Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review: All the Birds in the Sky

I'm always been a fan of Charlie Jane Anders' writing at io9, so when she released her new book, All the Birds in the Sky, I knew I wanted to read it. The concept--integrating fantasy and science fiction in a wonderfully inventive near future world--sounded fascinating. I found a copy at the library and dove in.

I loved Anders' world and her characters from the very first chapter. Patricia, an earthy but eccentric witch, and Laurence, a precocious scientific genius, are as flawed as they are lovable. They make terrible mistakes for the reasons that all people do, yet find beautiful ways to redeem themselves and each other. Anders' writing is witty and funny in the way I've come to expect from her work at io9, with some delightful plot twists I won't spoil here, especially regarding Patricia and Laurence's evil school counselor, Theodolphus Rose. Her depiction of middle school life in a school devoted to memorization and standardized testing is one of the most biting satires I've ever read, one that feels eerily close to life.

If there's one criticism I'd make of the book, it's that I found Laurence's parents unrealistically cruel and discouraging at times. I understand that from a middle schooler's point of view parents often seem capricious, and that even the best parent-child relationships can be fraught with misunderstandings. But most parents I know would be thrilled that their child wanted to attend a science and math high school, not discouraging. I think if his parents had been portrayed differently earlier on in the book, their actions might have made more sense, but as it was they seemed unrealistic. However, I found Patricia's tense but heartfelt reconciliations with her parents and her sister some of the most powerful moments in the book. I also loved the way Laurence and Patricia awkwardly found their love for each other. In fact, this book was one of the best geeky love stories I've read.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes science fiction or fantasy, or who enjoys Charlie Jane Anders' writing at io9. It's funny, tragic and heartfelt in turns, with just enough love and hope to carry its characters through the dark times.


  1. It sounds really interesting. I've never really been into science fiction or fantasy- I think the closest I've ever come has to be Harry Potter (!) but am I right to draw slight parallels? The cruel parents and school life with added powers?
    Thank you for joining the #weekendblogshare. I'm so sorry that it's taken me so long to read and comment! Hannah

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I think there are some parallels to Harry Potter.