When I heard the premise for All the Birds in the Sky, I was immediately drawn to it. The debut novel by Charlie Jane Anders is a weird and wonderful blend of genres that sees the worlds of fantasy and science fiction combine.
‘Once or twice, in school, she had a flashback of a bird asking her something.’
The novel is split in to four parts with the earlier stages of the book focusing on the formative years of its protagonists – Patricia and Laurence. The two teenagers are both considered outsiders in school, each having something which sets them apart from their schoolmates. Patricia is a witch, who discovers as a child that she can communicate with animals, whilst Laurence is a scientist who invents a ‘two-second time machine’. In addition to their inability to fit in at school they both have difficult home lives. Patricia’s parents lock her in her room when she reveals her ability and Laurence is encouraged to take part in more ‘outdoorsy’ activities rather than spending all his time in his room. Patricia and Laurence soon gravitate towards one another, and the two form a bond which will bind them together for years to come.
‘Society is the choice between freedom on someone else’s terms and slavery on yours.’
In adulthood, their lives take different paths. Laurence is a scientist working on a project that could prove pivotal to saving the human race. Patricia graduates from Eltisley Maze, a magical academy, with the ability to heal people. Ten years on from their meeting at school they are both doing their best for humankind in their respective fields. Reunited, their relationship begins to grow and develop. Meanwhile, beneath the surface, there is the sense that something is about to happen which could prove to be the end of the world. This leaves the question of whether it will take magic, technology, or a combination of the both to save the day.
‘…love was the most susceptible to random failure of all human enterprises.’
I liked the way that Anders has used the two different genres to represent two very different people. Laurence and Patricia are friends but there is a lot about each other that they don’t understand. It is here that we see how the relationship grows between these complex characters, how they learn more about one and other and how much they mean to each other. The mix of genres also raises themes of nature vs. science, magic and technology and the impact humans can have on the world. It is a unique book that is unlike anything I have previously read.
‘Maybe the sky was sick of these endless costume changes: Casting off cloak after cloak, but never revealing what it wore under all those cloaks.’
All the Birds in the Sky was certainly an intriguing read. It is a surprising, unpredictable story that will appeal to those looking for a book that offers something a little different. It is a story of two incredible people, and their remarkable relationship.
All the Birds in the Sky was published on 26th January 2016 by Titan Books. Many thanks to Lydia Gittins at Titan Books for providing a copy for review.