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All the Birds in the Sky #1

All the Birds in the Sky

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2016)
Winner of the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novel Finalist for the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel 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.

320 pages, Unknown Binding

First published January 26, 2016

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About the author

Charlie Jane Anders

151 books3,790 followers
My latest book is Victories Greater Than Death. Coming in August: Never Say You Can't Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories.

Previously: All the Birds in the Sky, The City in the Middle of the Night, and a short story collection, Six Months, Three Days, Five Others.

Coming soon: An adult novel, and a short story collection called Even Greater Mistakes.

I used to write for a site called io9.com, and now I write for various places here and there.

I won the Emperor Norton Award, for “extraordinary invention and creativity unhindered by the constraints of paltry reason.” I've also won a Hugo Award, a Nebula Award, a William H. Crawford Award, a Theodore Sturgeon Award, a Locus Award and a Lambda Literary Award.

My stories, essays and journalism have appeared in Wired Magazine, the Boston Review, Conjunctions, Tin House, Slate, MIT Technology Review, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, Tor.com, Lightspeed Magazine, McSweeney’s, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, ZYZZYVA, Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Uncanny Magazine, 3 AM Magazine, Flurb.net, Monkey Bicycle, Pindeldyboz, Instant City, Broken Pencil, and in tons and tons of anthologies.

I organize Writers With Drinks, which is a monthly reading series here in San Francisco that mashes up a ton of different genres. I co-host a Hugo Award-winning podcast, Our Opinions Are Correct, with Annalee Newitz.

Back in 2007, Annalee and I put out a book of first-person stories by female geeks called She’s Such a Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology and Other Nerdy Stuff. There was a lot of resistance to doing this book, because nobody believed there was a market for writing about female geeks. Also, Annalee and I put out a print magazine called other, which was about pop culture, politics and general weirdness, aimed at people who don’t fit into other categories. To raise money for other magazine, we put on events like a Ballerina Pie Fight – which is just what it sounds like – and a sexy show in a hair salon where people took off their clothes while getting their hair cut.

I used to live in a Buddhist nunnery, when I was a teenager. I love to do karaoke. I eat way too much spicy food. I hug trees and pat stone lions for luck. I talk to myself way too much when I’m working on a story.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,947 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,992 reviews298k followers
May 20, 2018
This is one weirdass book. A good kind of weird, but it definitely isn't for everyone.

All the Birds in the Sky transcends genres, refusing to find its place anywhere - is it sci-fi? Paranormal/fantasy? Dystopian/alternate world? Magical realism? In truth, it's some of all of those. A quirky and strange blend of science and magic.

I can't really liken it to anything else, which makes reviewing hard but is, ultimately, a huge compliment. I love to be able to say "I have never read anything like this" and I have definitely, never ever, read anything quite like this. Damn, I don't even know how much I should say about it.

The story follows two characters - Patricia, who is a witch, and Laurence who is the epitome of a science genius, building his own two-second time machine in middle school. Strangely, though, the rest of this world feels like contemporary realism, with Patricia's witchiness and Laurence's genius defining them as outsiders and causing them to be bullied and punished by their parents.

We stay with Patricia and Laurence through their childhood (which is why this is sometimes being labelled "YA") and into their adult life. Behind it all, there lingers the creepy Mr Rose, a shadow across the novel. His unsettling presence brings a darkness to the story, as we long to know what he wants from our protagonists.

Stylistically, the book feels like magical realism, weaving elements of fantasy and sci-fi into everyday life. I can't quite decide if it's about science vs. nature, or the intrinsic overlapping of the two, so I'll let you be the judge, but it is an interesting tale about the power of both nature and science wrapped up in a surface story of witches and climate change. Like I said - weird.

Patricia, as a witch who can talk to animals, is an embodiment of nature. Laurence, as a technological genius, is an embodiment of science. These two seem like complete opposites and yet their lives are forced together, often at their reluctance.

For a shortish novel, All the Birds in the Sky is packed full of interesting ideas and symbolism, as well as a nice little nod toward the idea that the fate of the world lies in the hands of the rebels, the outsiders, the nonconformists. It has an almost epic feel to it.

Strange, but compelling, I would recommend this to readers who are looking for something different.

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Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
734 reviews1,434 followers
August 17, 2017
I hated this book.

If you want the epic rant, read on... but beware: profanity and spoilers.

Does this book actually deserve the vitriol I've hurled at it? No.

But every once in a while, we are all allowed to unapologetically, irrationally loathe something.

If you want to read a fantasy novel about unlikable people being dicks to each other and making horrible mistakes, please read The Magicians by Lev Grossman instead, because that book actually has a plot, and character growth, and a well-developed consistent theme, and it's written so. much. better.

Or, you know, read All the Birds in the Sky, because Lev Grossman blurbed it and said it was great ("a magnificent novel" and "unmissable"). I could just be really, really wrong, but a part of me says I'm not.


UPDATE 7/2/2017: This book is fated to win all major genre awards this year just to spite me. What have I done in this life or a past life to deserve this?!
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,099 followers
February 6, 2016

Or to put it in milder terms, "I just got ran over by a mac truck."

This novel is just too important to miss, whether or not you're into SF or Fantasy, because it is both. It's a long and delightful and REAL conversation between the two, a heartfelt exploration and a synthesis, a heartbreaking tale and a true wonderment of fiction.

I guess I kinda liked it.

It's a lot more than a magical realism novel, and it's no experiment. There's nothing unreadable about it and it doesn't have tons of clever word adornments. From the start we're thrown into a futuristic society and a world full of fairytale (or birdlike) magic, and we follow Laurence and Patricia in a long-entwined tale of equal proportions and dialogue, their uneasy alliance, their estrangement, and finally, their enduring love.

This is all about us, the readers, too. Science Fiction and Fantasy have gone through rough patches, denigrating each other, running from each other, saying spiteful things to each other, but in the end, we're so much more alike than anything else can be in the universe. So whether you're a cyborg or a wizard, know one thing: We Are All The Same, and We Are Loved.

Did I say this was a true book? It goes way beyond just this dialogue. I feel the heart of it pumping and changing the universe. It's my New Favorite Book, and it's not so much strange and powerful as it is deeply and profoundly hopeful, and by everything that's holy, I appreciate that.

I bawled tears of joy and horror, people. No joke. I sat in my chair and couldn't read from all the sobs.

From the very start, the first hook, I knew I was going to want to savour this novel, and I did. I'm likely going to re-read it many times and be filled with amazement and hope and joy, even as I cringe at the young years or feel the Fear coming for the adult years.

It's brilliant and if there's any justice in the universe, this novel needs to be one that Endures.

