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All the Birds in the Sky Kindle Edition
|Length: 317 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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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.
Patricia, one of the two protagonists, is at the center of the fantasy plot. Laurence, the other protagonist, anchors the science fiction plot. Both are imperfect. Both are likable. Their lives repeatedly intersect, and I wanted the two of them to behave at their best and to fare well. The secondary characters were nicely drawn: I particularly enjoyed Theodolphus Rose, Peregrine, and the Tree. Minor spoiler alert: I loved the two-second time machine.
For me, at its heart, this book is about friendship and building bridges, including a bridge between those who like fantasy and those who like science fiction. It's my favorite of the three Nebula nominees that I've read in the past month. (Well, of the nominees in the novel-length category. I also read the short story nominees.)
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.
Most recent customer reviews
The style of writing is excellent. The author does an excellent job tugging reader's emotions, in a compelling narrative, to shape...Read more