Thursday, March 3, 2016

All the Birds in the Sky

by Charlie Jane Anders
313 pgs

All the Birds in the Sky is one of those books that's nearly impossible to describe. It's part science fiction and part fantasy. And while this isn't the first time an author has combined the two successfully, first-time novelist Charlie Jane Anders does so in a remarkable way.

Patricia and Laurence are two young kids that don't fit in with any group. Patricia has recently discovered that she's a witch, and can talk to animals. Laurence is a nerdy tech genius who has invented a time machine that allows him to skip two seconds ahead in time every time he uses it. Their mutual lack of any other friends brings them together at school and they soon form a friendship that will tie them together for the rest of their lives.

As the two get older, their paths separate, but never for too long. They seem to be tied to each other on some cosmic level, and their paths repeatedly intersect.

As they get older, the earth itself seems to be aging, and by the time they're adults, the earth has reached a tipping point. Natural disasters and catastrophes are increasing in both frequency and severity, and it's apparent to both Patricia and Laurence that they're unique skills may play a vital role in preventing whole planet's destruction.

As I mentioned earlier, this book doesn't lend itself easily to being described. While it's a relatively short book, its scope makes it feel like it's much longer than it actually is. It feels like a story that could have easily been expanded by hundreds of pages. But that's partly why the book is so successful and why I enjoyed it so much. Multiple times in the story, Anders skips forward several years, and each time she does, it's a jarring break in the story, and I had to read several pages before I felt like I had a good sense for what was happening again. Those who enjoy David Mitchell's books should feel right at home with this one.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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