Charlie Jane Anders has done something truly magical with her debut novel, All the Birds in the Sky. It’s part magic, part science fiction, and all absolutely gorgeous. It was a super-fun read; I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that so successfully blended sci-fi and fantasy. Here’s the summary:
“An ancient society of witches and a hipster technological start-up are going to war as the world tears itself apart. To further complicate things, each group’s most promising follower (Patricia, a brilliant witch, and Laurence, an engineering wunderkind) may just be in love with each other.
As the battle between magic and science rages 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.”
The story opens when Patricia and Laurence are just children, both outcasts who feel alone in the world. Patricia was only six when she got lost in the woods and spoke to birds for the first time and they told her she was a witch. Laurence was perhaps a bit older when he built his first time machine (it only went forward 2 seconds). They become friends in school, each being the only person who would hang out with the other. They tell each other their deepest secrets, and make promises. At one point, a tree tells Patricia, “your friend would control nature…A witch must serve nature.” And there is the very heart of this story.
And then, they are separated. Patricia gets to go to a school for witches and Laurence goes to a science school. They are connected, though, and they orbit around each other throughout their lives, sometimes converging, sometimes flying apart, but always tethered. Anders writes these characters with such depth that I felt myself cheering for Patricia and Laurence- like actually out loud at one point saying “come on, come on!”
But will their crazy orbit tear the entire world apart? Anders skillfully warps all the standard concepts of science-fiction by integrating it easily with the world of fantasy and magic. Can magic save the world that technology is tearing apart? Or is it some act of magic that has destroyed the world, and only the brightest scientists can save it?
Are the birds the only ones who know the answer?
Is a tree red?