- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (January 26, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765379945
- ISBN-13: 978-0765379948
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 460 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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All the Birds in the Sky Hardcover – January 26, 2016
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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
"The very short list of novels that dare to traffic as freely in the uncanny and wondrous as in big ideas―I think of masterpieces like The Lathe of Heaven; Cloud Atlas; Little, Big―has just been extended by one."―Michael Chabon
“What a magnificent novel―a glorious synthesis of magic and technology, joy and sorrow, romance and wisdom. Unmissable.” ―Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians
“Into each generation of science fiction/fantasydom a master absurdist must fall, and it’s quite possible that with All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders has established herself as the one for the Millennials...highly recommended.” ―N. K. Jemisin, The New York Times Book Review
"Charlie Jane Anders has entwined strands of science and fantasy, both as genres and as ways of experiencing life, into a luminous novel." ―John Hodgman
"Has the hallmarks of an instant classic." ―Los Angeles Times
“Genius....My fave read this year.” ―Margaret Cho
“Do yourself a favor and go pick up All The Birds in the Sky! You will lurve it.” ―Amber Benson
“Thoughtful and hip and fantasy and sci-fi all wrapped up. A+.” ―Felicia Day
“Everything you could ask for in a debut novel ― a fresh look at science fiction’s most cherished memes, ruthlessly shredded and lovingly reassembled.” ―Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing
“Read it immediately. Thank me later.” ―Laurie Penny
“It’s fantastic when someone who is so important in the scifi world can flat-out write as well as critique and analyze.” ―Scott Sigler, New York Times bestselling author of Alive
“The craziest thing about Charlie Jane Anders’ book is how it remains so intimate and accessible despite genre jumping. All the Birds in the Sky moves from a coming of age story to a millennial romance and then a dystopia ― and it’s filled with so much of the uncanny. That includes, but is not limited to, a shapeshifting teacher, talking birds and an anti-gravity gun...A truly fun read.” ―New York Daily News
“A fairy tale and an adventure rolled into one, All the Birds in the Sky is a captivating novel that shows how science and magic can be two sides of the same coin.” ―The Washington Post
“Anyone suffering from midwinter blues should read Charlie Jane Anders’s between-categories fantasy All the Birds in the Sky. The scenario is (almost) Harry Potter, the tone is (quite like) Kurt Vonnegut, the effect is entirely original.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“Heartfelt, ambitious, and dynamic. Fantastic stuff.” ―Financial Times
“Imagine that Diana Wynne Jones, Douglas Coupland and Neil Gaiman walk into a bar and through some weird fusion of magic and science have a baby. That offspring is Charlie Jane Anders’ lyrical debut novel All the Birds in the Sky.” ―Independent
“Highly readable and imaginative, All the Birds in the Sky will sing to Philip Pullman fans.” ―Mail on Sunday
“An entertaining and audacious melding of science, magic, and just plain real life that feels perfectly right for our time.” ―BuzzFeed, “5 Great Books to Read in February”
“Like the work of other 21st century writers ― Kelly Link and Lev Grossman come immediately to mind ― All the Birds in the Sky serves as both a celebration of and corrective to the standard tropes of genre fiction. [...] Like William Gibson, Anders weaves a thrilling, seat-of-the-pants narrative with a compelling subtext.” ―Elizabeth Hand, Los Angeles Times
“Two crazy kids, one gifted in science, the other in magic, meet as children, part and meet again over many years. Will they find love? Will they save the world? Or will they destroy it and everyone in it? Read Anders lively, wacky, sexy, scary, weird and wonderful book to find the answers.” ―Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club
"Impossibly hip fiction with the voice and cultural inflections of the millennials.... Often quirky and amusing but rising to encompass a moral seriousness and poignancy...an engaging book." ―The Sydney Morning Herald
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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.
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.
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.