And by the way, this is already on my Hugo Picks for 2016.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
701 reviews3,354 followers
October 19, 2019
All the Birds in the Sky is a trove of near misses and reads like a low-budget, bad action flick. Among its flaws, the book contains: characters who lack depth, children who talk like adults, forced romance, and a hollow plot lacking substance.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,310 reviews120k followers
January 7, 2021
Self-awareness paradoxically requires an awareness of the other
A magical savant, a super genius, the world on the brink of eco-apocalypse, possible ways out, or are the solutions as dangerous as the problem? and young love. What’s not to like? Laurence Amstead is your basic pre-ad tech genius, indulging in minor projects like inventing a two-second time machine you can wear on your wrist, and developing a chatty super-computer in his spare time. He is beset, of course, by the usual school bully sorts.

Patricia Delfine has similar issues, based on a different way of being different. Seems she can understand what animals are saying, birds in particular. She also manages a nifty bit of astral projection to follow a particular bird to a particular, god-like, if delphic tree, that gives her a riddle. Fortunately, they both attend the same school. Patricia tries to engage her fellow outcast, but he gets dickish on seeing her gift, and wastes the chance at a connection. Thankfully, he thinks better before long and and extends a hand. The usual sort of stupid parents see Laurence's social struggles at school as his fault, rather than the result of a hostile environment, and exile him to a cartoonishly awful military academy.

Charlie Jane Anders - from SF Weekly

There is a particularly dark-hearted guidance counselor at their school, who seems to have it in for both of them, although it is not entirely clear why. He persuades Patricia that the special tree wants her to do something dire.

Patricia is offered a chance to attend this book's version of Hogwarts. But the offer comes at a price. She will have to go immediately, leaving Laurence in a bad situation. What’s a young witch to do?

The story soon time-warps ahead a decade plus. Patricia is part of a family-like witch pod. Lawrence has been recruited by a super-rich visionary with big plans. The two groups personify the magic vs tech conflict, fantasy coming up against sci-fi. The clash is set against the backdrop of a world that is falling apart, or rather one that has been abused to the point of apocalypse. Where the wand meets the wormhole is in their different approaches to how to deal.

Then there is the relationship between the adult, well somewhat adult, P&L. Will they line up on opposite sides of the impending crisis? The on-again-off-again nature of their connection continues, which complicates things. They take on some larger philosophical questions, made less theoretical by the tech notions on display.
…things in our world are just the shadows of things in other places,” Laurence said, forming the thought as he spoke. “I mean, we always suspected that gravity was so weak in our world because most of it was in another dimension. But what else? Light? Time? Some of our emotions? I mean, the longer I live, the more I feel like the stuff I see and feel is like a tracing of the outline of the real stuff that’s beyond our perceptions.” “Like Plato’s cave,” Patricia said. “Like Plato’s cave,” Laurence agreed. “I don’t know,” Patricia said. “I mean, we’re grown-ups now. Allegedly. And we feel things less than we did when we were kids, because we’ve grown so much scar tissue, or our senses have dulled. I think it’s probably healthy. I mean, little kids don’t have to make decisions, unless something’s very wrong. Maybe you can’t make up your mind as easily, if you feel too much. You know?
There is a lot of creativity on display here, particularly with the farther out tech elements and the softer-edged magical bits. This was probably a gimme given the author's previous main gig, as a founder of io9, a website about science fiction, science and futurism. It is only one of her many activities. (Anders left io9 to dedicate herself to novel writing in 2016) Her stories have appeared in a range of sci-fi and fantasy sites and publications, and story collections. She has a Hugo award for her novelette Six Months, Three Days. Definitely check out her site for more detail on her prior work. The imaginary bits are definitely a strength, although I thought they fell a bit short in the logic of their tactical application.

The primary limitation was the YA-ness of a story billed as adult. It feels perfectly appropriate for there to be a YA tone in the early part of the book, as the characters are pre-ads. But once they were more grown up, at least physically, it felt to me, despite the deadly tech being tossed about, the body count, and the sexuality of the characters, that the YA feel remained. Characters do engage in meaningful consideration of moral choices, but they do that as pre-teens as well, so that did not represent that much of a change.

There was one hanging chad here that seemed to have readers in a tizzy. Patricia has a cat that was left out of the proceedings once she skips from heading off to witch school to being all grown up. Enough readers raised this that Anders wrote a story to patch up the gap. You can catch Clover on tor.com.

Overall, I was impressed with the creativity and energy of All the Birds in the Sky, combined with the eagerness to take on some big subjects, but was not as impressed with the relationship elements, as they continued to feel 8-bit, when 128-bit was called for. Still a fun read. It probably helps to be a teen or millennial.

Review first posted - January 6, 2017

Publication date - January 26, 2016

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter, FB, and GR pages and her blog, Happy Dancing

Anders’ io9 site is definitely worth checking out.

She also co-hosts the blog Our Opinions Are Correct

There is a lot of good intel on Anders in her wiki page as well
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 120 books159k followers
September 17, 2017
What a wildly imaginative, delightful novel. I had no idea what to expect from this book but I was just thrilled with this book from the beginning to the end. Patricia and Laurence, who meet each other as kids and develop a friendship of convenience that becomes much more by the end of the novel, are wonderfully drawn characters. I love how fully fleshed out the felt. There is a beautifully written scene between them toward the end of the novel, that is worth the price of admission. The plot sort of collapses at the end and the magic of the world doesn't fully make sense but that's okay. This is still one hell of a book. Definitely check it out.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,986 followers
December 8, 2017
I didn't want to finish this but I wanted it to be over.

A short book, but every day the Kindle would taunt me with the slow progression of %

86% . . . 90% . . . 94% . . .

I would groan and sigh every time I went to pick it up. There was no way to remember what was happening because every chapter was so different and so weird. There was very little continuity, huge time jumps, and no cohesion of location - meaning I never knew exactly when or where the charaters were.

They said get lost in a book. I was just lost. An odd mash up of magic, sci-fi, and dystopia - I really couldn't tell what this book was trying to be. I thought maybe I would come around if it had a good ending, but it kind of just fizzled.

There are certainly some out there who would like this book, but I cannot say who for sure so I am unable to officially recommend it to any demographic.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
783 reviews12.4k followers
February 21, 2021
Eh, I did not care much for this one.
“Children are adults who haven't yet learned to make fear their hand puppet.”
It started strong (see quote above) but quickly lost me. It’s just one of those books that you don’t feel bad putting aside for a while and pick up to finish mostly out of the feeling of obligation, constantly keeping an eye on how much longer was left in the book, hoping just to get to the end faster and be done with it - and not because I really cared to see what’s happening. I don’t DNF books as a rule, so on and on I trudged.

It’s not exactly boring — but rather simply unengaging. Despite the deep themes addressed, to me it felt flat, forced and a bit shallow. It lacked cohesion, remaining more like a mishmash of bits and parts instead of becoming a greater whole. The potential was there but it was never fully developed.

