- Published: 2016
- Number of pages: 317 pages
- Format: Epub
- File Size: 1.16 MB
- Authors: Charlie Jane Anders
An ancient society of witches and a hipster technological startup go to war in order to prevent the world from tearing itself apart. To further complicate things, each of the groups’ most promising followers (Patricia, a brilliant witch and Laurence, an engineering “wunderkind”) may just be in love with each other.
As the battle between magic and science wages in San Francisco against the backdrop of international chaos, Laurence and Patricia are forced to choose sides. But their choices will determine the fate of the planet and all mankind.
In a fashion unique to Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky offers a humorous and, at times, heart-breaking exploration of growing up extraordinary in a world filled with cruelty, scientific ingenuity, and magic.
At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
“The very short list of novels that dare to traffic as freely in the uncanny and wondrous as in big ideas―I think of masterpieces like The Lathe of Heaven; Cloud Atlas; Little, Big―has just been extended by one.”―Michael Chabon“What a magnificent novel―a glorious synthesis of magic and technology, joy and sorrow, romance and wisdom. Unmissable.” ―Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians“Into each generation of science fiction/fantasydom a master absurdist must fall, and it’s quite possible that with All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders has established herself as the one for the Millennials…highly recommended.” ―N. K. Jemisin, The New York Times Book
Reviews from Amazon users, collected at the time the book is getting published on UniedVRG. It can be related to shiping or paper quality instead of the book content:
⭐ I expected to like “All the Birds in the Sky” more than I did. It’s a good book, but it’s not great.I found the book uneven, and I couldn’t figure out of the author intended it as comedy, allegory or drama. If she had stuck with a tone somewhere in the middle, the book would have worked better, but to me, it seems the book seesaws through scenarios intended to be humorous to ones intended to represent current trends in tech to serious and dramatic events. (I mean, how seriously can you take a book that contains the description “suckable-looking nipples” and a character who proclaims, “History is just the flow of time writ large, man”?) Don’t get me wrong–I laughed occasionally at the funny stuff and stuck with it to the (ambiguous, sequel-supporting) end, but I never connected with the story and the characters as much as I have other recent books I’ve enjoyed.I also felt characters were inconsistent to fit whatever situation they happen to be in. One character is reintroduced as an adult, and he’s on the cover of every tech magazine and rappelling out of an airship in an Armani suit to present a giant check to a startup in front of an audience of VCs. Okay, so he’s a wealthy, tech superstar–got it. Only after that, we find he’s crashing in the in-law apartment in a friend’s place. So which is it–famous and wealthy wunderkind or struggling startup drone? The answer to that depends on what the author needs the character to be in one context or another.It doesn’t help that the plot relies on one big McGuffin and a giant Deus ex Machina to advance the plot, plus features a lengthy section of I think unintended dramatic irony . The McGuffin is the reappearance of a character who powerful people assumed they’d killed and promptly do kill him, but not before the incredibly random meeting sets the plot in motion. The unintended dramatic irony is another character who disappears early in the book and then reappears in what I felt was an obvious fashion but the main characters somehow fail to notice it for 150 pages. (When it is finally revealed, the character comments on how he couldn’t believe they had not figured it out, and I audibly said “duh.”) And the ex Machina moment comes when a powerful character pops up to heal one character and instantaneously stop a tense moment by incapacitating another. (At how many other points would that powerful magic have come in handy? All. Of. Them.)Lastly, I felt the middle of this story meanders far too long. Not a lot happens in flabby middle section other than some romantic entanglements that ultimately don’t add much the plot. Plus, the writer clearly wanted to name-check all the hipster San Francisco spots. Mission, Potrero, Kite Hill, SOMA, Hayes Valley, Pacifica and other places are mentioned for no other reason than to give the novel the techie cred it seeks.This book has some intriguing premises, but it added up to much less than I expected.
