Title: All the Birds in the Sky
Author: Charlie Jane Anders
Genre: Fiction, Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy
First Published: January 2016
“When the world turns chaotic, we must be the better part of chaos.”
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Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.
But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.
I’ll be honest upfront here – I couldn’t finish the book. I felt so completely uninterested in the events and character’s lives that I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it.
My fear since I first heard about this book was that there were just too many genres being crammed in at once – science fiction, magical realism, romance (is that what that was?) and dystopian. I just don’t think it worked. The premise was excellent, but the execution was poor. I have to be fair and say I felt things picked up a bit somewhere in the middle of the book, but on the whole I do unfortunately have a big list of criticisms for this one.
One of the things that also appealed to me was that the book was advertised as being for adult readers. Having now read it (as an adult) I feel it was written in a style more appropriate for young teens. Perhaps themes of violence and sexual references have resulted in it being labeled as ‘adult’, but I am not convinced it should be considered anything more than ‘teen’ for its writing style, even if it does go off at technical tangents sometimes:
Not for the first time, Laurence thought this was one of the annoyingly incommunicative features in the English language. Much like the inability to distinguish between “x-or” and “and/or,” the lack of delineation between “x-we” and “in-we” was a conspiracy of obfuscation, designed to create awkwardness and exacerbate peer pressure—because people tried to include you in their “we” without your consent, or you thought you were included and then the rug got pulled out from under you.
I’ve never seen so many unlikeable characters in a book before! Some were so unbelievably horrid that I couldn’t help but imagine Theodolphus (the assassin) resembling some kind of cartoon villain not unlike Gru from Despicable Me.
“I don’t deserve this ice cream,” he kept repeating with each bite until he started crying. “I don’t deserve this ice cream.” He sobbed.
As kids, the protagonists suffer from awful relationships with their completely irrational parents, who put no effort into actually having any level of communication with their children about why they might be misbehaving. Poor Patricia also has to tolerate a truly evil sister tormenting her and her beloved animals. Laurence and Patricia are bullied at school too, and picked on by teachers.
I can’t deny there are a few merits, though not many. There are a few good quotes now and again and some thought-provoking and occasionally funny conversations between Patricia and Laurence. I’d love to say I’ll read it to the end, but I know I’ll never get those hours of my life back, and there’s still 50% to go.
I can safely say that I have never read anything like this book before, if that can be considered a merit; it certainly was unique. If you’re looking for something utterly bizarre, then this mix-match of genres is for you. I’m just sorry for those doing book club this month that I even picked this – I hope you all had better luck with it than I did. Judging by the Goodreads reviews, people are either loving it or hating it. Unfortunately, I know where I stand.
Star Rating: ★ (1)