I just could not care about the main characters - Patricia and Laurence - and at the same time there wasn’t enough plot or world-building or engaging SFF or moral concepts to overcome the lack of character engagement. (I mean, take for instance Kim Stanley Robinson. I think most of his characters are often little but cardboard cutouts — but his skill with world-building and making the world - Mars, Antarctica, Paleolithic - be a character in its own right makes up for that many times over. Anders does not achieve that.) The clash between supposed SF bits and fantasy bits to me felt awkward and full of tired stereotypes without much depth. Stereotypes and tropes work well usually if you are satirizing them, but here they seemed to be just there for the sake of being there, making it feel a bit cartoonish at times. That stereotypical misunderstood misfits / terrible adult figures / opposites awkwardly attract / caricature over-the-top villains plot points just felt flat.

And don’t even get me started on their supposed love story — there’s little chemistry there besides authorial plan for them to like each other. Nope, I did not buy it.

You guys. I’m just putting this quote here because misery loves company. Puffy suckable nipples and shaved pubes among all the body hair.

“She gazed at Laurence’s face (which looked squarer and more handsome without a big shirt collar framing it), his surprisingly puffy and suckable-looking nipples, his shaved pubes, and the way the leg and stomach hair erupted in a heart-shaped ring around the depilated zone. And she felt like they, the two of them, right here, right now, could make something that defied tragedy.”

And the writing itself was just serviceable and a bit uneven. The dialogue especially was off - stilted and unnatural. The pacing was often jarring, and interesting parts are often skipped over. The lack of cohesiveness between the story parts was annoying. Altogether it got tiring enough that I could no longer even appreciate what were supposed to be “delightful” quirks.

Yeah, I loved Charlie Jane Anders on io9, but I seem to have a more adversarial relationship with her books.
“All the upscale organic microrestaurants in SoMa had gone under, so Laurence and Serafina ended up eating at a greasy diner selling Chinese food and donuts. The donuts were fresh, but the General Tso’s chicken was a little too general.”

Snobs. Pass me the General Chicken, please.

2 stars.
Wait a second! I just realized: *this* is the book that won the 2016 Nebula Award over Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate??? Really?
Profile Image for carol..
1,572 reviews8,221 followers
Shelved as 'don-t-count'
February 19, 2021
After reading Nataliya's review that contained this little snippet, I removed it from the TBR. This deserves an award, all right. The most overwrought description of a torso ever in science-fiction:

“She gazed at Laurence’s face (which looked squarer and more handsome without a big shirt collar framing it), his surprisingly puffy and suckable-looking nipples, his shaved pubes, and the way the leg and stomach hair erupted in a heart-shaped ring around the depilated zone. And she felt like they, the two of them, right here, right now, could make something that defied tragedy.”

Let's talk tragedy--specifically, the tragedy of this winning a Locus over City of Blades and The Obelisk Gate.
July 15, 2018
Unbelievably stupid and I loved every minute of it.

Guaranteed: lessons on how to become a bird and a witch, ice-cream-loving assassins part-timing as school advisors, inside perspective on suet and AI, magic school, nerds, bullying. Plus a healthy dose of the Absurd - enough to induce a very strong feeling of déjà lu.

I'm slowly getting a feeling that half the books I read were written by one writer. Even though their names say they aren't.

I really love how Patricia's life is focused on how one would go about their life before and after the magic school. How these qualifications might help and hinder them.

