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All the Birds in the Sky Kindle Edition
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|Length: 317 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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I found the book uneven, and I couldn't figure out of the author intended it as comedy, allegory or drama. If she had stuck with a tone somewhere in the middle, the book would have worked better, but to me, it seems the book seesaws through scenarios intended to be humorous to ones intended to represent current trends in tech to serious and dramatic events. (I mean, how seriously can you take a book that contains the description "suckable-looking nipples" and a character who proclaims, "History is just the flow of time writ large, man"?) Don't get me wrong--I laughed occasionally at the funny stuff and stuck with it to the (ambiguous, sequel-supporting) end, but I never connected with the story and the characters as much as I have other recent books I've enjoyed.
I also felt characters were inconsistent to fit whatever situation they happen to be in. One character is reintroduced as an adult, and he's on the cover of every tech magazine and rappelling out of an airship in an Armani suit to present a giant check to a startup in front of an audience of VCs. Okay, so he's a wealthy, tech superstar--got it. Only after that, we find he's crashing in the in-law apartment in a friend's place. So which is it--famous and wealthy wunderkind or struggling startup drone? The answer to that depends on what the author needs the character to be in one context or another.
It doesn't help that the plot relies on one big McGuffin and a giant Deus ex Machina to advance the plot, plus features a lengthy section of I think unintended dramatic irony . The McGuffin is the reappearance of a character who powerful people assumed they'd killed and promptly do kill him, but not before the incredibly random meeting sets the plot in motion. The unintended dramatic irony is another character who disappears early in the book and then reappears in what I felt was an obvious fashion but the main characters somehow fail to notice it for 150 pages. (When it is finally revealed, the character comments on how he couldn't believe they had not figured it out, and I audibly said "duh.") And the ex Machina moment comes when a powerful character pops up to heal one character and instantaneously stop a tense moment by incapacitating another. (At how many other points would that powerful magic have come in handy? All. Of. Them.)
Lastly, I felt the middle of this story meanders far too long. Not a lot happens in flabby middle section other than some romantic entanglements that ultimately don't add much the plot. Plus, the writer clearly wanted to name-check all the hipster San Francisco spots. Mission, Potrero, Kite Hill, SOMA, Hayes Valley, Pacifica and other places are mentioned for no other reason than to give the novel the techie cred it seeks.
This book has some intriguing premises, but it added up to much less than I expected.
So, does Charlie Jane Anders deliver? Yes, yes and no this reviewer thinks. This is not the masterpiece Little, Big where magic is felt rather than shown, but it is not Harry Dresden’s wizardry on steroids either. The two protagonists are likable enough, with a lot of thought from the writer going into their backgrounds and especially their tender years.
The story is also satisfying with no unnecessary fat and proceeds at a decent pace. Actually, it really takes off towards the end, at the point where, usually, most science fiction tales (and their poor readers) fall flat on their faces. So, taking into account this is a debut novel too, yes the writer does deliver.
However, there are some gray areas, most importantly “geolocation”. This reviewer believes that a work of literature and especially a science fiction/fantasy work should somehow levitate far above the ephemeral, the local and the trivial, whereas, several parts of “All the Birds in the Sky” read like a San Francisco blog. Also, the weird Two Second Time Machine in the beginning of the novel could have been edited out, it just feels out of context.
Having said all these, I recommend this novel. A debut to remember.
Laurence's and Patricia's relationship in high school is troubled: they're drawn together, kind of, but mainly because both are seen by their peers as losers, natural born outsiders. Which they both are. Laurence grows up, becomes involved in a Save the World (It needs it!) project that involves antigravity and worm holes and the quest to move at least some humans off earth to a not yet used up and beaten down new planet. Patricia gains back her magical powers. She's a Trickster, which means a Trader, not a Healer, or so she thinks. She does magic in response to gifts given her by the recipients of her magical favors, which includes tricks like dropping the virus level in a terminal AIDS patient so he never quite dies. The magicians think the world is doomed too but have a different solution to it than the techies. The two groups' projects are in head on collision with each other. Something's got to give and when it does, it's because Laurence and Patricia finally find a way around their differences.
Sci fi and fantasy aren't every reader's cup(s) of teas but All the Birds is so well written, the characters so appealing, and the action fast and furious that anyone who likes a lively engaging book should find it a pleasure to read.
This isn't a science fiction book. Or a fantasy book either. It's just a *book* book and a good one.