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All the Birds in the Sky Hardcover – January 26, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of February 2016: An alchemical collusion—and sometimes collision—between the forces of magic and science, Anders’ novel swirls together fantasy and sci-fi into an often absurd but never slight modern tale of a witch and a tech genius who grow up together, grow apart, and finally have to save the world. This book throws a lot at the reader: coming-of-age and real adulthood, talking cats and two-minute time machines, assassins and venture capitalists, hilarity and hefty philosophy, technology and Nature. But Anders’ clever writing propels the story through its twists and turns, delivering a mesmerizing, thoughtful, and poignant novel that has “award winner” written all over it. --Adrian Liang --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From School Library Journal
Social outcasts Patricia and Laurence have been friends since they were young, when they dodged cafeteria food that was thrown at them. But when Laurence, a supercomputing genius, finds out that Patricia can talk to birds, even he isn't sure if their friendship will last. Fast forward a few years and Laurence is working for a billionaire who wants to create a machine that allows for intergalactic travel to save humans after they have destroyed their own world. Patricia, meanwhile, has honed her magic skills at a witch academy and is now wandering the city healing people when she isn't supposed to. With the help of smart devices, Patricia and Laurence find love, but the looming end of the world tests their relationship. Give to readers who don't mind a bit of quirky romance like Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park mixed in with their fast-paced Daniel H. Wilson-esqe futuristic science fiction. Patricia and Laurence are awkward, lovable, smart, and dorky, and readers will cheer for them to save the world hand in hand. VERDICT Perfect for fans of The Big Bang Theory, this novel has plenty of appeal for readers of fantasy, science fiction, and apocalyptic fiction.—Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL
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Top Customer Reviews
The novel opens with six-year-old Patricia discovering she can talk to birds. Then there's a jump in time and we meet Laurence, a bullied middle-schooler who has created a watch that can jump 2 seconds into the future, and he's also working on AI with a computer he created in his closet. Patricia goes to the same school as he, and is also bullied. When he hires her to convince his parents she's his 'hiking' friend, their lives take a turn, and are forever after entwined.
Oh, and there's also the assassin school counselor who's trying to take them both out because he claims they bring on the apocalypse in the future.
The first 116 pages take place in this middle-school Hell, but the rest of the novel takes place when they're both adults. They went their separate ways at the end of middle school, but now, as adults, they 'accidentally' keep meeting, again and again. Patricia is a member of a witch society, and Laurence is creating a machine that will transport people to another planet if the earth collapses.
This novel is a love story, an apocalypse story, an AI story, a magic story. Oh, and also philosophical. Take some of these lines:
""Well," Patricia said. "A society that has to burn witches to hold itself together is a society that has already failed, and just doesn't know it yet."" (This one probably needs to go up on my writing board)
""I don't actually think that ethics are derived from principles. At all." Patricia scooted a little closer again and touched his arm with a few cool fingertips. "I think that the most basic thing of ethics is being aware of how your actions affect others, and having an awareness of what they want and how they feel. And that's always going to depend on who you're dealing with.""
This novel would be a great pick for a University Freshman class. Or a book group. So many discussable things.
The novel's not perfect, it can get a little messy at times, but it is unique and takes risks, and made me think. It's one I'd enjoy re-reading, and I've already recommended it to 2-3 people.
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.