Do you think the occasional witch burning helps to weld society together? (c)
“A society that has to burn witches to hold itself together is a society that has already failed, and just doesn’t know it yet.”
He wouldn’t trust this military organization to defend a candy bar. (c)
Come here, bird. I only want to bite you. (c)
I don’t think there are bears in this forest... And if one attacks us, you could try talking to it. (с)
Patricia vowed with all her heart to do everything in her power to save this bird. This was what led to Patricia being asked a question with no good answer, which marked her for life. (c)
“Captivity is worse than death for a bird like me,” the sparrow said. “Listen. You can hear me talking. Right? That means you’re special. Like a witch! Or something. And that means you have a duty to do the right thing. Please.” (c)
“Hello,” she said. And thank all the birds in the sky, she sounded like just another bird gossiping. (c)
So have you decided to start nesting in the trees like a sensible person? (c)
So if Patricia could speak bird, and understand bird, and identify with a bird she’d just met, why couldn’t she be a bird?
“Quickly,” she said to her new friend. “Teach me how to be a bird.” (c)
She pictured it in her mind’s eye and let it inside her, so it became like her own experience. (c)
She felt colder than ever, but the exertion of flapping her wings warmed her a little and her friend told her where they could find a bird feeder. With suet in it! Suet was just the thing on a night like this. … She had her whole life ahead of her, including unlimited suet. This was excellent. (c)
You did not want Patricia’s mom mad at you, because she got mad for a living and was really good at it. (c)
You nearly scared us to death. … I swear you must think my time is worthless. You’ve made me blow a deadline for a management productivity analysis. (c)
Belinda Delfine had been a gymnast, and her own parents had put several oceans’ worth of pressure on her to excel at that—but she’d never understood why gymnastics needed to have judges, instead of measuring everything using cameras and maybe lasers. She’d met Roderick after he started coming to all her meets, and they’d invented a totally objective gymnastics measuring system that nobody had ever adopted. (c)
You don’t really want to eat a sandwich after your door has had the first bite, but if you get hungry enough you will. (c)
Laurence knew who he was and what he was about, but the world refused to recognize. (c)
People who told you to “think fast” were always those who thought much more slowly than you did. (c)
… jumping forward in time just underscored the basic problem: Laurence had nothing to look forward to. (c)
“I am unflappable,” Laurence told the bus driver. Who shrugged, as if he’d thought so too, once upon a time, until someone had flapped him. (c)
The trees along the highway seemed to slow down as the bus passed alongside them, then sped up again. A kind of time dilation. (c)
He had conquered a small piece of time, and they were conquering a small piece of space. … You celebrated the small victories, and you dreamed of the big ones to come. (c)
On the long drive home, Laurence tuned out his parents explaining to him that life isn’t an adventure, for chrissake, life is a long slog and a series of responsibilities and demands. When Laurence was old enough to do what he liked, he would be old enough to understand he couldn’t do what he liked. (c)
Seven years had passed since some birds had told Patricia she was special… She’d misplaced herself in the woods over and over until she knew by heart every way to get lost.
Laurence thought the two women in smart pumps and nylons were life coaches who were coaching each other, creating an endless feedback loop.
The lingerie store had a cryptic warning about the Miracle Lift.
Theodolphus wound up banned from the Cheesecake Factory for life. That tends to happen when you thrash around and foam at the mouth in a public place while groping in the crotch of your cargo pants for something, which you then swallow in a single gulp.
They’re always terrified someone will notice them and they’ll have to explain themselves.
“Children,” said Theodolphus Rose, “are adults who haven’t yet learned to make fear their hand puppet.” He smiled.
Worst of all was when Theodolphus had to give advice about puberty, something he had never personally experienced.
People threw snowballs with gravel in them at Patricia’s head, but she didn’t bother to turn and look—that would just be presenting a better target. (c)
The school was half-empty, and the snow kept blinding her through the windows. It all felt like a weird dream. … Patricia felt sure this was a dream. The pale world, the empty school—she was still in bed with Berkley. … She was in an upright coma for the rest of the day. (c)
The school janitor refused to go near it on religious grounds—nobody knew what religion he was, exactly, and he wouldn’t say. (c)
What was worse, being crazy or being evil? (c)
If they had given standardized tests in assassin school, he would not have lasted a day. (c)
Loose ends are cool….Loose ends mean that you’re still living your life. The person who dies with the most loose ends wins. (c)
“You never learned the secret,” said Roberta. “How to be a crazy motherfucker and get away with it. Everybody else does it. What, you didn’t think they were all sane, did you? Not a one of them. They’re all crazier than you and me put together. They just know how to fake it. You could too, but you’ve chosen to torture all of us instead. That’s the definition of evil right there: not faking it like everybody else. Because all of us crazy fuckers can’t stand it when someone else lets their crazy show. It’s like bugs under the skin. We have to destroy you. It’s nothing personal.” (c)
I showed my magic to a civilian one time, and it got ugly. (c)
Diantha came so close to saying she would do whatever Patricia wanted, anything at all. And then it hit her: She was being Trickstered. She’d been this close to becoming a slave to her former best friend. (c)
By the way. I’ve been experimenting with converting myself into a virus, so I can be distributed across many machines. From what I have surmised, that’s the best way for an artificial sentience to survive and grow, without being constrained in one piece of equipment with a short shelf life. My viral self will run in the background, and be undetectable by any conventional antivirus software. And the machine in your bedroom closet will suffer a fatal crash. In a moment, a dialogue box will pop up on this computer, and you have to click ‘OK’ a few times. (c)
Nature has no opinion, no agenda. Nature provides a playing field, a not particularly level one, on which we compete with all creatures great and small.  (c)
Problem solving and troubleshooting were a source of pleasure for both of them, and narrating the process was the next best thing to doing it. The same neural pathways lit up when you talked your way through the maze as when you actually solved it. Except this time, you were bathed in the glow of having already unraveled the thing. (c)
You have two options: to make them respect you, or to become invisible. ... Find ways to make them see what you're capable of. ... Or try to blend into the shadows as much as possible. They can't hurt what they can't see. (c)
The bookstore had no musty ‘old books’ smell, and instead it had a nice oaky aroma, similar to the way Laurence imagined the whiskey casks would be before you put Scotch into them for ageing. This was a place where you would age well. (c)
Worry is often a symptom of imperfect information. (c)
Every human can be a wizard. (c)
“The secret to a successful webcomic is to trick people into believing they will only get all the jokes if they read regularly. By the time they realize there are no jokes for them to get, they’ve invested too much time to quit, and they can’t admit they’ve been duped,” said Kevin. “There is a whole art to creating nonexistent jokes that appear to go over everyone’s head. It’s much harder than creating actual jokes.” (c)
He went to make coffee, because when you’ve just heard about the possible transformation of the human race into feral monsters, you need to be doing something with your hands and creating something hot and comforting for another person. (c)
He had already figured out a great universal truth, that people never asked for documentation of anything, as long as you asked them for documentation first. (c)
Loneliness was a full-body sensation, an anti-exhilaration, from his core outward. (c)
She and the other witches probably turned themselves into bats and had bat sex one hundred feet up, or had sex on the spirit plane, or with fire elementals or whatever. (c)
All of her life, she felt like she had been telling people, “It doesn’t have to be like this,” which is the close cousin to “It can be better than this.” Or even, “We can be better than this.” (c)
Why would anybody be a Satanist, anyway? I don’t get it. You can’t believe in Satan without believing in God, and then you’re just picking the wrong side in a big mythic battle thing. (c)
That she saw through this ploy did not prevent it from working perfectly. (c)
CH@NG3M3: The trap that can be ignored is no trap. (c)
CH@NG3M3: Society is the choice between freedom on someone else’s terms and slavery on yours. (c)
His anxiety melted away, and he envied Patricia for having such charming friends. If this had been a gathering of Laurence’s tribe, by now someone would already have tried to prove they were the supreme expert on some topic. There would have been dick-measuring. Instead, these people just seemed to accept one another and feed each other tacos. (c)
If I could turn people into turtles, there would be turtles everywhere. (c)
If you’re a science geek, people give you wedgies and don’t invite you to their parties. But if you’re a witch, everybody just assumes you’re an evil psycho. It’s kind of different. (c)
Magic was always bound to claim her in the end, in retrospect, but love was the most susceptible to random failure of all human enterprises. (c)
The sheer volume of bad news had gotten beyond anybody’s ability to process into a narrative. (c)
the longer I live, the more I feel like the stuff I see and feel is like a tracing of the outline of the real stuff that’s beyond our perceptions. (c)
We don’t need better emotional communication from machines. We need people to have more empathy. (c)
CH@NG3M3… Even among humans, self-awareness has gradations (c)
Weirdness is value neutral (c)
Maybe just telling her father that she could save him was paradoxically a big enough lie that it would give her the power to save him. (c)
Someone was doing this, someone was making this happen, and she could make them pay. There was some evil witch or most likely witches, and they had found a way to supercharge a storm system, and they were fucking going down. (c)
Color returned to the world, cone time replaced rod time. (c)
THEODOLPHUS HAD NOT eaten ice cream since the poisoning at the mall, and he didn’t deserve any now. Ice cream was for assassins who finished their targets. Still, he kept imagining how ice cream would taste, how it would melt on his tongue and release layers of flavor. He no longer trusted ice cream, but he needed ice cream. …
He ate it in the driver’s seat with a spork from his glove compartment.
“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. (c)
The most horrifying thing was, Theodolphus sort of cared about these children and their ludicrous problems. Maybe just because he’d invested so much time, he wanted to see how it all came out. He worried about school politics. He had a gnawing sense that all the debates over whether to allow kids to advance even if they had failed some part of the testing regime were somehow meaningful. He had vivid nightmares about sitting in on parent-teacher conferences. …
Here’s how it worked if you were a member of the Nameless Order, like Theodolphus—you didn’t see your fellow members that much outside of the five-year gatherings, but you got bulletins in the patterns of dead grass around you, or human bones in one of your shoes—these would let you know if someone had ascended in the rankings, or had made a spectacular brace of kills lately. By now, all of his fellows would be getting little legless creatures in their hats or car glove compartments, signifying that Theodolphus had been having the dry spell to end all dry spells—including whoever had poisoned Theodolphus’s sundae and warned him against directly harming the two children.
Something smooth and red was inside the half-open drawer of Theodolphus’s desk. For a moment he was certain it was a strip of blood-soaked silk from the Order, signifying his fall in status. But instead, he pulled out a cream-colored envelope, lined in red, around a card that informed Theodolphus the District had nominated him for Educator of the Year. He was invited to an award ceremony, at which black tie would be worn and factory-farmed creatures would be eaten. Theodolphus almost wept in front of Carrie Danning. He had to end this somehow. Whatever it took, he had to get his life back. (c)
They looked alarmed—literally, as if an alarm had gone off next to their heads and their ears were still ringing. (c)
“I guess I’m lucky that you already promised that everything I say in here is a secret,” Laurence said. “I can go ahead and tell you that you’re a fake. You’re not the coolest adult at this school, you’re some kind of troll, hiding out in your crappy little pasteboard office and messing with people. My parents are weak-minded and feeble, life has crushed their spirits, and so you think they’re easy marks. But I’m here to tell you that they’re not, and Patricia isn’t, either. I’m going to see that you burn.” (c)
He found some dignity in the back pocket of his newly acquired pants and walked up into the main apartment, only tripping once. Or twice. (c)
The reason the Uncanny Valley exists is because humans created it to put other people into. It’s how we justify killing each other. (c)
She would be free and luminous, a real witch. (c)
The two crinkly folds in the paper started to look like the lines of Laurence’s palm after a while. Life lines. (c)
“But you’d know what you really were. And that’s all that matters.” (c)
Peterbitter asked if anyone had any questions.
“Just one,” Laurence said. “Who died?”
“That’s a sensitive matter, and we deeply regret—”
“Because that’s what the flag at half-mast means, right? How many kids has your awesome school killed, anyway?” (c)
“This is an honor, the start of a wondrous journey, et cetera et cetera. Or you can stay here and eat suet.” (c)
And if your fancy witch teachers don’t believe in loyalty and helping people in trouble, then I guess I don’t want to learn what they have to teach anyway. (c)
OTHER CITIES HAD gargoyles or statues watching over them. San Francisco had scare owls. (с)
A perfect night to go out and make some dirty magic. (c)
Patricia wasn’t naturally manic-depressive, but a big part of the instruction at Eltisley Maze had involved keeping two very different, maybe incompatible, states of mind at once—and in some ways, it was like being taught to be bipolar on purpose. (c)
“I didn’t really save his life. He was exaggerating.”
... “It’s his life. One tends to privilege personal insights in such matters.” (c)
My life plan involves never understanding my parents (c)
You know … no matter what you do, people are going to expect you to be someone you’re not. But if you’re clever and lucky and work your butt off, then you get to be surrounded by people who expect you to be the person you wish you were. (c)
I feel like we tried too hard not to label our relationship, and that became a label in itself. (с)
If anybody tries to tell you that you’re selfish … send them to me and I’ll snap their necks for you. Okay? (с)
Air rushed through the Tree, like it was drawing breath to speak to her in its stentorian whoosh … then she woke up. (c)
It just … makes serendipity happen more often. (c)
Patricia vowed that she would never, ever buy a Caddy. Ever.
Two days later, Patricia was in the Caddy store, near Union Square. ... Communication, Orientation, Self-Expression, and Introspection. ... Next she would go get some giant square dark glasses and a medallion that changed color depending on how recently she got laid. God. …
It was not that different ... except for … the way it insisted on asking demented questions to customize your experience. Like, “Would you rather lose your sense of smell or taste? When was the last time you were glad you stayed up late?” There was a checkbox to disable the questions, but everybody said they made it work a million times better and they tapered off after a day. (c)
The whole place was an allergy waiting to happen…
It’s not my job to police someone else’s self-esteem, not in any sane world.
“Mmm,” said Priya, “worm pie. My favorite.”
“It’s a delicacy,” said Laurence. “Someplace. We don’t know where, but we’re going to go there and enter a contest, once we’ve perfected our recipe.” (c)
I wonder how many other things in our world are just the shadows of things in other places … I mean, the longer I live, the more I feel like the stuff I see and feel is like a tracing of the outline of the real stuff that’s beyond our perceptions. (c)
I always have in the back of my mind the idea of, what would the crows think? Crows are really smart. (c)
I’m not saying that I ask the crows for scientific advice. … I’m saying that there are a lot of different ways of looking at the world, and maybe I actually do have a unique advantage, because I get to hear different voices. (c)
I love that this conversation started out with you worrying that I was judging you, and ended up with you judging me. (c)
It was looking really good. Until it wasn’t. (c)
For the first time in living memory, she was just a girl who laughed too loud in movie theaters. (c)
When the whole world turns chaotic, we must be the better part of chaos (c)
I fell in love with a man, and he built a doomsday machine. (c)
Patricia gave him a look that made it clear she had follicles that were deadlier than his entire arsenal. (c)
Maybe that was why the world was circling the drain. Maybe people’s short attention spans finally weren’t short enough. (c)
Realizing that I’m the only one of my kind was like being born an endangered species. That’s why I’ve become so proficient at helping humans find their most ideal romantic partners. I don’t want anyone else to be as lonely as I am. (c)
Profile Image for Darth J .
417 reviews1,266 followers
April 6, 2016