⭐ Tops my list for the WORST BOOK I EVER READ. I’m baffled by all the hype surrounding this book. Normally, something like this would’ve never made it off the slush pile. It broke every rule I know of, which in this case, was a very bad thing. It felt like it was written on a hallucinogenic drug trip. My book club picked this book, otherwise, I would’ve stopped reading it. That’s saying something since I’m a very forgiving reader. I forced myself to press through to the end to earn the right to review it properly. My conclusion: it’s not worth finishing. Read the last 5 pages if you really want to know what happens, and be prepared to be let down if you do. A good 10 hours of my life I’ll never get back. This book never gets better, just weirder. There are so many books that are better than this, spend your money on one of those. Probably deserves a 1-star, but I just can’t bring myself to give anything less than a 2-star.
⭐ I really can’t fathom how this won a Nebula.The story is a derivative cross between an ersatz Harry Potter universe and the Nickelodeon Jimmy Newtron cartoons, The characters are annoyingly superficial and capricious. Apart from the antagonists, nearly everyone is described as exceptional or brilliant in one way or another but who in reality are cliche, “basic” (urban dictionary definition) and lacking imagination or substance. A YA novel written for the most part in the voice of a young teen mall enthusiast with small side dishes of Product Placement and oddly placed moments of very soft porn. Very odd book. I really wish I had not let the positive reviews bully me into reading to the end. I had the impression from reviews that the reveal at the end tied everything up nicely but it was decidedly meh. Now I just feel a little embarrassed. Perhaps just not my cup of tea.
⭐ This is a writer who has served time in one of the genre’s best known “madhouses”, the blog io9, (actually being its chief warden) and has probably consumed most science fiction and fantasy in her life than an O2 Arena full of SF fans. So, her work “All the birds in the sky” (second novel out of eleven Hugo nominations in the last two years, where a human discusses with cats in… Cat language), has to be reviewed at least fairly, deserving more than the 5-star “you rock” or the 1-star “you suck” Amazon Twitter mentality.So, does Charlie Jane Anders deliver? Yes, yes and no this reviewer thinks. This is not the masterpiece Little, Big where magic is felt rather than shown, but it is not Harry Dresden’s wizardry on steroids either. The two protagonists are likable enough, with a lot of thought from the writer going into their backgrounds and especially their tender years.The story is also satisfying with no unnecessary fat and proceeds at a decent pace. Actually, it really takes off towards the end, at the point where, usually, most science fiction tales (and their poor readers) fall flat on their faces. So, taking into account this is a debut novel too, yes the writer does deliver.However, there are some gray areas, most importantly “geolocation”. This reviewer believes that a work of literature and especially a science fiction/fantasy work should somehow levitate far above the ephemeral, the local and the trivial, whereas, several parts of “All the Birds in the Sky” read like a San Francisco blog. Also, the weird Two Second Time Machine in the beginning of the novel could have been edited out, it just feels out of context.Having said all these, I recommend this novel. A debut to remember.
