple bonds from both being outcasts at their high school. Patricia grows up with odd experiences of her witchcraft ability while Laurence is able to experience the launch of a rocket and show off his scientific ability. As the couple bond, Patricia lies to Laurence's parents about going outdoors while they go to wherever they find interesting just to talk. Their world is altered when an assassin with a vision of the future infiltrates their school as the counselor and begins to turn the two against each other. 

Theodolphus, the assassin pretending to be a counselor, tells Patricia that she will have to kill Laurence and spreads rumors around the school and to their parents that both kids are troubled. As they are isolated from each other, they find no solace and Laurence is troubled when he is shipped off to military school. Patricia runs away hoping to never see her family again when she encounters a wizard who takes her away to a school of witchcraft. Before she leaves, she helps Laurence with his artificial intelligence known as CH@NG3M3, finally helping it overcome a hurdle in consciousness by asking the question she received from a council of birds, "Is a tree red?". The artificial intelligence helps Laurence escape from military school and he names it Peregrine.

The novel jumps forward in time to when Laurence has grown into a successful developer working for a large company that hopes to save the world and Patricia is a witch who sneaks around healing or hurting those who deserve it at night. They encounter one another in various circumstances but Laurence is in a relationship and Patricia's relationships are usually fleeting because of her secrets in witchcraft. The world has progressively gotten worse due to global warming and natural disasters cause massive damage. Each of these two characters has a different solution for how to fix these problems. Patricia looks for a more natural solution while Laurence researches a way to warp selected survivors to another dimension where they can start over.

Patricia and Laurence do not think of dating but a new device called a Caddy keeps bringing them together, these devices set your schedule and day helping you meet new people and have the best time. Eventually, they do get together and things look like they could work out before disaster hits the East coast. The plans accelerate but the witches and wizards attack the scientists destroying their device that will transport them to a new dimension. Patricia learns that the new plan for the magic people is called the Unraveling and lead to everyone being disgusted with everyone else. To prevent this final destruction of humanity, Laurence and Patricia must bond together with their divergent beliefs and fix the problem with the reemergence of Peregrine and the tree from Patricia's childhood.  

I understand why this book is receiving recognition for its great storytelling and innovative world-building. The setting seems familiar enough while gradual differences come to light as the story progresses. Technology isn't treat like an easy solution nor is it spurned, the viewpoint is more modern but keeps fantastical element. Anders also avoids the retread of a wizarding school but still keeps appealing parts of that fantastical story to make it fun yet not too familiar. I enjoyed this book a lot and look forward to seeing how it fares as sci-fi and fantasy award season continues. 

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