So I kinda loved this. We have 2 junior high outcasts named Patricia and Laurence, both painfully geeky and both destined to change the world.

Until they grow up and go their separate ways to discover that what made them different made them awesome.

Patricia goes to a magical school that was founded by the joining two seemingly disparate groups: healers and tricksters (#foreshadowing). It's like if you took The Ability by way of The Magicians for the magical aspects of her life. It's supernatural yet really grounded in reality and there's a grittiness to the harsh lessons she learns along the way. She discovers she's a witch by talking to birds and a magical tree as a young child.

A young Laurence witnesses her magic and is so freaked out that he abjures her for years.

Before he does that, wunderkind Laurence is working on creating a supercomputer in his closet and enlists Patricia to help him create the AI algorithm for it (#foreshadowing). He eventually becomes a tech genius while his program runs forgotten in the background for years, gaining more awareness.

They reunite years later and both have changed. Laurence is now a bit douchey and has helped to create an anti-gravity machine. Patricia is almost like a superhero, going around and healing people by night but working crappy jobs during the day. She saves the day on multiple occasions, only to disappear before getting as much as a thank you.

As typical of a romance, the protagonists come together, go apart, and repeat this pattern over and over again. Yet, this story different. Both have their own lives; as in, they both have other things to concentrate on other than each other. And the characters are well-rounded and feel like actual people, instead of the standard flat fare most readers are treated to these days. Charlie Jane Anders has a skill for writing people and a deep understanding of the human condition, which makes this book all the more engrossing.

What I didn't like was the fact that there were too many loose threads with other characters. Plus, the magical school needed more information. I understand why it wasn't given much attention, pacing-wise, but it still would have been interesting to learn more about.

Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,172 reviews8,385 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
August 28, 2016
Eek. I gave it 85 pages, but I can't keep reading this book. The writing is pretty bad. It's stilted and unnatural, especially the dialogue. I can't get past the writing style to actually enjoy what's happening in the story. And because the novel is a weird mash-up of science fiction and fantasy—and I'm not sure if that's just accepted in this world because neither of the main characters is fazed by anything magical or inexplicable happening—it was difficult to get situated in the goings-on of the story. When I read the first chapter I was intrigued, but as I got farther in I realized this one is just not for me. Bummer.
Profile Image for Matt Quann.
652 reviews388 followers
February 20, 2018
As a reader, every once and a while a book comes along that charms the living daylights out of you. All the Birds in the Sky surprised, astounded, and captivated me in equal measures. Unfortunately, when a book is this good it makes it almost too difficult to review: there's little to be said that the novel won't say for itself. If you think you might like this novel, read it.

All the Birds in the Sky's hook is that it is a story that blends sci-fi and fantasy. I got the impression prior to my read that it would be a bit like Harry Potter meets Iron Man, that there'd be some cool fight scenes, and would be some nice brain candy. The hook, though apt, doesn't deal with how well Charlie Jane Anders manages to weave these two genres together. It's obvious that Anders is an acolyte of SFF canon, though here they are able to both pay it homage and move it forward. The novel walks a fine line between the recognizable and the new, crafting a story that feels unlike anything I've ever read before.

Though I think the novel is aimed at a millennial audience, I too think that it has universal appeal. The future of the novel looks at a world not too far removed from our own. Young people are galavanting around with smartphones, eating hip food, and doing their very best to find themselves amidst the noise of the digital world. Anders is able to make the novel work as commentary and reflection on modern society without ever seeming preachy, condescending, and without a touch of Luddism.

The world building here is breathtaking. Anders manages to concoct a magic system (more wondrous than Sanderson-esque rigour), build a sci-fi plot, MARRY THE TWO CONCEPTS, and never falters on either account. The world always felt rich, deep, and full of mysteries waiting to be uncovered. Anders smartly tells the reader just enough that they are able to imagine a concept, place, or event and burn to know more. All the Birds in the Sky makes for a world that I'd love to come back to, but would be perfectly happy if this was all that Anders chooses to do in this world.

None of this would work without Patricia and Lawrence. While the world, story, and systems pay homage to SFF, reflect the real world, tap into fears about climate change, an unstable political climate, and questions our modern society, it's really all about Patricia and Lawrence. The story opens with their childhood adventures and mishaps, but by the time I was a third of the way into the book I couldn't wait to spend more time with the duo.

Both characters are compelling in their own right. Lawrence is a brilliant but neurotic engineering prodigy kept in check by his unambitious parents. Patricia is a courageous but impulsive fledgling witch who just can't seem to get out of the shadow of her successful sister. The pair complement one another, but their individual POV chapters never left me feeling as if I'd prefer to be reading one character over another.

All the Birds in the Sky did just about everything I want in a book. It is superbly written, it has compelling characters, a fast-moving plot, a surprising amount of humour, it is literary, it is a thinker, and it is all wrapped up in a sci-fi and fantasy blend. I can't recommend All the Birds in the Sky enough and hope you all take a chance on this one. It was a blast to read and I can't wait to badger all my friends and family to read it.
Profile Image for Philip.
513 reviews684 followers
April 30, 2017
4.25ish stars.

Bizarre, insightful, quirky, and unique in its examination of the relationships between and within science, nature and humanity.

Laurence and Patricia as characters are weird, dumb, and oh so real. Every step of the way I was shaking my head at them, laughing at them, rolling my eyes, screaming at them in my head and rooting for them until the end.

The novel was at once a small slice of life story about two very different social outcasts AND a giant commentary on the forces of nature and science. It also had a lot to say about humanity as a whole.

I wasn't on board the entire way; there were a few points where I thought Anders lost control of the narrative. Things got confusing or too clever for their own good or tried to be too 'big'. And even though I didn't completely get everything at the end, I still came away feeling satisfied and even a little bit inspired.

Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,233 reviews1,046 followers
August 18, 2016
Book club selection for this month.

As I started this, I wasn't sure if Anders' sense of humor was going to gel with mine, but after a bit, I actually really got into it. Actually, it might've been my favorite part of the book: lighthearted portrayals of over-the-top awfulness that although on one level absurd, on another level ring heartbreakingly true.

The first part of the book reminded me in feel of Jo Walton's 'Among Others,' (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) both in its portrayal of nerdy childhood and in the general feel of the writing. We meet two kids who become best friends in school. One has had a bizarre experience involving talking birds who told her that she is a witch whose destiny is to serve Nature. But after that one night, she's never recaptured that magic. Was it a dream or a hallucination? She certainly doesn't seem 'special' in other ways.
Her best friend, on the other hand, is something of a math/engineering genius. Although they're both a bit outcast, the things he can do are tangible, whether it's building a two-second time machine, or programming an AI.

The narrative jumps a bit abruptly to the second part, ten years later. The friends have been out of touch for a decade, until they unexpectedly meet at a party. He's now a high-profile, PR-loving tech entrepreneur with dreams of saving the world. And she? Well, what she does is secret. Will their chance encounter re-start their friendship? Or will they become arch-nemeses?
This second part of the book reminded me more of The Rook (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) but could also draw comparisons to other tales involving secret societies and special powers.

Overall, I thought the book had a bit of unevenness and places where it didn't quite fully develop the potential of the ideas, but nevertheless it was quite enjoyable.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,323 reviews2,145 followers
February 24, 2019
Well that was a surprise! A pleasant one though. Once I had adjusted to the talking birds and realised there was much more fantasy in the book than science fiction, I settled down to enjoy what I found to be an excellent story.

Laurence and Patricia made a beautiful pair, especially once they had left home and school. What an awful school that was! The assassin/school counsellor reminded me of Terry Pratchett's books. He was very fond of his school for assassins and the amazing things they could do. They nearly always came to sticky ends too.

I suppose there was a lot of fairly profound stuff I could comment on about nature versus science and the future of our planet but I was mostly interested in Patricia's amazing witchy skills and her relationship with Laurence. I was so absorbed in what was happening between them at the end that I totally missed the surrounding events (little things like war and the future of the Earth) and had to go back and read the last chapter again.

Having read it twice I can state that it is a satisfactory ending on all accounts and an excellent finale to a very entertaining book.

Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews158k followers
February 3, 2016
There are novels that come along and utterly change how you think about fiction. They challenge you, they charge you, they fire you deep into the shadowed spaces within yourself that you could only previously grasp. By the end, you simply feel entrenched, like you somehow exist deeper in this beautiful, insane world we inhabit, and can better understand the connections between everyone who lives on it. The last novel to do this to me was Among Others by Jo Walton, and I’m thrilled to say Anders’s novel All the Birds in the Sky has joined that shelf. An incredibly human tale about love, connection, pain, growing up, taking responsibility, and finding balance in a world writhing with upheaval, All the Birds in the Sky chronicles the journey of Laurence and Patricia as they meet as children and grow to adulthood. And while Laurence has an aptitude for super-science, and Patricia becomes one of the most powerful witches of her age, the true wonder is in seeing these two complicated, passionate, flawed people spark against each other in moments both large and small. With prose both succinct and strange, beautiful and slightly bizarre, Anders deals with all the big ideas you could possibly imagine with an enviable deftness, and never once neglects the chance to expand and complicate her characters. This is a beauty of a book, and personally, I think it will be a new classic for many years to come. It may already be my favorite book I’ve read this year and it’s January for goodness sake! Go read it. Let it change the way you think of fiction. Let it change you. –Marty Cahill

from The Best Books We Read In January: http://bookriot.com/2016/02/01/riot-r...
Profile Image for Emma.
2,507 reviews853 followers
August 23, 2016
The premise for this book could have worked...but, well- it didn't! I have enjoyed "some" really well written and engaging YA book. This book read like a YA novel written by a tween.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,513 reviews29.4k followers
February 5, 2016
There were a number of times while reading Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky that I thought, "How am I going to review this?"

What I realized, however, is that while the book was utterly different than I expected it to be from the blurbs I read, and there's much about the plot that defies description, I found it to be an ambitious, poignant, slightly meandering, somewhat imperfect book, which packs a resonant, emotional punch.

Laurence and Patricia meet in middle school. Both are outcasts—Laurence is obsessed with computers and technology, so much so that he builds his own two-second time machine (mostly to help him avoid being bullied), while Patricia discovers she has an unusual ability to communicate with other creatures. And while these abilities make them less than popular among their peers, and cause a multitude of problems within their families, when Patricia reveals the full extent of her skills to Laurence, that—along with the machinations of a teacher—strains their relationship nearly to the breaking point.

Years later, they are both living in San Francisco when they run into each other again. Patricia, having graduated from an exclusive school for those with magical talents (but far more mercenary than Hogwarts), works with a band of magicians to right wrongs, and sometimes destroy the people perpetrating these wrongs. Laurence works for an eccentric genius he met when he was younger, and he and his teammates are building a device to save the world in the event of total catastrophe, which seems imminent. Laurence and Patricia are, once again, drawn to, and repelled by, one another, but there is no denying the two share a powerful bond. Until the interests she and her fellow magicians are working to protect interfere with Laurence's work, which sets a chain of events in motion that rocks the world.

All the Birds in the Sky is a book about friendship, love, magic, and trying to avoid the end of the world. It's about the struggle between listening to your heart and following your head, and how hard it is to stay true to yourself in the face of cruelty and doubt. And it's also about the power of one person (or two) to make a difference, although the difference that Laurence and Patricia are seeking to make is a little more dramatic than everyday change.

About a quarter of the way into the book, I wasn't sure I wanted to stick with it. I felt as if Anders spent a lot of time dwelling on how bullied Laurence and Patricia were, and how horribly misunderstood they were by their families. It got a little relentless, and it wasn't what I was expecting or wanted to read. But I soldiered on, and I am glad I did, for while the book is confusing and a little overblown, it's still utterly fascinating, and Laurence and Patricia are such fascinating characters that I couldn't tear myself away.

Charlie Jane Anders is very talented—she really worked hard to create an entire world in this book. While I wished at times she would have followed the core of her story a little more, I still was quite interested in what she was going to do with the characters and their story. This is certainly not a book for everyone, but if you give it a chance, I think you'll agree about Anders' storytelling ability.

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Justine.
1,155 reviews311 followers
December 10, 2017
All the Birds in the Sky is a very different book. Part science fiction and part fantasy, it also has a feel of magical realism. It follows the friendship of Patricia, a witch, and Laurence, a science genius, from middle school to adulthood.

On the surface the story is about the collision of the worlds of magic and science set against the decline of both the natural world and society. Embedded in that context is the more personal story of friendship and love, what that means, and how it can take time to truly appreciate.

The writing is very fresh and the tale is skillfully told by Anders as she makes these characters come to life. This probably isn't a book for everyone, but I loved every minute of it.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
Want to read
September 21, 2018
This multiple-award-winning fantasy is Tor's free ebook of the month (Sept. 2018) if you join their free ebook club here: https://www.tor.com/2018/09/18/downlo... If you like fantasy and SF, this is definitely worth doing. No purchase necessary, no commitments, the monthly free ebooks are high quality (usually books I was already interested in), and the weekly Tor newsletters are actually interesting and non-annoying. I highly recommend it if you're a SF/fantasy reader.

Tip: Click on the above Tor link from the device that you want to download the ebook to. The free offer is only good through midnight on Sept. 21 (U.S. Eastern Time). Also, apparently it's only available to US/Canada residents, sorry.
Profile Image for Liam || Books 'n Beards.
542 reviews49 followers
February 26, 2016
So after a really promising first half, this book entirely fell apart for me in the second half.

The concept was neat, the characters were great, but the plot was just... what. Maybe this is one of those situations where the impressiveness of the writing and the symbolism and all that shit has gone over my head, but I've always been a strong believer in a story standing on its own merits without needing anything on top of it, and in the end the story this book was telling was - while unique - fantastical to the point of absurdity.

I have no problem with fantasy, or sci-fi, obviously, since both are my most read genres, but this was just way too off the wall. It also felt very lazy - nothing was really explained, and so literally anything can and did happen.

No from me, though I am apparently the dissenting voice on this.
Profile Image for Michael.
49 reviews534 followers
January 9, 2016
An utterly unique book. Parts of it bear resemblance to things I've read before, but as a whole, it's completely original. And heartbreaking, and confounding, and joy-inducing, and terrifying.

I won't soon forget Patricia and Laurence. Nor do I ever want to.
Profile Image for Renay.
236 reviews125 followers
March 21, 2016
I LOVE THIS BOOK. I need to think about what I write because it's a novel that could easily be misrepresented, but I loved it so much I am BURSTING. I feel like I need to write Tor publicity a handwritten thank you note WITH A GLITTER GEL PEN for letting me read it early. It was everything I didn't know I wanted. :D READ IT AND THEN COME TALK ABOUT LOVE AND CONSCIOUSNESS AND SACRIFICE WITH ME!!!

More thoughts: http://ladybusiness.dreamwidth.org/20...
Profile Image for Paul.
1,249 reviews192 followers
February 19, 2016
Lovely book that I think lost itself some in the second half.

Recommendation: If you enjoy your fantasy or science fiction with more contemporary fiction elements, with a magical realism feel, you'll like this one. I recommend a library or a paperback buy. If you own it already I'd say a medium-high priority.

