Author: Charlie Jane Anders
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Science Fantasy
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Childhood outcasts Laurence and Patricia can only find refuge from a world of bullying and torment with each other. But as people they couldn't be more different, with Laurence's interest in computers and technology and Patricia's desire to become a witch, will their relationship survive as their respective interests lead them on two very different paths?
I think the best way to describe All the Birds in the Sky is as a genre blender: adult novel meets YA novel, science fiction meets fantasy, and literary fiction meets genre fiction. These combinations make it difficult to predict the plot in the early goings, but eventually it does settle into a plot that should look familiar to epic fantasy fans.
Character development, and the relationship between the two protagonists is the real strong suit here. Laurence is a super genius, and he is able to invent some pretty nifty things as a kid like a two-second time machine, and later Ch@ng3M3 a supercomputer that's looks to develop and enhance its A.I. by interacting and logging conversations with humans. He's not the most empathetic towards others, but he makes an impression, especially on Patricia.
Patricia on the other hand has a supernatural experience at a young age when she discovers she can talk to animals. It's an ability she discovers that she can't control, and so she tries to figure out (with some self-experimentation) how to trigger these abilities. It also begins her journey to see if the world has any more witch inhabitants.
I thought the bullying experienced by both Patricia and Laurence was a fairly accurate description of what bullying has turned into in the 21st century. From people I've talked to, to my own personal experiences, this was one of the most realistic depictions in the story. The "will they", "won't they" romance angle is also handled nicely. Despite being two very different people, the romantic attraction between Laurence and Patricia is apparent early, yet romance is a difficult thing especially with all the new developments in technology.
And technology plays a large and interesting role as well. Beginning somewhere in the near future, Anders introduces a number of cool technological developments early, before bringing out some more world changing technological developments later. Contrasting the technology is the magic, which has vague rules and mirrors something you would find by Martin or Tolkien rather than Rowling or Sanderson.
The blending of science and fantasy is done real well. I get the doomsday sensation that's often found in epic fantasy, and as the story progress further in the future, the dystopian science fiction effect also starts to take place. This combination was one my other favorite part of the story besides the character development. All the Birds in the Sky is an excellent standalone novel, and is not you're typical example of genre fiction.