All the Birds in the Sky

By Charlie Jane Anders

Rating: 3 stars

Patricia can (sometimes) talk to animals and (sometimes) leave her body. Lawrence has built a time machine that can jump you into the future by two seconds and an AI in his bedroom. These two outsiders become friends as much to protect them from loneliness and bullies at school, but life gets in the way. They encounter each other again as adults when Patricia is a powerful witch and Lawrence is a tech genius trying to live up to the role.

This is a story of love, betrayal and the apocalypse as we track Patricia and Lawrence through their journey as the world seems to be falling apart around them. It’s an odd one. You can tell that it’s a first novel, with the pacing and feel veering wildly. The first half or so is quiet and whimsical, even as it encompasses the helplessness and unfairness of childhood. I enjoyed that a lot. The second, as we catch up with our protagonists as adults, is less even. It will annoy some people, being set in the more hipster parts of San Francisco, with people going out for overpriced coffee and locally sourced, organic burritos and agonising over their lives. If that doesn’t bother you (and it doesn’t bother me that much), then trying to figure out the rules of Patricia’s magic, and trying to figure out Lawrence’s place in a larger masterplan to save the human race is enjoyable, with some good sex thrown in for good measure.

But (and you knew that was coming) the ending. The ending just sort of threw me. I suspect it’s the sort of thing some people will adore, but I must confess that it lost me. There’s a lot left unsaid and a lot left undone, and I found that unsatisfying. Most of the characters, other than the protagonists, seem to mostly exist for plot exposition too, they don’t get much in the way of development (and it felt like Lawrence’s girlfriend, Serafina, gets quite short-changed).

Anders obviously has a lot of potential. I’ve enjoyed some of her short fiction and this was a decent first novel. I’ll keep reading them, I suspect, as I’ll love to see what she’s like in full flow.

Book details

ISBN: 9781785650550
Publisher: Titan Books
Year of publication: 2016

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