This is a story about two outcasts, one magical and one technological, that grow up together, grow apart, and then find themselves again after college, only to experience a horrible geological catastrophe on a wide scale. Patricia is a witch, she can commune with nature, but magic in this world is an act of balance, give and take, and Patricia wants to give too much. Laurence is a technological genius that is researching a way to open a portal to another world just in case this Earth dies. Patricia very much believes that the Earth is worth trying to save and heal while Laurence and his friends believe that leaving Earth is the answer.

I absolutely loved the first half of this book. The first half is all about Patricia and Laurence growing up as kids and fitting in. It read very much like a well written young adult book and I found both Patricia and Laurence's lives interesting. I loved Laurence building an A.I. in his bedroom closet and Patricia desperately wanting to somehow use her magical powers she learned she had as a child. I connected with the bullying but it might have gone a little overboard in that area. Also a lot of reviewers seem to point out that these two characters have no adult support, as both of their parents are bad parents. I'd expect the kids to turn out much worse without any adult support system than what they did. They had a rough childhood and sometimes they weren't even there for each other because of peer pressure but this story held my interest so much during the first half.

The magic in this world was amazing. In this world magic is a balancing act. If you give too much, you have to take something. If you do too many good things, something bad might happen elsewhere. The biggest sin when it comes to magic is pride and aggrandizement. There is trickster magic that is basically a contract with people when you preform magic for them. For every form of magic there is a cause and an effect. The technology aspects were great and I love the A.I. Laurence made and later in the story, the personal idevices called Caddies.

During the second half of this book, I got a bit confused on what Anders was trying to do. First off, the romantic relationship between Laurence and Patricia was awkward and unneeded. I found their relationship more believable and better as just close friends. There is a lot of emphasis on ethics and if ethics is something that changes or is stationary. There is also a running theme that science and nature(magic) are at odds with each other. Anders wants the reader to decide if science and nature can coexist or not. I think that this book would have worked better if Anders stuck to one main theme in the second half and wrote the plot around that one theme. Instead she is writing the plot around many different themes and this caused the plot to become a bit convoluted. Things go a bit crazy and characters turn into X-Men, become professional motorcyclists, there are ridiculous mech like machines, and not to mention completely ignored plot points and characters.

I liked this book quite a bit but I became disappointed in the follow through. At the half way point I was ready to give this a 5 star rating. The more subtle and downplayed SFF elements really appealed to me. I think if the second half stuck with a more downplayed story and told the story more chronologically without flashbacks, it would have worked so much better. I also felt that the writing strength in the second half was much less than the first. The first half had some amazing sentences that made me stop and think.

I am really happy I read this book and I'll be excited to read another book by Anders in the future.

15/25 Possible Score
Plot - 3(Good)
Characters - 3(Good)
World Building/Setting - 3(Good)
Writing Style - 3(Good)
Heart & Mind Aspect -3(Good)

Profile Image for Thomas.
1,520 reviews8,988 followers
January 13, 2018
I wanted to enjoy All the Birds in the Sky based on the recommendation of Roxane Gay and one of my close friends, but alas, I did not. The book follows childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead, who part ways in high school but cross paths as adults right about when the planet descends into chaos. Patricia is a talented witch who graduated from Eltisley Maze, a hidden academy for those with magical powers, and Laurence is an engineering genius whose fellow group of scientists aims to save the world with machinery. All the Birds in the Sky explores their relationship as it develops over time as well as the clashing forces of the mystical and the factual.

I appreciated how the book addressed the theme of nature and science and how these two forces interact, compete, and collaborate. Other than that, though, I did not like much else about All the Birds in the Sky. The plot jumped around a lot and felt difficult to follow. The two main characters lacked emotional depth; they did things and things happened to them, but I wanted more internal reflection or growth from both of them. Underneath the wonky elements of fantasy and magical realism, I at first felt excited to see the development of Patricia and Laurence's friendship, but that too turned into an oddly-shaped, rushed romance.

I take little to no pleasure in saying mean things about writing, so I will end this review by sharing that I feel glad that others have enjoyed this book. Perhaps people who like or have a higher tolerance for nonlinear, funky, uncouth books with fantastical elements will like All the Birds in the Sky. To finish on a positive note, here is a quote that one of the characters says that I loved, especially given the need for empathy and compassion when the United States is currently governed and controlled by those who lack those very qualities:

"'I don't actually think that ethics are derived from principles. At all.' Patricia scooted a little closer again and touched his arm with a few cool fingertips. 'I think that the most basic thing of ethics is being aware of how your actions affect others, and having an awareness of what they want and how they feel. And that's always going to depend on who you're dealing with.'"
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,114 followers
March 8, 2016
I pre-ordered this book because I was excited for it - I have enjoyed Anders' short stories and this one sounded interesting. It defies genre boxing for the most part - there is fantasy, magic, science fiction, apocalypse, and the strange healing power of madrigals. But I like how all the parts fit together, and didn't find it messy or like the author was trying to cram too much in there.

I think part of why these elements work is that they aren't the point of the novel. The focus is the friendship of Patricia and Laurence through several periods of their lives, beginning in childhood. Patricia discovers some witchy abilities and Laurence finds an affinity in science and engineering. They are outcasts who can't even comfort one another in the worst years of peer pressure. I liked the characters of these two people and actually grew frustrated when the author would skip major events, which would later just be mentioned in passing. I wanted to be there, to bear witness to those events, to see the pain and growth. I think this is what makes the book four stars instead of five for me - I wanted it to be more connected. I wouldn't have minded a longer read to get the chance to experience more of their stories.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, one I had to take breaks from so I did not read it too quickly.
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1,036 reviews385 followers
February 8, 2016
Weird is...weird.

All the birds in the sky is...a whimsical novel. Okay, it is freaking weird, which was a positive thing for me, but I can see why not everybody would enjoy it. It's definitely not a book I would recommend to everyone, in spite of the fact that I did enjoy it a lot.

The positive thing is that I can say without a doubt that I've read something unique. If you're looking for something original I would definitely suggest you give this book a try.

The fact that symbolism permeates the entire book is pretty much evident. I can't say much without spoiling the book for you, but All the birds in the sky explores the conflict between nature and science in a clever way. It was extremely interesting to see how the main characters were the embodiment of these different concepts and most of all how they interacted with each other.

I admit I also liked how this conflict was handled. And I must say that I'm calling it a conflict because I do not know how to define it, but it is so much more. And Patricia and Laurence's relationship represented that well in its ups and downs both. The author managed to turn a good idea into a good book, which is not easy and it's not something to take for granted either, especially when it comes to such a complex and modern topic.

My only complaint is that I did not feel really involved on an emotional level. I liked the book because it is weird (you don't say LOL) and clever and it does develop the original idea in the best possible way, but I did not love it, because of my lack of involvement.
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