Review: All The Birds in the Sky (Charlie Jane Anders)

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism (?)

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis:

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.


But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together—to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the Apocalypse.

Review:

Well what a whirldwind. And not the kind I enjoyed though.

This book tells the tale of 2 outcasts who met when they were in their early teens. They befriended each other despite the dangers of Laurence getting beaten up for befriending the ‘witch’. A good one third of the book was set during their middle school years. So it took a long time for us to reach the part where they were re-acquainted when they were adults.

The writing itself was very bizarre for me. It was a bit slow and awkward in the first half of the book. The conversations were so…formal and it was hard to imagine anyone else besides Patricia and Laurence’s voices. The writing somehow vastly improved after I read half of the book. So it became bearable then to read the book.

The characters themselves were great — the witch and the mad scientist who is also a genius. Both narcissistic, both self-absorbed, both selfish and desperately wanting the world to accept them. Both flawed but are self-righteous. They were great to read about. The side characters…meh, not so much. There were too many with little description for me to keep track off. Over time, I gave up trying to remember who’s who.

The thing that bugged me the most was the scientific inaccuracies. It is almost a curse to be reading this book when my master thesis is about environmental policies relating to climate change where I specialised in decarbonizing energy sectors to reduce global warming effects, which in turn is aimed to make Earth a better place to live in. So to read in this book the apocalyptic conditions that occurred due to aggravated methane release and temperature spikes that caused natural disasters, unleashing civil wars and global unrest….was irritating to say the least. So many current scientific developments were not acknowledged in this book, which could have debunked all the reasons why Laurence was doing the secret project he was doing. I just wished the author had put in a little bit more effort in choosing a more stable plot and platform for Save The World propaganda. Because let me tell you, every bloody scientist I’ve met in the past 5 years is doing that. So, what’s so great about Laurence eh?

On a brighter side, there were some quotes that turned out to be good and I started tabbing some of them. They did make the reading more enjoyable:

“No matter what you do, people are going to expect you to be someone you’re not”

“Boredom is the mind’s scar tissue”

“If I could turn people into turtles, there would be turtles everywhere”

“And she felt like they, the two of them, right here, right now, could make something that defied tragedy…”

Give it a go if you want a novel with a good plot, interesting characters, and a genre crossover between fantasy, science fiction and magical realism 😉 

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