⭐ The premise of this delightful fantasy is that at some point, science and magic have to come together to make sense. Not just to make sense of the world, but to save it. Laurence is the techie, an engineering nerd, who at the start of his teens invents a watch that serves as a two-second time machine: twist the dial and you’re moved, instanter, two seconds forward in time. It’s not the most useful invention in the world but if a bully is about to punch you in the nose, it has its moments. Patricia picks up a wounded bird in the street and it starts to talk to her. Next, she’s talking to a cat. (The cat wants to eat the bird. She scares it away.) And next, she’s by a huge spreading tree, its branches loaded with birds. It’s Question Time, and if she can answer the question asked by the congregated birds, the little bird she found, whose name is Dirrp, and if not, the bird will die. The questions she’s asked is a favorite of the birds. It’s the Unending Question, supposedly so because you never can figure out the answer. “Is a tree red?” Try as she can, Patricia can’t find the answer. Somehow, the scene blacks out. She’s back home, can’t talk to any animal again, no magic. At least for a while.Laurence’s and Patricia’s relationship in high school is troubled: they’re drawn together, kind of, but mainly because both are seen by their peers as losers, natural born outsiders. Which they both are. Laurence grows up, becomes involved in a Save the World (It needs it!) project that involves antigravity and worm holes and the quest to move at least some humans off earth to a not yet used up and beaten down new planet. Patricia gains back her magical powers. She’s a Trickster, which means a Trader, not a Healer, or so she thinks. She does magic in response to gifts given her by the recipients of her magical favors, which includes tricks like dropping the virus level in a terminal AIDS patient so he never quite dies. The magicians think the world is doomed too but have a different solution to it than the techies. The two groups’ projects are in head on collision with each other. Something’s got to give and when it does, it’s because Laurence and Patricia finally find a way around their differences.Sci fi and fantasy aren’t every reader’s cup(s) of teas but All the Birds is so well written, the characters so appealing, and the action fast and furious that anyone who likes a lively engaging book should find it a pleasure to read.This isn’t a science fiction book. Or a fantasy book either. It’s just a *book* book and a good one.
⭐ All the Birds in the Sky is a love story. A story of redemption. A story of an ideological war for humanity’s soul. And a coming of age story of an AI. The story is a lot of things, but it’s never boring.Patricia Delfine is a witch. Laurence Armstead is a burgeoning engineering wunderkind obsessed with rockets. Both were outcasts in middle school, and as outcasts are like to do, they banded together. Then they drifted apart—or were torn apart by weird circumstances. Weird circumstances throw them together again as adults, and that’s where the story really begins.I quite liked All The Birds In The Sky. This is an odd, hard to categorize book—equal parts science fiction and fantasy, which is a difficult trick to pull off. The structure of the book is surprising; I was sure we would see more of Patricia’s Hogwarts-esque magical academy than we did, but I’m glad we skipped it. Learning about her training as she went about her (unpaid) business as a working witch was a smart, clever choice. I loved seeing the practical applications of magic—it helped to interweave the fantastical elements of Anders’ worldbuilding into the world as we know it. Also smart was holding back the descriptions of her odd, magical society until Laurence meets back up with her. This way, we could be brought into the loop about the arcane elements of the world as she saw it along with Laurence. The infodumping had a clear narrative purpose.I found Patricia to be the more interesting character, but Laurence to have more emotional weight and honesty. Patricia’s life and experiences are naturally more intriguing, since she is a witch. Being a witch, alone, is interesting! She has magic, and with it, untapped potential. But Patricia’s motivations were never quite clear to me the way Laurence’s were. Laurence’s emotional arc is simpler and easier to intuit, maybe, because he is just a guy trying to make his employer happy and find a nice girl, but I would have liked for Anders to demystify Patricia’s motivations, too. That said, Patricia’s evolving relationship with her older sister, Roberta, is a thing of beauty and heartbreak—and Roberta’s moment with the hen is spectacular.Overall, the book is a touch too twee for me. The names alone—Patricia Delfine, Laurence Armstead, Theodolphus Rose—all sound like characters from a Decemberists song. Some of the tweeness works, like when Bay Area hipsters start singing madrigals as the end of the world approaches, but it often felt like I was reading a Wes Anderson script dressed in genre clothing. Underneath that tweeness, though, there is real grit to the book. Characters die, stakes are high, and I was emotionally engaged throughout. For me, the grit throws the peculiar tweeness in a weird relief. I’m not sure, stylistically, what that sort of forced whimsy was doing there, orwhat Anders was going for, since there is so much natural charm and warmth already embedded in the story and the characters.I’d recommend this book for anyone looking for a story that blends magic and science, and for people who like writing with a dash of hipster style. Anders brings the twee charm, but grounds it in some thoughtful and gritty questions and careful character work that will leave you thinking.
