Title: All the Birds in the Sky
Author: Charlie Jane Anders
Length: 319 pages
Genre: literary sci-fi
Where Bethany’s copy came from: IndyPL
Plot Basics: Patricia and Laurence are two outsiders — she, apparently, is a witch and can talk to birds and he is a geek of the first-degree, building time machines and AI interfaces in his bedroom. They become friends in middle school, trying to stick up for each other when the world seems against them. But, sinister forces tear their friendship apart. Until 10 year later when they reunite in San Francisco on opposite side of what might be a war for the planet, pitting magic against science.
Banter Points: Thank goodness for The Morning News Tournament of Books or I might never have encountered this quirky gem of a novel. When #ToB2017 announced the short list, I realized with some level of chagrin, that I hadn’t read any of this year’s choices. I read the descriptions and “All the Birds in the Sky” was the one to pick up immediately.
For all the kids who grew up on Harry Potter, this is the next book for them. Anders has crafted a serious and yet charming book with a plot line that hangs on the edge of apocalyptic/dystopian fiction. She edges up to that line — major world disasters are hinted at, but never fully explained — in such a way that creates a wonderful blend of tension but doesn’t take the reader away from the main story. It’s really a book about friendship and fate and big picture questions about science and magic, all while retaining a heart and a soul.
Bummer Points: This book isn’t any one thing which might aggravate some readers. It’s not just a story about friendship. And it’s not hardcore disaster sci-fi. It’s both. Additionally, Anders makes some jumps and then goes back to tell the reader what happened. I’m sure she had her reasons, but I had to wonder if a straight-line narrative would have worked just as well.
Word Nerd Recommendation: I’ve already gotten one co-worker to pick this up after a #FridayReads post and I highly suspect this is 2017’s first pusher book of the year.
ToB Thoughts: To read the Opening Round critique of “All the Birds in the Sky,” click here.
Tomorrow it’s up against Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad,” which just seems highly unfair. I haven’t read “Underground Railroad,” not for lack of interest, but more for lack of time, but I suspect it’s going to sail through the Quaterfinals. I’ve got my fingers crossed that tomorrow’s judge will go for the upset, not because Whitehead’s book about race is not timely and important, but because Anders’ book about science, magic and friendship speaks to a different zeitgeistic (can I make that an adjective?) element and one that we’re not talking about very much.