⭐ This book mostly just didn’t work for me. It read fast enough, but I didn’t enjoy a good portion of it. Oddly enough, this book was recommended to me as a fun, light read and I definitely would not classify it that way myself.This book really revolves around two characters who we meet as children. The first is Patricia Delfine, who we meet as the precocious age of 6 when she has a magical experience in the forest and finds out she can talk to birds and is a witch. And then we don’t really see much of her again until she’s a tween/teen having an absolutely terrible, tortured time at school and then again as an adult who has matured (mostly) into her witch powers.The other main character is Laurence (with a U, not a W), who is a very tech-minded inventor type. He also has a miserable childhood that we get to experience a portion of with him.Patricia and Laurence are each other’s only friends in school and (mostly) stick by each other when noone else does. That being said, I found the first half of the book (roughly) which centered on Patricia and Laurence as teens to be utterly miserable. Both of their sets of parents were fairly awful in different ways and their experiences at school were certainly no better, aided by a nefarious school counselor.The second half of the book isn’t quite as miserable, as Patricia and Laurence have both managed to grow into adults and meet again now that they’re both living in San Francisco. That being said, at this point of the book I felt like the plot was a bit discombobulated. Yes, there’s a central story/conflict – the END OF THE WORLD! (which of course our two main characters are on opposite sides of, even if they don’t want to be), but all the side bits just seemed like they were thrown in to see what did or didn’t work.For example, there are two side-characters that are roommates of Patricia’s. At one point in the book, in one paragraph it’s thrown in that one is asexual (ace) and the other roommate (Taylor) is suddenly implied to be gender fluid (perhaps?) as they are suddenly given the pronoun “they”. These characters get about 2 pages of book time throughout the whole narrative. I have no idea why this was thrown in. I love representation, but why not some of the side-characters we actually see more of?The magic system Patricia learns is two schools (literally, Eltisley Hall and The Maze) – healer magic and trickster magic. And that’s as much explanation as the magic system gets pretty much. I feel like that’s pretty emblematic of the whole book experience. Lots of interesting ideas that you get a glimpse of, but they’re just mentioned and then skipped past. It was very choppy to me and even though some of the ideas were great, I can’t say I got enough out of them to really enjoy the book fully.
⭐ I did not enjoy the book. The sentences were inelegantly written and choppy. The character development was overly simplistic and entailed caricatures with little depth beyond misunderstood-misfit-teenager-makes-good. Although one could perhaps try to see some of the elements of the story, such as the gee-whiz war machine at the end, as encompassing childlike creativity, it could also simply be seen as childish. I would recommend skipping this one.
⭐ This book starts off strong, with interesting worldbuilding and characterization and clever little hints at what’s to come. All that work doesn’t exactly pay off-the pacing of the last act is a bit odd and the actual resolution isn’t all that satisfying, but it’s worth it to read along for the ride even if the ending is a bit choppy and weird. I really cut a star not for that (unsatisfying endings are very common, after all) but because I was so painfully bored by the atonal weirdness of the main romance introduced at the last minute. You too will believe that an attractive young man and woman will end up in a relationship for no particular reason! This would be easy enough to ignore, as it, again, is a very common failing, but it’s not just glanced over. It’s lingered on endlessly, making sure you can’t possibly miss how great and important this relationship suddenly is despite the characters’ friendship being a perfectly sufficient connection to keep the plot moving before and after. I honestly thought the first sex scene was a dream sequence, it was so poorly built up.Despite a few little flaws, this is nearly a five star read. If you don’t mind a faux-indie romcom interrupting your apocalyptic science-fantasy, this might be great for you.
⭐ I was encouraged by the beginning of the story, with its distinctive voice and off kilter characterization, and it stayed readable. However I began to feel as if I was reading someone’s speed-fueled one-day NaNoWriMo novel. Don’t get me wrong, I highlighted plenty of pithy passages but they were one-liners thrown in along with random characters, apocalyptic backstory, and events that seem unconnected to the overall story. All the main threads came together at the end, but this is a book that could have used a couple more revision passes.
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